I have a lot of guy friends, but not many that I can call a Kuya. This is a stalker photo of Rico (left) & Levin (right), the orchestrators of this trip. Haha It’s pass midnight and they are the last people awake and booking our flights for Manila. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned about and from these two. The people on this trip are really making me feel like I have Kuya’s and Ate’s I can count on for a lifetime. Here’s to trusting others a little bit more. :) (at Granda Manor Tacloban City)
Blogging in the lobby of our beautiful hotel, Granda Manor, as we have some downtime! It’s been a great trip so far. :) http://msjenamos.tumblr.com/
Erin Nicole Vedar (@cellogirl4life): http://offtothephilippines.blogspot.com/
Savannah Durso (@savvvydee): http://tothephilippinesandbeyond.blogspot.com/ (at Granda Manor Tacloban City)
Today was quite an exciting day! We woke up early to eat breakfast, then we drove straight to the airport. When we initially arrived to Manila, it was the evening. But today, we drove back during the daytime. So for the road back, we were able to see shanty homes and homes built on top of water. Homes look like they were literally built with whatever scraps were lying around. Whatever they can find that’s sturdy and durable. I’m still in disbelief that people live in these homes, even though I’ve visited the Philippines in the past. But that’s barely the beginning to today’s journey.
So we jumped on the plane and we were off to Tacloban. About an hour later, I was in shock. We were near landing on an island I’ve never been to. From high above, you can see that the land is scarred. Trees were torn. They can tell you which direction the typhoon came from because the trees never recovered. Half of the leaves were gone and many of the trees were still slanted. Plenty of trees have fallen. And the homes… Well, many roofs were torn off. Trash everywhere.
Then the landing. I couldn’t tell where we were landing at first because the airport was pretty much eradicated. When we landed, there was water everywhere. And the airport, it was only one building. The walls and doors where you’d enter the airport and then leave to Tacloban were torn off. The conveyer belt to receive your luggage a had no conveyer. Once the plane unloaded our luggage, they directly handed it to us. Unlike most airports where you’d wait for the conveyer belt to give you your luggage. People where sitting in the airport’s terminal without walls waiting for their flight.
So we grabbed our luggage and loaded our bus. As we drove, we all couldn’t help but have our eyes glued to the windows. So many shanty homes, so much damage. We even saw large buildings with torn off roofs. Many homes and buildings were in rubble. But along the way, we saw many shelter donations like tents offered by the UN and neighboring countries. That was nice.
As we drove to our first destination I caught eye contact with a girl on the back of a bike. She had a big smile on her face as she waved at me. I smiled and waved back.
We arrive at the office of the Tinawan Mayor. He gives us a tour of the his building, showing us plans on how they are rebuilding their city. Then, we guides us to a nearby GK Village.
When we unload our bus, a crowd of workers are waiting for us. They welcome us with an applause. There are a row of houses that are completed on the right. Unlike the first GK village we saw, these homes were painted the same. On the left side we saw homes that are still being built. We also see a row of villagers passing down buckets of water to make cement. There was a tall pile of sand and rocks and a cement mixing machine.
So we listened to a couple of speeches. There were GK Teams from around the world representing. Once the speeches are done, we go straight to digging. We grabbed nearby shovels and assisted in making cement. I was digging in my dress since I didn’t have time to change from meeting the mayor. But I had no problem with it. Haha
After our time at the GK Village, we grab lunch. There was a lot of laughter and conversation. We were then asked if we’d like to visit a nearby tent city. I’ve never seen one before, so I immediately said yes.
The first thing you notice at the tent city are the numerous amount of children. They all welcomed us at the entrance of their home. It was quite a feeling to see these kids so happy in such a devastating area.
It was incredible to see my first tent city. There were so many tents and so many families living in them. There was an open staircase that some of us stood on top of. From there, we find that we are standing in the middle of tent city. I look behind me to see more tents, but also a building with a completely torn off roof. I took notice that someone was using the building to hang their laundry.
The group had the most fun with the kids. They surrounded us, singing, dancing, and playing games with us. The kids brought life to the place. It’s amazing how they know how to have so much fun with so little around them. These communities are so… well, communal.
Although I’m an adamant, individualistic American, it makes complete sense as to why the villagers here are collectivists. With so little things to entertainment them, the kids turn to each other for fun.
