Thinking out loud here but here’s a second draft of the script (with my notes/amendments for voiceover recording!)
Two months after the Philippines experienced the worst Typhoon to hit land, the people are only just emerging from a state of shell-shock. In Tacloban, one of the worst hit cities, the damage in some neighbourhoods is incomprehensible. Rebuilding has not even begun and survival itself remains all consuming for the people here.
Typhoon Haiyan (or Typhoon Yolanda as it’s known locally) was one problem, but the storm surge that followed, while not completely unexpected, was bigger than anyone had imagined. Many reported three big waves, with the sea level rising in their wake and reaching the first floor of many buildings. Of course in the poorer parts of these provinces in the Philippines, most of the buildings only have a ground floor, ///and the wooden walled, tin roofed houses offer little resistance to a storm like this///. The storm surge proved too much for many concrete buildings also, with most constructions next to the coast being obliterated.
In a community in Tacloban I met a man, who standing next to a concrete pillar that was once his house, told me how his home had been destroyed. With the Sea swelling up – a thick sludge laden with rubble, wood, metal, cookers, toys, cars and everything of a city – he had tried to escape to a safer building with his wife. But moving any distance at all in such conditions must be next to impossible, and not more than a few dozen yards from their home his wife was killed while he clung desperately to her. He said, he couldn’t bare to let go of her, even knowing she was dead.
In a graveyard in nearby Palo I found a young boy sitting next to the grave of his mother and father, both claimed by typhoon Yolanda. The local priest told me the boy had been there every day since his parents were buried.
The rubble may have settled, but now, two months on, the remains of bodies are still being found as the clean up operation only starts to gain momentum. Rebuilding is painfully slow. Despite teams of engineers being out round the clock to restore electricity, most of Tacloban, just one city in the affected region, still doesn’t have power. And this mad scramble to restore basic infrastructure, does seem to be at the expense of having a broad plan for rebuilding the province in a more robust manner. While there are more localised projects and organisations working with the bigger picture in mind, they are definitely in a minority.
The world’s media left only days after Typhoon Yolanda before the outcome was clear, but many Aid organisations are still here. While some communities felt neglected, the Filippinos have been extremely grateful for Aid that has arrived. Two months after the disaster itself there was considerable evidence to suggest that a combination of the hard work of the locals, and the generally well-organised aid operations, had averted any mass scale secondary disaster from hunger or disease.
While the Filippinos have been grateful for the aid they have received, /// there is also mass scale distrust of the Government of the Philippines ///. The Mayor of Tacloban, the capital of this worst hit district, is politically opposed to the current President of the Philippines, and so typhoon victims had received little sympathy or support from their Government. A local business owner told me that some food aid which had been donated for the Typhoon was being sold for profit in the markets of Manila – the capital of the Philippines which lies outwith the area affected by the Typhoon. Natural disasters can be a profitable business for some.
The spirit of the Filipinos is unshakable though. Everywhere in Tacloban slogans resound like Tandog Tacloban! – Standup Tacloban! and ‘Bangon Tacloban’. Children shout ‘Your mother is Yolanda’ on the streets – the insult of the moment. And at the markets, which are gradually returning with fresh fish, vegetables and meat, there’s a stall selling T-shirts with the words printed – ‘I am stronger than Yolanda’.
I wondered what would become of the survivors of this the fiercest storm. Would these children grow up traumatised by waking up one day to armageddon, or would it strengthen their resolve, putting fire in the belly of a whole generation. In any case it’ll be the ultimate story for their grandchildren.