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I visited Tacloban with my friend Spanky to create an ongoing Voluntourism Program in partnership with Operation Santa, to help the people of Leyte affected by Typhoon Yolanda. 

As donation fatigue sets in, the artificial economy created by International aid is removed, and the media starts to focus on 2016 politics, the Yolanda-affected areas will be forgotten — unless we do an ongoing program to help the people rebuild.

I love Tacloban because of its yummy food and warm hospitality. Visiting the city, 140 days after the typhoon hit, changed our life perspective forever.

Related Blog Post: Awesome Tacloban Series

Here’s a Photo Essay of our visit…

 

TOUCHDOWN TACLOBAN

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When we arrived in Tacloban, the airport was operational but not fully restored. 

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The Tacloban City Covention Center still standing.

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The town has been overtaken by traders and has transformed into a Greenhills-like tiangge shopping center.

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It’s unfortunate that any government move is seen as political, in light of the Romualdez vs. Aquino matchup in the 2016 elections. 

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The stilts that remain in this bay area are a chilling reminder of what happened here. 

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But there are scenes of hope like this, with people parking their cars on the street to give toys to the kids. 

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The Leyte Provincial Capitol. The fate of Tacloban City is in its hands, as it considers a possible relocation of the airport and the city itself to higher ground.
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It’s a welcome sight to see the city on its feet, but the main industries of Tacloban — Coconut and Fishing — have yet to recover.

 

OCHO SEAFOOD

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Our first stop was our favorite seafood resto in the city — OCHO!

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It was nice to see families gathering here to eat, with some celebrating the graduation of their kids.

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I’m also glad to know that fresh seafood (except for clams and crabs) is still being served paluto-style here.

Tacloban 140 days after Our Awesome Planet-23.jpgPork barbecue skewers.

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Bihud (fish roe sacks).

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Sinigang na hipon.

Overall, a satisfying meal for P636 for two persons. 🙂

 

MORON (My Favorite Suman)

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We also visited the pasalubong shops to buy our favorite suman. 🙂

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One dozen sells for P100. This is one of the best pasalubong you can get from Tacloban.

Tacloban 140 days after Our Awesome Planet-4.jpgMoron is suman made of malagkit (glutinous) rice, mixed with local tablea chocolate and peanut.

 

LEYTE PARK HOTEL

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We were able to get one room at Leyte Park Hotel. It was packed with Jaika and Oxfam volunteers assigned in Tacloban.

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Room 203 with two queen beds…

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…and a decent restroom with hot water and functioning toilet.

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The view from our room.

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Sadly, the hotel’s floating seafood restaurant was washed out and the swimming pools are no longer available for use.

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Breakfast buffet is served for P250/head.

 

WALKING TOUR OF TACLOBAN

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We walk around the city and saw some heartbreaking scenes… 

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…but also symbols of hope such as this (AHON means “ascent”).

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UP Tacloban. Some colleges have decided to close for this coming school year. 

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The UP Botanical Garden.

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The Madonna of Japan, which survived the storm surge because of its higher elevation.

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We visited the our friend, Jerry “Sambo” Yaokasin — the independent Vice-Mayor who holds office at the legislative building — to show us around Tacloban.

  

TACLOBAN MEMORIAL

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First stop was this “tourist attraction” in Tacloban, where the ships where washed ashore.

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M/V Eva Jocelyn is a memorial of what happened here on November 8, 2013.

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Another angle, showing the ship parked by the street.

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It’s rare to see a ship’s rudder this close and be able to touch it.

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A resettlement has emerged here despite the danger of another strong typhoon. 

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Sari-sari stores were the first small businesses that started in the community. 

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The kids are the ones serverely affected here.

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Kids trying to cool off by the bay this summer.

Tacloban 140 days after Our Awesome Planet-40.jpgA washed out container van integrated into one of the house’s foundations.

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An overturned vehicle during the storm surge, already salvaged for parts.

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Kids happily playing “Tumbang Preso” in their free time. 

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You’ll see a few other ships stranded on the shore as you walk along the bay.

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Hydraulics are used to turn this ship around, one inch at a time…

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…and get it back to sea. 

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The ship’s rudder has become a playground and hangout for the kids.

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It’s also used as a bulletin board to remind the community of the still-missing persons.

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Life goes on but these people aren’t safe from the next strong typhoon that hits.

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Thankfully, this oil depot was spared from looting. It provided jet fuel for the planes that first responded to help the city.

 

BUNK HOUSES COMMUNITY

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We also visited the DPWH Bunk House community in Tacloban…

Tacloban 140 days after Our Awesome Planet-81.jpg…with colorful buildings and happy faces. 🙂

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We have to continue to help for the future of the kids of Leyte. 

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This sari-sari store owner greeted us with a smile and also shared with us their problems with electricity.

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The cooking area and restrooms are communal.

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Although the structures are already decent, there have been complaints of toilet clogging. 

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A kid biking around the community, trying to live a normal life.