Lastly, we journeyed to our hotel. Part of our drive was near the shoreline. Although it was already night time, we can see that many homes were nonexistent. But you can see the wooden framework for new homes.
I have yet to see how this place will look like in daylight.
Hello! We have some downtime so I thought I’d reflect on our first full day in PI. So much happened in one day so I’ll just point out some highlights.
At our first slum visit, we were approached by a bunch of kids. The first one named Tanya. She was very social and energetic. I don’t speak Tagalog, so I stepped back a little when she started talking to me. Erin and Savannah embraced the kids. The first slum was located at a graveyard and near the water. We walked through dry/soft mud to visit our first home. We interviewed Myleen and her daughter. They lived next to each other. Myleen’s daughter is 24 with four kids. The kids at the beginning were following us around. One thing I noticed is how some of them were barefooted in the mud or didn’t have any shorts on. They didn’t care though, they were ecstatic and playing with one another.
The third lady we interviewed told us that she does laundry for a living. She earns less than $100 a month and supports a big family.
On our way out, as we were saying our goodbyes and loading up in our vans, the kids asked us to send them money. Their request impacted me. These kids are so young, but they are smart enough to recognize that we are better off than them.
At our final slum we learned that this particular area had 3,000+ families. Many of the kids don’t go to school because they didn’t see the point. I don’t blame them if they see their elders in the same predicament as them regardless of education. The home we interviewed have a very low ceiling that was just high enough for me to stand up straight.
During the first part of the day, I was feeling in denial of the whole experience. The people I was with were engaged and asking more questions than me. But this final interview intrigued me. In America, I am fortunate enough to always have something to fall back on. I have my mom’s home to live in. I have friends that could take care of me if I needed. I have credit cards to use if I don’t have any money. But here, if anything bad happens, it’s hard to get back on your feet. They have no insurance. No homeowners, life or health insurance. Nothing. In fact, the ceiling in this home was low due to the damage from the typhoon. They had to make due with what they had. The lady’s story opened my eyes to the reality of most of the people here. It’s one thing to know about it, but it’s a different emotional feeling when you’re talking to these individuals directly.
We went back on the road again. I spent the whole time looking out my window and observing the towns. All generally the same, homes are put together with the little resources they have. Many people sitting in front of their homes watching us drive by. (We stuck out like a sore thumb.) Dogs and cats everywhere. The occasional wave at little kids that smiled and waved at us.
But then we took a road that curved back and forth. And once the trees cleared, I suddenly saw a row of colorful homes. My eyes lit up. I knew what this place was. As we drove closer, we started to hear music. We all got excited. When we entered the center of the village, we were welcomed by a band and color guard.
I’m witnessing my first GK Village with my own eyes. The homes were all colorful and they were a lot bigger than I realized. The children performing for us were all dressed with “I love PH” t-shirts. The color guard were wearing vibrant costumes.
We got out of our bus and relaxed, admiring the band. Then we had the opportunity to tour the homes and interview the families. Although the homes on the outside are colorful, the families come to an empty home when they first move in. Walls are yet to be painted. As if the home is just an empty shell.
The whole idea of these homes is to make them your own. The more established homes had painted walls, tile floors, furniture and a second floor. The families are encouraged to decorate their homes as they please. It was all inspiring. From what I’m told, this GK village is about eight years old.
GK homes remind me of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. Many families will build their homes out of straw and wood. Or scraps and whatever they can find or afford. But Gawad Kalinga helps build brick homes. Homes that will last a long time.
I’m looking forward to what the rest of our journey brings.
Wednesday, April 16th at noon, we landed in Tacloban. The landing alone was impactful as we saw torn palm trees and homes without roofs. Once we got off the plane, we jumped into a bus to meet the mayor. The mayor showed us how they are rebuilding their city, and then showed us the nearby GK Village. The villagers and volunteers gathered together and welcomed us with an applause as we drove in. After a tour of the place and speeches from key people at the village, we went straight to digging! Yes, that’s me digging in a dress. Haha, we were told to dress nicely for the mayor. Our last stop was at a tent city. The kids there were so energetic and happy to sing songs to us. Ending the night at the beautiful Granda Manor. It’s been another wonderful fulfilling day. :) #philippines #typhoonyolanda #typhoonhaiyan #bayanichallenge (at Granda Manor Tacloban City)