By Dennis M. Sabangan
A year ago, I bore witness to the immediate aftermath of Supertyphoon Haiyan in Tacloban City in the province of Leyte. The strongest storm recored ever at landfall had decimated this once vibrant place in the Philippines. Now, as the anniversary of the calamity nears, I once again headed to Tacloban and saw that though things have much improved, the scars left by Haiyan still run deep.
I still remember my arrival at the Tacloban airport, just a day after the typhoon hit. The damaged terminal was where many residents congregated, all hoping to hop on a C-130 plane out of the devastation. To this day, the port remains busy, as a continuous stream of foreign and local aid workers flow in and out of the province.
The city itself, which had once been flattened, no longer looks like it had been bombed. But the space where the remains of thriving fishing villages once stood is now occupied by thousands of tents that temporarily serve as home for the storm’s survivors. Until now, 14,000 families have yet to receive permanent housing — but still, they are the lucky ones.
Supertyphoon Haiyan claimed over 6,000 lives, many of whom were placed in mass graves. Last year, bereaved relatives had already erected makeshift crosses for their dead loved ones in Palo town. Now, flowers have begun to bloom over all the graves.
A sense of normalcy has begun to return to Tacloban. Of the eight cargo ships that had washed ashore on Barangay (Village) Anibong, only three remain; two are in the process of being dismantled, while one has been deemed sturdy enough to return to the sea.
The debris that once littered the city’s streets are being cleared, little by little. Still, it’s surreal to remember the devastation wrought by Haiyan. A year has passed, but residue of the tragedy still remains. Despite this, I saw that hope and progress are overcoming the grief dealt by the disaster. It will be a long time before the city is fully back on its feet, but it’s clear that its residents are determined to rebuild a better Tacloban.
#12 – Joshua Cator: Typhoon Haiyan survivor Joshua Cator in November 2013 and November 2014. Joshua Cator lost twenty-three relatives including his mother and younger sister. credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan