Flying out of Manila to the other parts of the Philippines is something I have always loved. It's island after island after island. In the air right around Metro Manila it looks so monochromatic. But as you venture farther south all of sudden there is so much contrast. The blues, greens, and whites are so vibrant. We were extra lucky that afternoon too. It was just a little rainy, yet the sun was still shining so there were rainbows everywhere. It was absolutely beautiful!
Seeing Tacloban for the first time is something I've thought about since back in November. The destruction here is still very real. Buildings and homes were completely destroyed. Some are missing complete walls, roofs and/or windows. Some are missing all together. But the regrowth is also very real. Homes are going up, debre is being cleared, and the trees that are still standing have their leaves back. Amongst all the destruction there is so much beauty. Beauty and so much hope.
After leaving the plane we made our way to baggage claim. This section of the airport was nothing more than a couple of walls and almost 3/4 of a roof. It looked as if there may have been big glass windows there before, but they were now completely open. The only thing inside the walls that told you that you were inside an airport is what used to be the baggage belt. It no longer worked, but everyone gathered around it as our baggage was unloaded on to it anyways.
At the airport we were picked up by Beth. She's the lady I mentioned in my last post. While traveling Asia with some friends she heard about Typhoon Yolanda and decided to cut her trip short and make her way to Tacloban. She didn't have any ties here, just a desire to help. So she jumped on a plane and has been working here with different organizations on numerous projects ever since. She even decided to get herself a Filipino drivers license and a little red truck, both of which have been heaven sent!
On our way to where we'd be staying we stopped at a fruit stand and a church next door. The churches here have been housing people for the last 6 months. Although they are nowhere near as full as they we initially, they are still home to some who are still without a home. That church we stopped at specifically was just emptied and they have not began reconstruction on the parts of it that still needed repairs.
We drove along the coastline that night on our way to where we'd be staying. I didn't pull out my camera because I wanted to just take everything in, but the mental images I was able to capture will stay with me forever. Remnants of life before the typhoon were everywhere. They say before Yolanda you couldn't really see the water because there where so many homes built right up to it, but not the view of the ocean is very clear. It was worse there than any area I've seen since.
We spent the rest of that evening getting to know the thirteen other people we would be living with for the next couple of weeks. I'll talk about them a lot more in my next post, but staying with them has been such a neat experience! I love being able to hear their stories, and to joke around with them each day around the dinner table. They have the biggest hearts and each day we are here I find myself more and more grateful for the people who so kindly welcomed a couple of strangers :)