Filipinos remember super typhoon Yolanda´s disaster and they pray at a mass grave in Tacloban

TACLOBAN CITY, THE PHILIPPINES: Life goes on but November 8th will always be a special non-working day, a day to remember. When families light candles and offer prayers for victims of Yolanda. This is the place worst-hit by a tropic super-typhoon and the Filipino offer prayers to thousands who lost their lives in the disaster.

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A man drinks water beside large ships that were washed ashore by strong waves caused by Typhoon Haiyan, in Tacloban city, Leyte province, on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. the strongest storms on record.

Then and now: In 2013, super typhoon Yolanda, the strongest typhoon so far hit the Philippines and left a trail of destruction in its path. Nowhere more definite than in Tacloban City. Here the cyclone and 5-meter-high storm waves destroyed or damaged nearly everything as Yolanda crossed the area.
Almost six years later a picture of normalcy all but denies the danger that could take their residents again. In areas once identified as no-build zones, communities have again spread out. Areas that were wiped-out are no longer off-limits, its locals leaving their future to fate once more.

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Only one name. The Memorial Garden in Tacloban

Holiday city. Life goes on in Tacloban City. Houses are built, high quality hotels are in place, the beaches are superb and Tacloban has become a tourist city, a place people come to relax, to stay and to work. Little by little returned to a kind of normality.

Shopping is not as it is in Manila, but those who looks for designer clothes, jewellery and native products will never be disappointed. And the price level is lower compare with the capital and Cebu. At the shopping malls you will find numerous eating hubs offering just about every kind of delicacy. What more, the staff is very helpful and genteel.

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Happy family on the beach on a Sunday

Beach-life. Life on the beach is normal for the Filipinos and locals and they are all smiles about visitors. White Beach is only a few kilometres away from the city, easily reachable by car. Not only a great beach to go swimming, but the nearby fishing area gives a chance to try your fishing skills too.

No More Tears

For a newly arriving guest it looks like life goes well on in Tacloban. However, even young people remember the disaster who left 6,500 dead and 1,500 missing, according to official report.
“No more tears in our eyes, as the tragedy has made us stronger, but we still cry in our hearts – for many things lost, not only buildings, houses, and properties but lost lives, lost courage, lost hope,” this is the emotion of Tacloban City Mayor Cristina Romualdez.

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Cristina Gonzales Romualdezis a former actress and a former Mayor of Tacloban

It took some years, but the city stood up and underwent the painful process of rebuilding. But Mayor Romualdez says it is far from over.
“We have moved on and forward. We have proven our resilience to the world. But we will never forget, so that does not happen again, But though we were victims ourselves, we first had to retrieve the bodies of dead Taclobanons littering the whole area. It was heart-breaking” says Cristina, who was at that time City Councillor.

People thanks the international community who sent help, and to President Rodrigo Duterte, then Mayor of Davao City, for his unsolicited help, just a day after Yolanda struck. Duterte brought with him his whole City Health Office – doctors, nurses, paramedics, – medical equipment and supplies, truckloads of relief goods, and a cash donation of two million pesos!

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Police to be seen in the streets of Tacloban

No drugs, no crime

In 2013 Terry Chan was a wealthy farmer in the outskirt of Tacloban holding goats and producing fruit and vegetables. Typhoon Yolanda destroyed everything and he never managed to rebuilt the farm. Now he works as Tourist Guide with licence to drive.

“I lost it all but was lucky, my family survived. But the local government was long criticized for suppressing the true death toll, all know that more than 35,000 died of Yolanda. I´m proud how the local people handled the long crises and now living in a city basically free of crime and no drug traffic.  All this secured thanks to president Duterte. To be a political leader and president of the Philippines takes more than a Lady-boy can deliver”, Terry Chan mentions with clear blame of a former president.

As you walk through Tacloban’s streets today, it’s impossible to imagine the apocalyptic scenes on that fateful November-morning in 2013. The city has resumed its role as the commercial heart – as life goes on.

Just a Hint: Combine Tacloban with a visit to Cebu, just half an hour flight from Tacloban. Philippines has more than 7,000 islands and it´s not easy to chose the right one. Here is more Fun in The Philippines

Make it Happen!

Touch Down: Fly to Manila´s Ninoy Aquino International Airport and take domestic flight to Tacloban City by Air Asia, Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines. You can travel here by boat and buss. Car rental is possible and public jeepneys play fares of the city

Stay: Tacloban Plaza Hotel took care of my accommodation for one week and they did it so well. The hotel and my room were always clean and tidy, the restaurant served local specialities from early morning to late evening and all the staff was outmost friendly and professional. And the room rates are not to complain

Eat: A favourite is Ochó is, authentic place where you select your fish or seafood from the display and get them to cook it however you like it. Try shrimp with chilli and garlic sauce. Giuseppe is a brick-walled decorated eatery like an Italian bistro and serves pastas. Try the fettuccine puttanesca, pizza and meat dishes such as Osso Bucco or Seafood. Address: 173 Avenida Veteranos, Tacloban

Play: If you want to play golf, San Juanico Park, Golf and Country Club has an 18-hole course, located 10km north of the city

Mini Guide: Right across the river from Tacloban is a national park that rivals all others in this beautiful country. With over 841-hectares of protected lands, Sohoton Natural Bridge Natural Park offers both leisurely and extreme activities for you to take part it including rivers kayaking and trekking. Holy Cross Memorial Park is the final resting place of thousands of people during the typhoon Yolanda, 3000 white crosses were placed on top of the mass grave where families and friends of those who died can put flowers, light candles and offer their prayers. "Eva Jocelyn" was one of 10 cargo ships swept ashore during the typhoon and bow of this ship was made into a memorial.

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