I spent my growing years in Tacloban City, my hometown by the sea. Part of me has always remained there, even after I left for college in the capital city of Manila, where I now study at the University of the Philippines.
I've always been proud of Tacloban, with its numerous tourist spots and warm, hospitable people. The city has played a major role in making me who I am. I've always thought of going back home to the place where I came of age and began my path to maturity, where I learned to stand up after falling many times. But now, Typhoon Haiyan has drastically changed everything.
I went back to Tacloban last week to evacuate some of our family members after the typhoon. I've seen the destruction, I've felt the terror, and I dread what people have resorted to just to survive. Every single day is a battle they must win to keep on living. Typhoon Haiyan has marred our people's hope for a brighter future and a better nation.
It was incomprehensible to see that the place I once called home has practically been wiped off the face of the earth. The happiness of the colorful city I've known so well has now changed to horror and desperation. The moment we entered the city, I felt like I'd been punched mercilessly in the gut. Everything was strange, unfamiliar and new. So much destruction, so much devastation.
As soon as we left Tacloban, it was heartwarming to see the relief and gratitude in the sad smiles of our rescued relatives. They had watched their beloved city crumble, seen hundreds of their townspeople lie dead along the roads, and wept for people they know who are still missing. They had waited helplessly and hopelessly for assistance that never came, and had to resort to looting stores to get food and basic supplies for their families. For days, they had feared for their lives, not knowing what the darkness, and the next day, would bring.
They had lost their homes, their savings, everything they had worked for their whole lives. But thankfully, they do still have their lives -- and for that alone, they are grateful.
There are still the never-ending questions and doubts, the confusion and tears, the worry of what they will do about the future. My parents have welcomed them to Manila, and they are living with us. We will try our best to help them build a new home, a new life and a new future to replace all that they have lost. For now, they will stay safe and sound with us under our roof.
Fortunately, we have the means to help our family members. But many other survivors are being turned away by relatives in Manila who are already hard-up for food and housing for their families. Numerous other survivors simply have nowhere to go. Their whole world was in Tacloban.
So they are forced to live in temporary shelters, exhausted and hungry, surviving day-to-day on relief goods as they attempt to figure out the course of their lives.
Someday soon, they hope to return to Tacloban, our city by the sea, to rebuild the community where they once lived. They are still hopeful.
Someday soon, I, too, hope to return.