Part 12 - Philippines Journey: the day of travel to Tacloban

19 September 2015

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.

We wake up the next day, my body luckily feeling back to full health.  Mom Beth immediately tells us that we will be headed to Tacloban to pick up their relief supplies that should be arriving, as well as a couple more members of their team that will be coming with them.  Tacloban is the main city on the island. And Mace expressed his caution about going to Tacloban, because stories on the news displayed Tacloban in a state of chaos, danger, and extreme panic, as survivors fight for the incoming supplies.

Our crew quickly packed up, ate a little meal, and headed back the Municipal Center in hopes of negotiating use of a truck today.  I still had not been able to reach anyone about my flight, and Mace and I calculated that I had 30 minutes before Delta closed for the day.  So we ran ahead to the city building to the one place where I had gotten a weak signal the day before.

We ran to the top story of the building where I had received a prior signal.  And though water was leaking from the roof in that exact spot, I inched around, moving my phone slowly left to right, up and down, trying to find a good cell signal.  I kept trying to make phone calls with little avail.  At one point, the water on the tarp above me had become so heavy that it broke through the hole in the roof and came crashing down just to the left of me.  I finally got a signal and worked through the automated Delta system.

People had begun arriving and were pushing past me.  Mace did his best to stand guard and play traffic control, while I struggled to not move a muscle to keep my signal.  After finagling my way through all the information with the customer service rep, I was seconds away from confirming my flight change when the call dropped.   Delta was now closed if I were to call back.  Mace and I looked at each other.  My flight was scheduled for later that day, and I would not be making it.  Well, I knew there was nothing I could do now.  Despite that another ticket home would be over a thousand dollars, I trusted that everything would work out, and I could resolve this after my trip.

Meanwhile, downstairs, our crew was again denied use of a truck.  With no other options available to us, we began walking.  Tacloban was 12 kilometers away, and we were certain if we could just get the goods, we would be blessed with a mode of transportation back.

Fortunately, after only about 10 minutes of walking, a truck passed by with an empty flat-bed.  The small group of people in the back motioned for the driver to stop.  They told us they were headed for the airport and offered to take us that far.  Where the airport was in relation to the docking port of Tacloban, I had no idea, but it would save us many kilometers of walking.

Our ride in the back of the truck was enjoyable.  Our team was finally able to rest a little bit, and we were joking around with each other.  I pretended to understand all the Tagalog being spoken around me, and I would translate for Walter and Mace, using phrases that were clearly not correct.  Everyone was laughing and having a good time.

As we approached Tacloban, we could see the devastation of that city.


While driving to the airport, Mom Beth learned this driver was headed to the airport to evacuate his family.  Mom Beth asked for his assistance in delivering our coming relief goods into another city called Tolosa.  Tolosa had yet to receive any help.  The driver agreed to help if he could have 5 relief packages for his family and neighbors.  Mom Beth said yes.

Another miracle that we were able to secure transportation!

As we drove through Tacloban, we observed the wreckage.  Though, Tacloban is a much more developed city than the little town of Tanauan.  So many of the structures were still standing; they were just gutted from the storm.  The smell of death stung our noses as we passed the rubble, knowing there were still people trapped inside.  We covered our noses.

We drove passed a military outpost where a long line of people were waiting, hoping to receive some sustenance.  Right as we reached the airport, a huge storm rolled in.  Big drops of rain came crashing down on us, and we jumped out of the truck of the bed and ran for cover.  We found several spots tucked underneath empty structures.  One of the crew members insisted on putting me inside a plastic bag to stay as warm and dry as possible.  I was already drenched at this point but didn't resist them putting it over my head.

After about 30 minutes of torrential downpour, the storm passed and we came back out into the sun.  The sun was scorching hot, and while we waited at the airport, not only did we dry but we quickly began to burn.  After an hour waiting at the airport for the driver's family to depart, he drove us down into the city to the port to pick-up our incoming ZEDRU members and the relief packages.

