December 7, 2013 — My volunteer group, the Kindred Nomad Project organized our second relief operation in my family’s hometown, Merida, Leyte.
It was Migy’s idea to go back to Brgy. Lamanoc when a little boy touched his heart during our first visit after the super typhoon Haiyan hit Leyte and other areas in the Visayas region. He shared our experience to his friends and they came up with the idea of giving slippers to the children.
Some Singaporean friends led by Mono Asia volunteered to donate cash to be used in buying items for the relief goods we would be bringing. Together, we went to Colonnade and excitedly buy what the families needed like: canned goods, sanitary napkins for women, diapers and milk for babies, toothpaste, bath soap, laundry soap, biscuits and art materials for the children and packed them for 100 families.
As most of our volunteers were working on normal office hours, we chose to go to Ormoc City through Weesam Express on Saturday morning while the first batch led by Miggy went to Ormoc a night before we did. However, due to the chain reaction and the number of people who went to and from Leyte to help, boat trips were delayed for over three hours. We arrived at the Pier 4 around 10AM and finally left Cebu around 1:30PM. Time was so precious to us because some of the volunteers had to go back to Cebu on the same day.
Upon our arrival in Ormoc City around 3PM, we hurriedly load the relief goods to the truck to catch up with the remaining time we had. Then it started to pour rain heavily that the volunteers who were staying at the back of the pick-up had no choice but to get soaked under the rain.
Most of the volunteers I was with were my friends from the Couchsurfing community. It was their first time for some of my friends to volunteer and experience riding a pick-up through the rain. Gladly, I never heard a single complaint from them about what we had to go through the entire trip. Adam Vu, a tattoo artist in California, USA and one of my friends who joined me said, “I could only imagine what they had to experience during the typhoon. What we have now is nothing compared to that.”
For the rest of our 30-minute ride from Ormoc City to Merida, the group stayed silent and buried deep in our thoughts as we saw what Haiyan did to such beautiful place.
We arrived in my hometown just in time the rain stopped. We immediately unloaded the stuff we brought for Migy and his friends to distribute them to 100 women with their families.
Before we arrived (second batch of volunteers), Miggy and his friends provided health awareness, medical relief and wound dressing to over 220 people and stress debrief program for children ages 3-10 years old. The Kindred Nomad Project also sponsored a feeding program for the children who attended the program. Together with the kids, Migy’s group set up their first Christmas Tree for 2013. They have also given each child an early Christmas gift: Slippers, clothes, books, notebooks and candies.
As the sun was setting down, Adam and I had to hurry for a tattoo he wanted to give me because there was still no electricity in the area following the aftermath of Haiyan. He and his friend Luke Lovell, a photographer who was traveling with him from the US, found a spot by the beach for us to do a quick session. Another Filipino Couchsurfer, Roland Icban also went around, scouting for homes to give financial aid to repair their roofs.
It probably took Adam more or less 20 minutes to finish the tattoo on me with only a headlight to guide him through the dark. But the tattoo was so beautiful and special to both of us because it symbolized the experiences we had despite the devastation left by Haiyan and the things we have learned along the way. The time we went to Leyte, I was friends with Adam and Luke for only 3 days but we have learned so much from each other!
Like Adam always tell me and his friends back home, “It was the best day of my life!” They had to leave the country the next day but Adam promised to come back. And he did last April 2014 and we went on another Leyte trip (which I will share with you next time).
On the other hand, as sponsored by the Kindred Nomad Project, Migy prepared a very good boodle fight for dinner with the locals to be shared among the volunteers. We ate by the beach with candles on our table, feeling just happy with what we can share with each other after a very long day.
A few minutes after we had dinner, Adam, Luke, Rocio and I had to head back to Ormoc to take the last trip back to Cebu. We were so tired that I fell asleep for most of the trip. When I woke up, I found Adam and Luke staying at the back of the boat in silence while savoring the experiences they just had under the sky full of stars. And I was happy to have shared that moment with these new friends of mine.