By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
It has been more than three months ago when I first set foot in Tacloban City. It was unfortunate that the first time I visited the city – referred to as one of the most beautiful in the country – it was during the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.
When I stepped out of the bus when it reached Tacloban, I thought to myself, how can one rise from this devastation?
Homes, especially along the coastline, were crushed to the ground. It was impossible not to sense the fear and worries of the people. It was an eerie feeling; one could sense the feelings of despair and inconsolable grief in the air. If one is not tough enough, it was so easy to just give up.
That was how I – the outsider, the supposed independent but terribly affected observer – felt when we walked the streets of Tacloban and neighboring towns, carrying our tripod and camera, interviewing residents and documenting the havoc brought by the typhoon.
There are no words to describe the grief felt by those who were directly affected, those who lost their loved ones, their homes and livelihood to the typhoon.
The scenes that I saw imprinted in my mind, haunting me up to this day. It was surreal, a nightmare played out in real life.
Days before the One Billion Rising event, I interviewed Jessica Darantinao, a survivor of Typhoon Yolanda. She recalled what happened that fateful day as if it was only yesterday. Her eyes still show the grief the typhoon left. It was the same grief I saw in the eyes of the people I met and interviewed during my stay in Tacloban and neighboring towns.
But aside from grief, there was also rage in her eyes.
Jessica narrated how the government neglected the survivors. She belied claims that residents are fast recovering from the typhoon. Rehabilitation programs are marred with corruption issues and that there are those profiting from the supposed services for the affected residents.
This pushed the survivors of Yolanda to form People Surge, a movement that aims to demand justice for the negligence, which, according to Jessica, they have received from the government. Others tried to belittle their protest action, which was one of the biggest in recent years, saying that it was “merely” led by activists.
But knowing what residents went through, one could easily see that the negligence of the government is an injustice, a continuing calamity, being inflicted on the people. And it is the very same government and its negligence that bred the resilience and rage that led to the People Surge.
Tacloban City and the rest of the Yolanda-affected areas may longer be as “beautiful” as it used to. But the strength and determination being shown by the people is the most overwhelming, most beautiful I have ever seen.