Persistence, Determination, & Hope
Trip Start Jun 28, 2013
43Trip End Ongoing
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After the first four days of the storm I just kept telling myself that it could only get better with each day, that more countries would come in to support those affected. In the back of my mind I was concerned that it wouldn't come fast enough, but since we have two news teams staying with us I felt confident that I was safe and had access to a way out if I needed it.
The days that followed the initial four became a blur. I would spend time distributing relief to employees or Cangumbang with my boss, while at the same time showing the journalists around the affected areas, and helping any people we could along the way. We picked up strangers driving from one place to the next, we gave our only water or food away to those on the side of the road, we distributed medicines to emergency clinics...And then one of the days Troy went to pick up supplies in Samar and had to stay overnight because the drive took so long with traffic and roadblocks, I literally sat in bed all day just writing and recounting what my life had been like every day
One of the days I spent almost the entire afternoon showing the ITN News Team, Angus and Mark, all around Tacloban. We went to a church filled with hundreds of people who had lost their homes and were now living in the church. I spoke with a bunch of the children, asking them about their families and siblings and friends, who had survived, where their house was, if they were sick, etc. All of them were in good spirits and giggled when I spoke their language, by then they were accustomed to the foreign relief workers and didn't expect a foreigner to speak their language.
There was water in the ground floor of our office for over a week and a half. And outside it took 2 weeks for the sidewalk's flooding to subside
Every person I met had a story to share, and story of intense survival and challenges in the face of conditions unimaginable. Each time I was so thankful for every blessing in my life, and more drawn to stay put where I was. After speaking to my parents for the first time, knowing they knew I was ok my heart was no longer guilty and I tried to spend each day doing as much as I could. My boss tried to get me to leave and go to Samar to stay until things got better, but each time my heart ached thinking about the children in Cangumbang and I refused, endlessly stubborn in the face of his pleas. I knew if I left they'd have no advocate for their needs.
After going to Cebu for one week to re-establish lines of communication, I was dying to see my kids. When I arrived I was ready to make a difference and get the ball rolling. I visited the center and saw that the roof was not yet repaired and some families were still living in the center. The next time I headed out to the village I went to the Mayor's office and was pleasantly surprised to find only one person in line ahead of me to speak with her. When her assistance waved me in to the office to speak with her, she introduced me to her daughter and daughter-in-law, the governor's wife
My desire to visit her was sparked as I wandered through what was left of the Palo Market searching for tarps to make a roof for the center. The Mayor's office sat only two blocks away and the stacks of tarps and relief goods I knew were just within the buildings walls were piercing my heart despite not be able to see them from where I was. Although three of my friends were grabbing some food in Palo, waiting for me to find more tarps, I just walked to the Mayor's office with determination.
When I told her that the center was still standing and there were no casualties and the ease of her smile increased. She admitted to me that they were overwhelmed with relief goods from so many international organizations that they were having trouble distributing them, though I was skeptical of such claims previously as I spoke to her directly I felt that it was quite possible. I asked her about her home and she said it was no longer livable but she told me she hadn't had the time to even visit the house since the storm. The professional presentation, with sometimes intimidating amounts of poise, was no longer present in our conversation with one another. We stood facing one another discussing the current issues and our concern was reciprocated in more ways than one
I asked her if there was any way she could supply us with some tarps to temporarily repair the center's roof and she seemed hesitant at first. But after calling someone in to give her measurements of the tarps that sat directly behind us when we spoke, she easily handed over 4 tarps and assured me they were very large. I went to get my friends, we loaded the tarps in the car, and I eagerly drove to Cangumbang anxious to get things moving.
We couldn't replace the roof that first day, but I assigned the job to some of the fathers in the community and within two days the repair was complete. My first days back from Cebu only cemented my belief that I had to stay in Tacloban and near to Cangumbang so I could continue to advocate for their needs. Ironically, the afternoon when we left Cangumbang, on the day I visited the Mayor, the local government was distributing tarps in the village proper to all the families. I'll never know if it was coincidence, but I assume it was not and I am so thankful that I can inspire others do what needs to be done, even if in some cases they would never admit it was not the plan all along.