Inquirer reporter witnesses generosity, sharing in Tacloban amid battles to survive
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — Amid the ruins, survival is the name of the game here.
One would think looting and hoarding are the only options left. But there has also been whole-hearted sharing of whatever one could give.
It’s easy to overlook this basic human trait in the face of despair and hopelessness.
But residents like Oliver Cam and brothers Jed and Kester Chan, and their uncle, Toto Cinco, were among those who quickly offered their hotels and vehicles to those who needed a place to stay or a ride to get somewhere.
Jed and Toto drove me around trying to look for my boss’ 92-year-old aunt, unmindful that their car’s fuel could run low with the heavy traffic in Sagkahan village because of the debris and the people walking around.
They also drove me to RTR Hospital where I picked up the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s satellite phone.
They both patiently waited for me, asking no payment in return.
“I only have one request,” Jed asked me. “Can you post a message on my Facebook account to tell everyone that we are OK?”
He gave me his account name and password. I was confident that I could get back to Cebu that afternoon and do what Jed had requested.
But as it turned out, I got stuck in Tacloban for the next two days, and when I returned to Manila, he must have already posted the message himself.
Food and water were certainly hard to come by. But there was never a day that no one offered a piece of bread or a refill of bottled water.
The Bureau of Fire Protection team from Southern Leyte led by Supt. Rafael Doron shared loaves of bread and candies with the journalists who hitched a ride with the group.
Doron said he had also seen people barter for necessities.
At the airport, a man saw me limping in my muddied rain boots.
“Would you trade your boots for my slippers?” he asked me.
I could hardly walk because of my blisters and so I agreed. Unfortunately, his feet were bigger than mine. It would be a futile trade.
But one should also be very prudent with the food and water available.
In Tacloban, people don’t gulp water even under the hot sun. It is sipped, only to wet one’s parched throat or hush a grumbling stomach.
You don’t finish one pack of biscuits in one sitting. You save half of it for the next meal. Or for the next person you meet who had not eaten anything at all.
Many subsisted on bread, other than biscuits.
Hot rice is always a treat that is shared with one another.
At the media center at the airport, photojournalists shared a plate of rice mixed with all kinds of canned goods —tuna, corned beef, sardines.
Jason Gutierrez of Agence France Presse shared with me his contact lens solution, after I had left mine in Cebu, even if he himself could run low on supply any day.
Residents were cooking food by the roadside, sometimes just in front of their ruined homes. I’d like to think whatever dish they prepared, they also shared with their neighbors.
Even some of those who looted did so for the love of somebody else.
Mark Renomeron, a 22-year-old resident of Tacloban, said he had joined the looting all over the city to get supplies such as diapers for his two-year-old nephew, alcohol, and slippers for his family.
“Honestly, I won’t do this if it’s not for survival. Many people are desperate. We just want to survive,” Renomeron said.
(Nikko Dizon, an Inquirer reporter, is a Navy reservist officer and a graduate of the National Defense College. She wore her battle dress uniform while in Tacloban. She arrived in the capital of Leyte province on Nov. 9. She stayed in the broken city for a few days.)
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