We parked at the port and waited.  The sun was blazing above us.  An hour went by, and then another.  We tried to sit in the shade of the truck to protect ourselves from the sun, but the shade was meager.  While we waiting, some of the Filipinos tried to talk with the US military standing guard.  The guards would not talk them per orders to "not speak to civilians."

While we waited, I pulled out some of the E-mergen C packets that Mace and I were taking every day.  We didn't have water to take them, so we would just pour them in our mouths a little at a time.  Walter wondered what we were eating, so I handed him and a couple other team members a packet.  I told them to just dump the whole thing in their mouth.  They did as they were told, and shortly after, their faces all puckered up from the sourness, and their mouths started foaming orange.  Mace, Preston, and I couldn't help but laugh.  Through his coughing, foaming, and tears coming out of his eyes, Walter exclaimed, "are you trying to kill me??"

Finally after a couple hours, our ship came into sight that was expected to have our goods on it.  The ZEDRU team and Preston immediately went to greet the ship and retrieve our packages.  Awhile later, they came back with only a few packages and with furrowed brows.

Preston was shaking his head and explained that a large company had purchased the entire boat's storage space.  So the workers on the boat had to remove everyone else's supplies and replace them with the company's cargo.  Our incoming ZEDRU members were only allowed to bring what they could carry.  Mom Beth was extremely frustrated.

All disheartened after waiting so long in the sun for our goods, we loaded back up in the truck to head back to town.  It was about 2 in the afternoon now.  Another storm immediately rolled in, and we all scrambled to get under the tarp.  The crashing water still soaked through the sides and left us drenched yet again.  After 15 minutes or so, the heavy storm passed, and the sun came out again, as bright as ever.   The interval of these storms continued through our drive, with another 4 huge storms crashing through, ending with the sun beating down on us again.  We were nervous because this kind of contrast between soaking-wet and then extremely hot could cause illness.  We trusted that we would be protected from sickness.

As we rode, the team made plans about what to do next, especially since our expected goods had not arrived and we had another town we wanted to service.  It was said that Tolosa would need even more help than Tanauan because they were an even more removed town.  Mace and I tried to lighten the mood by joking around with each other.  We were so hungry; we had to go to the bathroom; we hadn't eaten or drinken anything that day; we were wet, but also sunburned.  But we were still finding plenty to laugh about.  I told Mace we were allowed five complaints if we needed them.

We drove back to the Municipal Center of Tanauan, and the crew went inside to talk with the Mayor about what we could do to help Tolosa.  While waiting in the truck, another huge storm rolled through.  Mace and I quickly jumped into the cab of the truck, and we watched as four Filipinos ran for cover underneath the bed of the truck in front of us.  They squatted there and continued talking as if it was the most normal thing in the world. 

I then found a bag of yellow crackers that our ZEDRU team had brought.  We had yet to eat anything besides a small breakfast that day, so Mace and I were delighted.  No doubt we were slightly delusional from the heat and fatigue of the day, so we couldn't stop laughing and cracking jokes.  The crackers were so bland, but so delicious.

After the storm, our team came back out to report that the Mayor refused to send some of his goods to help the other town.  We decided to go gather what we had and head over there anyways.

The gracious truck driver drove us back to our church building. Just as we pull in to pack up our gear and move towns, another storm rolled in.  It is about 8 pm by this point.

I remember jumping off the bed of the truck.  Everyone running for cover from the sudden downpour, trying to get the gear inside.  My clothes were already soaked and heavy, and I remember shivering from the cold, but my skin was burning hot and I welcomed the cold rain.  Mace was standing just under the roof of the open church door, watching and helping people come under cover.  His soggy attire and dripping hair.  As I ran inside the building, I stopped in front him and smiled.  "I only used TWO complaints."  And he laughed at me.  Even amidst the horrible weather, the gurgling stomachs, the extremely unfortunate circumstances, I can't remember ever feeling so at ease.  So go with the flow.  Welcome to whatever adventure comes next. 

We packed everything we had into this man's truck and head out.

Onto the next adventure.

Upward and onward,

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