Time to celebrate! Ang buhay ay parang gulong. Sometimes you see debris. Other times, pyromusical.
This year, the 5th of the Philippine International Pyromusical Competition is my second to watch. This year is special though. I get to be in MOA for 3 Saturdays, I get to see the 5th year 3 times too. I did watch Spain and UK on February 22. Che was generous enough to offer me the patron seat with dinner. Since I was solo, and the table was shared with strangers, I did not eat much. But I feasted on the fireworks right before my camera eye.
I was back in Manila on March 15, a Saturday. Went straight to MOA. Arrived late. Canada was playing, I did not catch up Finland. I was still in Manila on March 22, Saturday. Rhea’s clan watched the show, a swooping PhP19,500 went up the air along with the fireworks. Che’s family had a reservation for 4 in Watami Japanese Restaurant, 2nd level, MOA where the view I thought was better than by the bay. I requested Che that we swapped location. She had to leave her family and join Rhea’s group because me myself and I must now watch the pyro from a different view. I take pictures, period. So Che off went to MOA bay. Hugs to the two – Rhea and Che. I was pampered by these 2 sweetest girls in the world!
But here’s the catch! The March 22 schedule is the last day of the pyromusical. The Philippines, being the host, and being the winner of similar competition held in other countries, presented its winning entry. I heard ooohhhhs and aaahhhs. That was really flattering and bias since 98%, my guess, of those who watched were from the Philippines (hehehe). They showed “I LOVE MOA” in fireworks. Christmas Parol, one similar to Pampanga’s, burst in fireworks. Flagpoles of the different participating countries burst in fireworks. Sarah Geronimo sang and her skies burst in fireworks. And I did not see the I LOVE MOA, I did not see the PAROL, I did not see SARAH. All because I swapped location from the bay area to the 2nd level. Beeeh. Of all the entries I watched, I pinned the best pictures from the Philippine pyro.
This year, Canada won. But more than all their winning entries, I emerged as the winner. Nothing now can stop me from celebrating life. Cheers to friends who never stop believing in fireworks. Cheers!
It has been more than one hundred days since Yolanda hit my homeland, but the question still remains, and remains unanswered: where to go from here? Either my prayer would be to spare me and my fellow Taclobanon from desolation, or to grant me and my Kababayan more strength to withstand the aftermath of the deadliest natural disaster in the world.
When I learned what storm surge is, more than 6,000 lives have already been taken away, and four million people, homeless. Yolanda is very pricey. No one could afford to have her one more time.
Nearly a month after the “angry, very, very angry” wind ever recorded brought our houses down, quite literally so, I walked down Magallanes Street in Tacloban to locate my friends’ whereabouts. The place is exactly by the Cancabato bay, a paddle boat ride away from San Jose peninsula where I lived and where the storm surge hit the hardest. On that sunny day, I froze, was disoriented and cried. The place once teeming with dikit-dikit na bahay, now is teeming with dikit-dikit na dos-por-dos, yero, cabinet, sofa, maleta, refrigerator. I have learned later that my friends, Mano Conrad and his son Orle, in an attempt to run out of the their house to secure themselves to safety during the storm, were overcome by structures driven ashore by a wall of water up to 15-25 feet high, and died. Their bodies were found 3 weeks later, but not at the same time. The search was eternally painful for Mana Lilia, wife of Mano Conrad. I met her in People’s Center where most of them evacuated. She was back to selling fruits as they used to do. I actually bought 4 pieces of apple as I used to and got a discount as it used to be. The discounting was our attempt to bring back normalcy in our lives but her tears showed that we tremendously failed.
The day I saw the water rising, I thought of other friends, Mano Monching and Mana Judith, our neighbors who took care of our road-right-of-way by landscaping it with ornamental plants. I saw how the water filled their house, almost submerging it, but didn’t see them crawling on the rooftop. Hours later when we had the chance to see each other, Mano Monching had only this to say: “Bor, waray na imo Mana Judith.” He said of his wife; emotions, flat. Mana Judith was joined by 3 more souls, trapped inside their house, who now were silent witnesses of what storm surge could do to mankind. We used to only have a house wall as the divide between us, but now there is a greater divide between Mana Judith and me, and I don’t know where Mano Monching is. The last time I saw him, he was carrying his bicycle to downtown, around 10 kilometers away, with good words for his wife but with one question I could never answer: "Bor, where to bring your Mana Judith’s body?"
