A housewife haggles over the price of tomatoes in a busy market, a devout old woman crosses herself as she scurries past an imposing Catholic church, a group of boys shoots hoops on a neighborhood court, young men nap in their tricycle taxis as they wait for a passenger to appear, a wiry youth guides his water buffalo along a dusty country road, a pair of cycle tourists pedals steadily along a busy highway.
It’s life as usual in our corner of the Philippines. The devastation that has rocked Visayas, spared the big island of Luzon, where we’re at. Without the internet, I reckon, we would have no knowledge that the storm of the century ripped through the Philippines just one week ago.
It’s an odd sort of disconnect. Our inboxes and Facebook page fill up with worried queries from friends and family. Hope you got out in time! Are you alright? Are you assisting with relief efforts? Stay safe.
When the storm hit, we were hunkered down in Subic Bay. Severe damage was never predicted in our area, but we were still slightly on edge. Worried enough to google “How to Survive a Typhoon.” We stocked up on water, searched the house for a place far from windows (and hence potential flying glass) and checked outdoors for the risk of trees that could collapse. The home was surrounded by majestic old growth forest with plenty of prospects for crashing onto the roof.
Those precautions, of course, were unnecessary. By Sunday morning Haiyan was whipping up winds over Vietnam and we were back on the bikes cycling north along the coast.
News of the true extent of the devastation was just beginning to trickle in. Two dead was the last report we’d heard Saturday night on local TV. Sunday morning, the BBC had the death count up to 1,200.
Certainly one’s inclination is to want to help in such a situation. But in reality there’s little we can do. The Philippines needs experienced relief workers with specific skills. Tourists without training, even if their heart’s in the right place, have little to offer.
In spite of how it may appear in the media, people’s lives in this part of the Philippines have been almost entirely unaffected. Their families are safe, their homes intact. So here’s what life looks like on Luzon…