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The beautification program hopes to add more color to the community.

 

SUNZIBAR PORK CHOP

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One of the first businesses to profit from the recovery are the yummy restaurants like Sunzibar.

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This is a great local community hangout vs. Guissepe’s, which is a common destination for foreigners.

Sunzibar RestoCafe Menu: Starters, Mains, Drinks, Soups, Pasta, Salad | Beef, Fowl Play, Rice

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The Nachos Salad (P150) is served in a star formation — crispy and quite good.

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A pitcher of Red Iced Tea (P165) to quench our thirst.

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Sunzibar famous for their Grilled Pepper Chops (P190) with rice and salad on the side.

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Order the Chops with Hummus (P215) for something different.

Tacloban 140 days after Our Awesome Planet-109.jpgBut I prefer the Diablo Chops (P215) for that spicy kick!

 

PALO, LEYTE

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We hired transportation to bring us to the hard-hit areas like Palo and Tanauan.

(Contact Matt Ranillo 0912-933-6733 – P2,000 for 4-5 hours)

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MacArthur and his troops, still standing tall at the Landing Memorial in Palo, Leyte.

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UP in Palo undergoing rehabilitation.

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The facade of the San Salvador Cathedral in Palo.

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The names of those who perished written on purple ribbon hang by this side entrance to the church. 

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The cathedral was destroyed inside and is now undergoing reconstruction.

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It’s not uncommon to see Jollibee food trucks around the major towns in Leyte.

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South Korea is the last remaining provider of foreign military aid in the Palo area.

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Ukay-Ukay. P50 for each shirt/dress. 

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Brgy. San Joaquin School with temporary classrooms and being rebuilt with the help of USAID.

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Thank you to Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation for these tents.

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The mass grave site near the San Joaquin Church, all dated on November 8, 2013. A tragic reminder of the devastation in Palo. 

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After Palo, we visited the town of Tanauan, which is the Gawad Kalinga Site for the Bayani Challenge in Leyte.

 

TIMO ROMANO LITSON 

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On our way back to the town, we stopped by our favorite Tacloban Litson. 🙂

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We ordered half a kilo for P300. The best merienda in Tacloban! 🙂

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The lechon does not need any additional sauce, but I prefer having it with their spicy-salty vinegar. 🙂

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It’s best paired with a bottle of Sparkle!

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Make sure to buy a souvenir Tacloban t-shirt to support the local economy.

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There’s a mango shake craze trending in Tacloban now. 

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We ended our trip by reserving 6 rooms at XYZ Hotel for our first Voluntourism Trip on May 16-19, 2014. The hotel is nice but the elevator isn’t working so you have to walk up and down the stairs.

Please email me at [email protected] or text me +63 917 568 3627 if you want to join us for this trip. 🙂

Tacloban 140 days after Our Awesome Planet-32.jpg As the sun sets on the horizon, the town sleeps as early as 8pm.

 

ALING NANI BARBECUEHAN

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A Tacloban trip is never complete without eating at Aling Nani’s Barbecuehan, located at the back of McDonalds. 

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This is the best hawker stall in town, with juicy and yummy chicken not covered with coloring.

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Spank’s favorite is the Chorizo…

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…and the Barbecued Chicken Skin!

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I went for the pork barbecue, isaw, and chicken/pork innards.

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I’m glad Aling Nani’s is still in operation. This is one of the best barbecue stalls in the country!

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I loved their secret vinegar sauce! This should be bottled and marketed as Tacloban’s own vinegar concoction.

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One of these days, I will invite her to set up shop in Mercato Centrale. 🙂

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Thanks to Jerry for the Aling Nani Barbecuehan tip. 🙂

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My favorite is this charcoal-grilled chicken.

Tacloban 140 days after Our Awesome Planet-199.jpgBest paired with Puso Rice and ice-cold San Miguel Beer. 🙂

 

LEAVING TACLOBAN

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As we left Tacloban, we were reminded again of the harsh reality of the destruction in the airport.

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There are still some questions that need to be answered: 

  • Will the Tacloban airport be relocated and the city abandoned for higher ground?
  • What will happen to this highly politicized city of Leyte as we approach 2016?
  • What happens when the artificial economy bubbles and all the international aid is gone?
  • Will the coconut and fishing industries recover in Tacloban?

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As MacArthur once famously said, “I Shall Return”! 

 

Live an Awesome Life,

Anton
Founder, www.OurAwesomePlanet.com 

Disclosure: We paid for our own trip. Read Our Awesome Planet Complete Disclosure Policy here

P.S. Thank you to Independent Vice Mayor Jerry “Sambo” Yaosakin for showing us around and helping us formulate our Voluntourism Program for Tacloban. He was the one who originally showed me around Tacloban in 2008: Check out Tacloban Series in OAP.

Join us on May 16-19, 2014 and be part of the solution in helping Tacloban and Leyte.

Please email me at [email protected] or text me +63 917 568 3627 if you want to join us for this trip. 🙂