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Home Field Notes FIELD NOTES | MY FIRST TRIP TO TACLOBAN

FIELD NOTES | MY FIRST TRIP TO TACLOBAN

My feet smelt badly as I took off my socks on the night of my first day in Tacloban City.

“But my socks are new,” I told myself.

I bought them upon the urgings of Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.

“Walang himulmol,” he said in the ad.

I believed.

A C-130 cargo plane of the Royal Australian Air Force makes its final glide towards the runway of the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City, above the remains of  Fisherman's Village. It used to be a community of thousands. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles
A C-130 cargo plane of the Royal Australian Air Force makes its final glide towards the runway of the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City, above the remains of Fisherman’s Village. It used to be a community of thousands. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

I hung the socks to dry near the bed of the room we rented from a businessman in Anibong village.

The stench remained even after an hour. Even after I have doused my feet with alcohol mixed with tawas.

For good measure.

My feet got wet after I took photos at Village 88 where aid packs were distributed to people.

CHILDREN head home after getting food packs from a government aid station in Tacloban City. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles
CHILDREN head home after getting food packs from a government aid station in Tacloban City. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

The village or what remained of it, was still semi-flooded. I stepped gingerly on the debris and rubble – beds, concrete, doors, refrigerators.

Sometimes a head or an arm of a saint’s statuette.

Above another house’s skeleton, a wooden sign was posted in Filipino: “This used to be the house of the (surname) family” then a mobile phone number.

Beside it another skeletal house, an electric post lying on what used to be its roof.

COPING. The altar of the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral became a home for this child and her family a week after superstorm Yolanda struck the Philippines. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles
COPING. The altar of the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral became a home for this child and her family a week after superstorm Yolanda struck the Philippines. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

A man holding a Santo Nino statuette glared at me from what remains of the sala, his brows furrowed as I took photos.

I stopped, raised my right hand and mouthed “maayong hapon (good afternoon),” and placed the hand on my chest and bowed a bit.

I meant “sorry” and moved away.

That night, the dogs howled furiously in Anibong where ships anchored for the storm were lifted by the storm surge or giamt waves.

BENEATH THIS picture of destruction are dead bodies that have yet to be retrieved in Village 88, Tacloban City a week after Yolanda hit the Philippines. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles
BENEATH THIS picture of destruction are dead bodies that have yet to be retrieved in Village 88, Tacloban City a week after Yolanda hit the Philippines. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

Many people were killed.

From the house’s second floor, I saw people burning garbage in steel drums to provide light in the pitch-black, cold darkness.

Like a scene straight out of Mad Max except Mel Gibson wasn’t there.

In the morning, I asked the owner, an engineer, about the howling of the dogs.

HELP ARRIVES. Officials of Village 88 distribute help from an international NGO a week after Yolanda struck the Philippines, destroying lives and property with its strong winds. These aid packages included essential stuff like water and sleeping mats, basic needs for survivors who continue to cope with the effects of the storm. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles
HELP ARRIVES. Officials of Village 88 distribute help from an international NGO a week after Yolanda struck the Philippines, destroying lives and property with its strong winds. These aid packages included essential stuff like water and sleeping mats, basic needs for survivors who continue to cope with the effects of the storm. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

“I heard it, too,” he said.

Stupid of me to ask, I thought.

He told me in Filipino: “A lot of bodies are still under the ships, yet to be recovered.”

“Like in Village 88.”

VILLAGE 88, only several kilometers away from the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport is a jumble of debris and rubble and anxious survivors a week after the horror that was Yolanda. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles
VILLAGE 88, only several kilometers away from the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport is a jumble of debris and rubble and anxious survivors a week after the horror that was Yolanda. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

I was 19 when I became a reporter.

I used to think covering wars and disasters was a reporter’s dream. I was young then.

As if reporting on the nightmare of others is a dream.

I was 39 when I covered death and destruction in Tacloban City.

It was not a dream.

Julius D. Mariveles
Julius D. Mariveles
An amateur cook who has a mean version of humba, the author has recently tried to make mole negra, the Mexican sauce he learned by watching shows of master chef Rick Bayless. A journalist since 19, he has worked in the newsrooms of radio, local papers, and Manila-based news organizations. A stroke survivor, he now serves as executive editor of DNX.

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