By Atty. Ferdinand E. Laguna
One week after Typhoon Yolanda hit Leyte Province in November 2013, a group of volunteers from Sorsogon City went to Palo and Pastrana, Leyte to offer their help. I was lucky to have joined them. Below is the piece I wrote on 22 November 2013.
“I and my fellow volunteers, Sonny Dellosa included, of a Sorsogon City based humanitarian service group named BERN ( Bicol Emergency Response Network ) have returned from the Yolanda devastated Leyte Province. We were asked by an office under the President (Commission on Filipinos Overseas) to assist them in transporting their relief goods from Sorsogon City to the towns of Pastrana and Palo, and in distributing them to their intended beneficiaries. We did what we were requested to do.
The towns in Samar along the Maharlika Highway suffered minimal or no damage at all. But right after we descended from the San Juanico Bridge, we already smelled the stench of death. Everywhere we looked there was destruction. Imagine a bulldozer shoving to the ground houses and other structures on its path – and leaving their debris just there – that’s what happened in Tacloban and the towns we went to. No structure was left standing except those built of concrete slabs. You are not a human being if you are not moved to shed a tear.
We had with us a kind gentleman (Virgilio Cuizon) who is a correspondent of ABS CBN Europe Bureau. Accordingly, he will broadcast to the world thru The Filipino Chanel what he saw.
All coconut trees were either cut, their crowns blown off, or uprooted. Bamboos were either cut or uprooted. The hills we saw were brown. All structures palatial were damaged, the Bishop’s Residence on a hill top, the City Hall of Tacloban, among them.
In the streets we passed, we tried to determine the height of the killer sea waters by the height of the plastic debris that still clung to the trees and posts. It is as if the sea has told mankind that she was bringing back the trash that the latter has thrown to her. It was as if she was telling us that she has taken it upon herself coastal clean up.
When we left there were still corpses being recovered. Some of the survivors are leaving, some have decided to stay. It will take at least 10 years for the coconut industry to recover. The rice fields though can provide for them by the next season.
We spent the night at Pastrana at the house of a former Municipal Councilor. It was one left standing. But I and Sonny slept at the ordinary bus that we took from Sorsogon City.
The 14 members of BERN did what they were asked to do – secure the employees of CFO and had the good delivered to their intended beneficiaries.
It was full moon over Pastrana last Tuesday. It was a scene to die for for photography enthusiasts. We had no appropriate cameras though, as Mr. Cuison has said, we needed a camera with the right shutter speed. He should know, he is an art curator trained in Europe.
The following morning I witnessed tearful goodbyes among relatives. Some were leaving for Cebu via Ormoc. You have a cruel and cold heart if you will not feel too the pain of separation. But I know every one will recover.
When I hit home, I slept the whole day, I was tired, but happy to have helped. And then started writing a piece about that full moon over Pastrana. This way, for the sake of my 2 teenage daughters – Isai and Oia, I will not forget what this tragedy has to teach the future generations, what it has taught about the human spirit.”
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[BicolToday.com/November 30, 2016]