We all knew what happened on the 8th of November 2013. This day a super typhoon hit the Philippines so badly that people will never forget the name Yolanda again or internationally known as Haiyan. One of the worst hit areas in the Visayas was the city of Tacloban where I spent 4 years of my college life in UP.
A day after the disaster, a number of University of the Philippines – Tacloban alumni (which happened to be my batchmates) based in Manila and their close friends met to share news, stories and updates about the status of their family and hometown. They founded a group named Bulig Isko and started to organize relief operations and coordinated with several people here and abroad for help. They were able to send trucks of relief goods, hygiene packages and aide to different parts of Eastern Visayas week after week.
I grabbed the opportunity to be part of the Bulig Isko team that will bring Hearts and Smiles for Kids in Tacloban to happen 3 days before Christmas. So a day before that, I traveled from Cebu to Ormoc via fastcraft dawn of December 21 and arrived past 8 in the morning then took a van to Tacloban. I usually sleep during travel but this time I couldn’t take my eyes out of the mess left by the typhoon to a point that I lost track which town we are already due to the flattened landscapes.
I arrived in Tacloban passed 11AM and got to join with the team. After lunchtime we divided into three groups, one to work on the decoration, packing and preparation for the event and the other two to distribute toys, slippers and gifts for kids courtesy of Ryzza Mae Dizon and SOS kits from Eat Bulaga on separate multicabs. One went to the town of Palo and I was part of the group that went to Brgy. Anibong in Tacloban where there are ships that were washed ashore and literally parked along houses and beside the road.
We roamed around the streets and stop by to give toys to kids and SOS kits to the adults. It was a fun experience and the same time stressful when you cannot control some people scrambling to get something. Well that’s understandable and inevitable in the situations they’ve been through. At the end of the day it feels good to bring little joys and smiles to these people especially the kids.
The following day was the main event held in UP Tacloban Multi-purpose Building. It formally started past 11AM with more than 300 kids with parents/guardians who came. The kids were divided in to groups and assigned a facilitator. Lunch packs were served both for the kids and their parents and there were games, energizers, and fun activities for the kids. All of them were able to receive school supplies, bags, toys and noche buena packs for their family.
I’m not really a good storyteller and I wish I could be more specific and detailed with the event and the people behind but one thing I do better is to capture these moments and their stories to tell. I am glad to have spent that weekend in Tacloban, meeting new and old friends, going out of your comfort-zones, sharing hope and joy to the kids and giving your time, talent and treasure in a place I once called my second home.
More powers to Bulig Isko ( facebook.com/BuligIsko ) and to the people who made this possible. The effects of the super typhoon will be felt for years, let us all continue to help by any means. God bless!