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Day 1 in Tacloban

Day 1 in Tacloban

“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”
– 2 Corinthians 8:1

Despite the perception that I was going to end up staying in a tent here in Tacloban, I’ve been blessed with both a roof (thank you tita Chuchi and tito Kokoy) and a SIM plan that provides unlimited (albeit slow) internet so I can document my experiences day to day with you all. As promised to my sponsors, I will spend my evenings relaying what I have learned and seen (while at the same time trying to keep up with my law studies so please be patient if I’m late every now and then.)

I arrived to Tacloban with the idea that everything would be basically a flurry of lawlessness and devastation. What I saw instead was not the failure of lost souls, but rather, a demonstration of the endurance of the human spirit. The scars of Typhoon Yolanda are still all over the city. Yet, I saw more smiles around the city than in my old commutes to work when I lived in Toronto. But this is not an issue of volume, but rather quality. It is easy to go through a first world life with pessimism and cynicism, but I think that a lot of us can benefit from learning third world optimism and contentment.

Out of respect (and lack of consent), I will not get into depth of the many personal stories I have been told; they have lost families, lost their possessions and have been forced to undertake the slow process of rebuilding. This is all with the understanding that since Yolanda passed, there is no longer as many eyes on their situation.

I would like to focus more on the hopes of the future as opposed to the tears from the past.

Disaster is a trend to the media, and sadly, we determine exposure by the attention we incite as opposed to the need of clarity and action to the truth.

Today was a personal day to tour the city and listen to accounts of everyone’s experience, from the friends who have graciously hosted me, to the jeepney driver who felt the urge to share his perception on what went wrong.

Tomorrow we begin opening ceremonies with Tacloban’s mayor and training for our project, as well as pay our respects for the dead. My future posts will yield more experiential information as we begin interacting with the city as a volunteer unit.

Your donations, besides helping me undertake this trip, will pay for gifts and Jolliebee (Filipinos know how awesome this is) for the children at the schools we are teaching for the next few days, as well as the ingredients to make Chicken Arroz Caldo (a Filipino version of congee) to feed over 6000 people including children and families in the Northern Barangays (Caiibaan and Sagkahan.)

But just before I close so I can start my law readings, I just want to thank everyone today who have made the start of my trip so unforgettable. Our donors’ generosity, and sharing my people’s joys and your sorrows has been an honor that I intend to repay. I hope I can make you all proud.

When your life has direction that you are called to meet, it is hard to feel the sores on your feet. I’m sleeping tonight barely feeling the mosquito bites.

You all are in my prayers.

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