Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tacloban City: Helping is fun in the Philippines

HISTORIC AIRSTRIP. This is the photo of the Tacloban Airport (officially named as the Daniel Z Romualdez Airport) that I took from a UH-1H 'Huey' Chopper. It used to be called San Jose air strip when it was used as a staging ground for the US air forces when they liberated the Philippine islands from Japanese Imperial Forces during the 2nd World War. 

I love Eastern Visayas because of its beautiful islands. 

I am sad to see its battered faces after super-typhoon Yolanda roared its way through the scenic places that I once visited not too long ago.

My last glimpse of its beautiful aerial scenery was in January 2013 when I accompanied then Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Lt Gen Emmanuel Bautista, during his command visit to see the troops of the 8th Infantry Division.

I was attracted by the beautiful images below me as we traveled by chopper from Tacloban City airport to Catbalogan town in Samar. I took several photos of the tiny islands, the mangrove forests and the rugged terrain. 

During my elementary school days, I first heard about Leyte and its current capital, Tacloban City, through the historical accounts about the largest naval battle that occurred here during the 2nd World War. 

Tacloban goes down the history books as the first town liberated by General Douglas Mac Arthur's forces; and, as the 'temporary' capital of the Philippines when Manila was still occupied by the Japanese Imperial Forces. 

Why 'Tacloban'?

According to oral and written traditions, Tacloban got its name from the word 'taklub', a local term referring to a basket-like fish catcher which was popularly used by the local fishermen. Naturally, fishing is among the main source of livelihood for the people.

Known as Kankabatok, it used to be a village in Basey town, Samar. A favorite place to catch shrimps and crabs, people also refer to the place as 'tarakluban', a term that means 'place to catch fish or crabs. Later, it was shortened to Takluban where its current English name 'Tacloban' is derived. 

It is believed that Tacloban town was proclaimed as a municipality sometime in the year 1770.

Typhoon path

The province of Samar and Leyte (Eastern Visayas), is a natural typhoon path for reasons only God knows. 

Aside from the killer typhoon Yolanda, an almost similar super typhoon also devastated the same areas in October 1897. 

In the recent history, typhoons regularly visit the place. People are so used to typhoons that they accept it as part of their normal lives and as a matter of fact, the Army's 8th Infantry Division is named  the "Storm Troopers".
When super typhoon 'Haiyan' (Yolanda) struck, Tacloban was put into the world map once again and cemented its name as the 'Ground Zero' for the strongest typhoon ever recorded in the world.

                               (Photo from an anonymous 'citizen journalist')

As we all know today, the super typhoon almost decimated everything in its path including concrete houses, coconut trees and the boats that were docked along the shorelines. 

The tragic loss of life and property became the worst nightmare for the typhoon victims who survived. 

Desperate to sustain their families, some of the fishermen used improvised fishing platforms such as broken refrigerators in order to catch fish.

One of the fishermen who was interviewed by a TV reporter expressed his thoughts this way:

"I don't want relief goods forever. Please help me to have my boat so that I can go back to my source of livelihood and sustain my family."

                               Photo by Reuters/ABS-CBN News

For this reason, the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation embarks on a project to help the local fishermen who lost everything during the onslaught of the typhoon Yolanda.

The mission is crystal clear: Help the poor fishermen regain their source of livelihood by providing them with new bancas (and perhaps, fishing nets too!).

When my friend Jay Jaboneta mentioned the project to me, I did not hesitate to help. May okay ang tumutulong kaysa tinutulungan.

As one of the supporters of the Yellow Boat project in Layag-layag village Zamboanga City, my reply was short: "Count me in!"

I took this photo of my friend Jay Jaboneta (in blue shirt, taking a photo of me) during our visit to hand-over the boats donated by a group of friends through my organization, the TOPSOLDIERS (organization of TOPS awardees recognized by Metrobank Foundation and Rotary Club of Makati-Metro)

To accomplish the mission, we are enlisting the help of kind-hearted people around the world to donate small amounts of money to finance the procurement of boats. 

By pooling our small contributions, we can procure one boat at a time for each of the typhoon victims so that they can sustain their families,  and as Dr. Anton Lim, the co-founder of the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation said, "We will also enable them to send their kids to school". 

I have to admit that I love these fishermen. They produce the fish that we eat. 

I simply love the kinilaw, tinolang isda and steamed Lapu-lapu. This is also one of the reasons why I committed myself in helping them.

Of course, I am also thinking about their family members. They must rise from the rubble of the widespread devastation. 

We must help them stand ramrod straight again and be proud as a resilient people who could not be easily defeated by any difficult challenges including typhoon Haiyan.

Para sa akin, mas magandang tumulong kaysa tinutulungan.

Helping is fun in the Philippines!

***If you want to donate directly to the foundation for this project, please see this link:

1 comment:

  1. nakamamanghang makabasa ng ilang artikulo mula sa isang soldier blogger...pangalawa kayo sa sundalong alam kong may hilig at magaling sumulat.mabuti't may oras pa kayo para rito sa dinami-dami ng inyong mga responsibilidad...