Tears were running down my cheeks as I disembarked the plane, walking out onto the tarmac and seeing not only beautiful lush green mountains but a land that has been turned upside down, inside out and tied into knots. People were sitting in an open air lobby for their plane to arrive. Walls have been reconstructed in some areas and where there once were windows it is open air. Some were sitting in chairs others were on the ground. The baggage claim area was outdoors. What once was a conveyer belt was torn up and the baggage employees took from the plane on a cart to the guests who were waiting. Tarps were hanging to cover areas still to be rebuilt and bathrooms were available with the assistance of a bucket of water to flush it with.
Trying to get my breath in the thick humid air took a moment along with the attack of transportation options. It was like pigeons to a bread crumb at the beach. We had men calling and surrounding us with options of 3 wheeled bikes, jeepneys, vans, taxis, motorcycles and bus. We opted for the van to carry our luggage. The trike rider was certain he could make it work but I didn’t want to take the chance. I was grateful to have the added space and air conditioning.
When tragedy happens in our lives things fall to pieces. Most of the time we eventually start picking up the pieces and put them back together again as they can fit best. Since Typhoon Yolanda the Pilipino people have picked up the pieces and are moving forward. When their homes, transportation and loved ones were lost they grieved and still do, but kept on going. I saw so many homes today that resembled a crazy pieced quilt. From my viewpoint these people are resilient and resourceful. There were homes constructed of wood scraps, cardboard, sheets of metal, wire, screens, tarps, blocks and cement. It was put together to create a dwelling from the odds and ends of things that were strung across the land during the storm.
The streets are bordered with make shift shelters made of the same materials. Anything to put together a living space and move on with life is what they have done. There are piles of debris filled with memoirs, rock, mud and trees. What seems to be a daunting task has become a daily chore to sort through what is left. I saw a family having breakfast sitting at a chair in a 2 walled room. Children were bathing in bowls with their legs dangling out. A father wet from his bucket shower bathing his child standing on a palm tree stump. The often heard quote “when life gives you lemons make lemonade” is what they have done. Many of them even said Yolanda was a blessing because they have received so much help they have more now than they did before the storm. Even the store owners have hung a tarp on sticks and made their wares available for purchase.
Moving forward despite any circumstances is what I have learned from these beautiful people today. Life must go on. Children need to be fed and money needs to be made to buy them food. They are not stopped by the endless task of clean up and consequences beyond their control. Each day they keep going and have a welcoming smile on their faces, giggle freely and say “hello, where are you going?” I now wonder that about myself. Where am I going? What is my next step forward? What is yours?