Cross in the Road – My Journey to Tacloban
by Pat Oconer,
CFC FFL Work with the Poor National Coordinator
It has been exactly 6 days since typhoon Haiyan hit the Visayas.
Many of us were devastated seeing the footages and news updates of the wrath and destruction it caused in infrastructure and in the families it displaced. Let me share to you what we saw going to the many areas affected by this typhoon.
I walked on the streets of Palo and Tacloban, encountered helpless victims and experienced how it was to walk and sleep in the pitch black of night.
We came to bring relief goods and to make sure that all the packs of goods will be received by affected families.
We flew to Cebu, as it is the easiest link going to Leyte. Arriving in Cebu, we decided to go to Daan Bantayan – one town in the northern tip of Cebu – the place were the eye of the storm passed.
On the way to that area we saw people lining the street, one family after another, young and old alike begging for food and help. Houses were down and there was no electricity. Everyone in the state of trying to survive.
What surprised me though, was that many cars were stopping and giving what they had to these families. And the joy of receiving simple packs of goods like bread made a big difference to these people.
We located some members of community and are grateful to know that they have survived.
From Cebu, we started our journey to Tacloban, Leyte. Started with a 5 -hour boat ride going to the town of Hilongos in Leyte. With us were tons of relief goods from international groups who were also doing their part to help those affected families. It was overwhelming to see how they just give themselves totally to helping others, and they are not even Filipinos.
In Leyte, we passed one town after another, with a mission not only to find ways to bring relief, but to find community members who were all displaced after the storm.
I have never seen such destruction in my life. I have been part of many relief efforts of community; I have seen storms, floods, and experienced many discomforts in doing mission work; but, seeing the different towns in Leyte, and the hardest hit areas like Palo and Tacloban, gave me a totally different experience.
Dead people lining the streets. The stench. Not a single house survived the storm. Everything broken. One hundred percent of houses and infrastructure down. At night, there was total darkness due to no electricity supply. People were begging and lining up for food and water. Chaos in many areas and the stories of survival were just heart breaking.
We spoke to a woman who had been looking for her four-year old son, and she found him on his birthday, dead. She was sitting beside her son`s dead body looking very far away as if there was no more tomorrow.
We were able to locate two CFC FFL families, and heard stories of how they survived. We slept in an abandoned house. The beautiful province of Tacloban is now an empty community.
We went back to Manila via C170 Hercules of the US Airforce. With us were 600 people who want to start all over again, this time in a different area.
Many times we complain, many times we blame God, many times we neglect the bounty of God. And yet many people in Leyte are dying of hunger. The simple relief we give makes a whole lot of difference. Age and status in life are not a hindrance in giving and sharing what we have.
My six-year old daughter gave everything inside her piggy bank and gave it all for the kids in Tacloban. I have seen young volunteers going to the CFC FFL Home office packing goods, and many areas all over the world have shared and rallied their members to give – and all these have made a difference.
We are all blessed. We are called to be our brother’s keepers. We are stewards for each other.
I beg that you continue to share what you have. Let us continue to help in rebuilding those areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda. Let us act as one, share what we have, and bring out the true spirit of Bayanihan.
Truly we are a resilient nation, that even after a storm (the biggest storm in the planet!) we can still find ways to smile and hope once again. We are Filipinos and no storm can bring down a great Catholic Nation! Bangon Pilipinas!