Today was a hard day, hard in so many ways. I finally saw with my own eyes the destruction that Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) did to the people of Tacloban. The ride from the airport was very quite as our team took in the destruction and suffering. We visited the largest evacuation centre, the astrodome. Around the perimeter of the astrodome, people had built a community with homes made of scrap metal and wood surrounded by pools of muddy water, lots of garbage, flies and running sewage. Children played and ran around the area as children do in our parks at home. From what I saw around me, I expected to see faces of resentment, faces of desolation of hopelessness and despair. I was surprised to see smiles as we received many warm greetings and gracious thank yous.
We visited the site where five large cargo ships had washed ashore onto the land. I walked down into the new shanty neighbourhood near one ship and saw a woman
hanging her laundry amidst piles of rubble and garbage with her 5 year
old daughter. I went to a vendor selling detergent for 8 pesos. I walked over to her and asked if I could buy 2 packages of laundry detergent. She politely answered that she only had one to sell to me for 8 pesos and I gave her 20 pesos. She gave me back 10 pesos, walked up to her little 3x3 store grabbed her laundry detergent walked back down and gave it to me with 2 pesos in her hand. I had to insist that she take the change. As I was walking away, she held my team member Brenda by the arm and looked into her eyes and said "Don't worry Maam we will survive"...that is the spirit of the Filipino people. The spirit that has humbled me today.