Tacloban, Philippines Seven Months After the Typhoon

This is my fourth day in Tacloban, one of the hardest hit areas of Typhoon Yolanda.  Seven months after the disaster the area is like a livable war zone. 

Tacloban Business There’s destruction everywhere you look, with some areas undergoing reconstruction but just as many that are not. Temporary shelters are everywhere, with makeshift materials of tarpaulin, bamboo, galvanized iron sheets, or UNHCR tents. The streets are clear of debris but many sidewalks are strewn with damaged power lines.

I’m staying in the Go Hotel next to Tacloban’s only mall, Robinsons.  Last night the power blinked on and off several times.  It’s quite a utilitarian hotel with small rooms and concrete construction. Yesterday a thunderstorm rolled through the area, and I took comfort knowing this building was a haven during the typhoon.

View from Go Hotel Tacloban
One reviewer on TripAdvisor complained about the lack of views from the rooms facing the street. I’m not sure what the person was expecting from a city that had been ravaged by a superstorm. Everywhere you look you can see missing rooftops and temporary repairs.

Before November 8, 2013 there was an abundance of restaurants and shopping in this area.  Now there are only two small cafes for travelers to choose from. I wandered into Robinsons thinking I could grab something from the grocery store and pick up supplies, but hundreds of others had the same idea.  Even today there are signs posted, limiting the number of items you are permitted to buy.

On my second day I visited a coastal area where multiple ships had been swept inland, crushing everything in their path. Tacloban Grounded Ship I met a woman whose home was previously located beneath the land now occupied by one of the ships.  She and her family were all living in a makeshift  structure with the footprint of a king-sized bed.  There’s a general agreement that politics between the local government, with its affiliations with the former Marcos presidency, and the current Aquino administration have created bottlenecks in the reconstruction process, with the average citizen caught in between.

As a first generation Filipino-American I find myself annoyed at all the references to Filipino resiliency.  Yes, people are moving forward, but they are doing it to survive, and they are desperate enough to build flimsy homes right next to the water because they lost everything and its the only place they can wait while the government works on a relocation plan.

In the meantime, the rainy season has started, and people are living in more precarious structures than they had seven months ago.



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