I returned to our house when the water subsided, not really prepared of what to see. Who could foresee the aftermath – that this once peaceful village would turn into one wrecked, horrendous dumpsite of electric posts, fallen trees and cars piled up like mountains? The very first lifeless body I saw was unknown to us. I heard they drove their car to evacuate on the very hour the storm surge hit us, and hit them without mercy. One young lady was crying hard by her side. I could not bear to talk to her.
By the gate, just outside our house, some neighbors were rescuing a 9-year old girl who endured the 3-hour flood, trapped inside Mano Monching’s house. She was still moaning, eyes softly closed, limbs weakened. Everyone panicked – the reaction you get when no one knows exactly what to do. I was regrettably inexperienced in providing first aid. I tried. I failed. I was already hallucinating of rescue teams in full gears riding in inflatable rescue boats. I walked away, leaving the girl lying in the front seat of a car which door we forcibly opened. I hoped I could find someone who knew how to count 1,001, 1,002, 1,003 while pumping the girl’s heart. In such chaos, in such aftermath, where to go? Whom to find? When I returned, I only saw the girl in a lonesome. Breathless. Pale.
We met a very old couple; the old man could hardly walk. He was hand assisted by his grandson. I asked them, “Tikain kamo, Nay, Tay?” “Kadto kami ha am anak didto ha Mernan’s.” The place is not that far, but for them to walk through the massive piles of debris, nearing dark, and raining, that I worried. I took the old man’s hand so he could climb up one branch of a fallen tree. Without a word, his grandson just left us all, his tears spoke to me like a hundred daggers in my chest. The old woman told me her grandson would go to his mother, not really knowing what happened. Since it was raining a bit, I brought them to the house where we evacuated. I pulled a chair – the only chair available, the rest were garbage and ankle-deep water – for the old man to sit down. He took his nebulizer out, and breathed. Then they insisted that they would go to their daughter’s house in Mernan’s amidst the rain. What could I do? All of us walked together to the highway. It was not walk in the park. It took us more time than the usual walk. The rain was imminent, and i encouraged them to rest a while in a lodging house where most of the people in my community stayed. I managed to provide them water and a softdrink case turned into a makeshift chair. Then I bid them goodbye. It would be a long walk for Gemma, Kenot and me. And the night was near.
We reached the house of Sharon and Jordan by night fall. These are friends who offered us accommodation despite the flooded floor. But because of another tsunami scare which reached everyone in lightning speed, we reached their house empty and dark. I learned later they vacated the place early in the afternoon to secure their kids. That was 7:00 pm, and we had nowhere to go. We prayed one more time. We waded back the flooded street under a moonlight to Cogon highway. A few minutes rest in a waiting shed, we found ourselves following the throng of armies walking to God-knows-where. At least they had their flashlights on. When I asked them where they were going, they just answered me to a safer place. I asked them where that safer place was. The answer was scary: any place higher. Were they really warned of tsunami by their officials? After the many climbs and many rests in between, and a careful inspection of nails protruding just about anywhere, we reached Robinson’s place, and spent the night by the entrance. At least we had the wind as our natural air conditioning, and a group of survivors who shared their biscuits away.
Pardon me, I really don’t know now what more to say. Truth to tell, this write up was started early January this year. I have been changing the opening line from “while the journey through Yolanda was” to “it has been almost 100 days” to “exactly 100 days” to “been more than 100 days”. This writing seems to take me forever. Now I am deciding to publish this, for whatever experience you may get from this. Or more honestly, whatever debriefing this may serve me.
After one week of bracing everyday the life after Yolanda, Gemma, Kenot and I decided to leave Tacloban - our home for quite some time: me, 27 years; gemma, 12 years; kenot, 3 years. We only picked up my camera gears, safe in a drybox, our backpacks with drowned laptops, wallets, external hard drives which did not survive the salt water. And the journey to losses, pains, empathy, kindness, generosity, survival, recovery, rehabilitation begins.
I thank God in Heavens for bringing Himself down to us once again. This time He came down as an Almighty Storm.
boris p pascubillo
he writes to affirm desiderata's with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. he makes photographs to shoutout that when God created this homeland, He saw that it was good.