SLIDESHOW: Zambo evacuees a year on

ZAMBO EVAC 25

ZAMBOANGA CITY– For many locals who fled their homes during the height of the clashes between government troops and the Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front in September 2013, this has been their residence for the past 12 months.

The open-air Joaquin F. Enriquez Sports Complex has sprung its own community in that time, with the evacuees there building their daily routines on the makeshift cabins and amenities there.

They are now a fraction of the original 110,000 occupants of the stadium, with new arrivals from tents at the bayside. Those who already left returned to the affected barangays, others to temporary shelters in four areas in the city.

City Hall says the sports complex will be vacated by December, the evacuees to transfer to these so-called “transitional sites”.

For now, they continue to pray, play and survive in a village that’s not theirs. They fear not the specter of another armed siege, but of carrying on life with no permanent means to sustain it.

Read more about the evacuees here.
Many thanks to Chito Concepcion, whose camera was used to take these shots.

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Waiting for a permanent address

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Muslim refugees pray at a makeshift mosque at the Joaquin F Enriquez Sports Complex in Zamboanga City. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ZAMBOANGA CITY–The midday call to Muslim prayers blares from a megaphone atop a tent of donated canvas.

Inside on plastic matting, no more than ten men stand, sit, and bow, doing the positions of the salah. Their muddied slippers and sandals wait outside. One man hurries to wash his head, upper body, and limbs with water from a soft drink bottle—the ritualistic cleanse before going in to pray.

The makeshift masjid or mosque stands unnoticeably amid more tents and shanties at the grounds of the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, just a walk near the bay.

It’s the city’s main stadium, but for the tens of thousands of locals here, this has been their house, playground, workplace, and village for the past year.

They once lived in barangays like Rio Hondo, Santa Catalina, and Santa Barbara. But a three-week-long firefight between soldiers and rebels that began exactly 12 months ago razed their communities, left hundreds dead, and forced them from their homes and livelihood.

Here at the grandstand, the year that passed hosted an endless cycle of status quos and struggles for survival. For some, it’s only gotten worse, with no end in sight.
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Rebuilding near danger

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Life after Yolanda, Log 6

Typhoon-ravaged Esperas Avenue in Tacloban's Magallanes district. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Along Esperas Avenue in Tacloban’s Magallanes district. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

TACLOBAN CITY—Taking a turn off the main roads leads to another image of this recovering city.

The streets around downtown now hardly look like they were struck by 2013’s worst natural disaster. But beyond the city center, it’s as if Tacloban has yet to get back on its feet after Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda.

Behind the two-storey buildings along the highway hide the receding ruins of has-been houses. The alleys there have long been swept clean, thanks to an NGO’s cash-for-work effort. Yet the debris have only been kept off the streets. From the street curbs to the nearby coastline, a stretch of wreckage and discards still lies half a kilometer wide.

Debris and damaged houses in Magallanes district of Tacloban City. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

This is Magallanes District. The area runs parallel to Real Avenue, where most of the traffic to downtown passes. Magallanes is not just one but a couple of adjacent communities, barangays identified just by their numbers. We asked around for the worst-hit areas in Tacloban, and they pointed us to Brgy. San Jose near the airport, and to here.

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A renewed mission for ‘TV Patrol Tacloban’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(Life after Yolanda, Log 5)

TACLOBAN CITY–How do journalists cover the news when they themselves were directly affected by it?

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) did not spare local media outlets in Eastern Visayas. The worst hit were radio stations whose announcers were on the air as the typhoon hit.

For the news team of ABS-CBN’s regional station in Tacloban City, the biggest story they covered cost them their homes and nearly them and their families’ lives.

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A patch of buried dreams

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Life after Yolanda, Log 4

The mass grave in Barangay San Joaquin, Palo, Leyte, with the barangay chapel in the background.

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

PALO, LEYTE—Walk through this lot of makeshift graves and read the stories written on each mound and marker.

They are rolls of names etched by felt-tip pens on boards fastened to sticks. The lists number from two to ten to twenty, some too long to fit. Their surnames, often the same: spouses, children, and in-laws bound together in their last hours and in their final rest.

Beside the names, just dates of birth. Everyone here knows when all these people died. Many of the birth years are only past 2000.

Lit candles litter the mounds. Among them are keepsakes of the departed and offerings to the missed. Flowers—some real, some plastic. Rosaries. Stuffed animals. Watches. Bracelets. Portraits. Canned sardines. Biscuits. Containers of coffee and chocolate milk. Soda in half-empty bottles. Rice and pansit in aluminum foil.

Memorial markers in Palo, Leyte of people killed  during Typhoon Yolanda. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A statue of Jesus Christ of the Sacred Heart towers over the graves—one arm outstretched, the other broken off. An eerie fit to this sudden cemetery along the highway of Palo, Leyte.

But the kids here say this was once a grass yard, the de facto plaza of the church of Barangay San Joaquin. Youth groups would practice hip-hop dances here.

Then came Yolanda.

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Of memorials and moving forward

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Life after Yolanda, Log 3

Banner in Tacloban City says "Arise and Shine Tacloban -- God is with us." (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

One of many statement banners in downtown. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

TACLOBAN CITY—The longer our news team has been here, the daily grind of stories we’ve been telling in post-Yolanda Leyte and Samar has looked back less on the tragedy we’ve seen and has turned instead to the mechanics of moving on.

We see more people walking the streets during the day, especially in downtown. Sidewalk stalls selling everything from fruit to fashion are flocked with buyers. And except for the torn roofs and the tenantless ruins left as scars of the storm, it seems it’s business as usual.

We’ve reported on how businesses have begun opening again and on how clean water and electricity need to be restored fast. At our news team’s impromptu story conferences over breakfast, we’ve called these updates “normalization” stories.

But what here is normal? It’s a word that Tacloban vice mayor Jerry Yaokasin hears often (usually from reporters) yet questions.

“We cannot say the city is now normal, because we will never be normal again,” he told them.

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Camp-out at Tacloban airport

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Life after Yolanda, Log 2

Sunrise at bombed-out Tacloban City airport (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

TACLOBAN CITY–They’ve been there for two weeks. After chasing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) southward–from Albay to Sorsogon and across the channel to Samar, one of our news field operations teams drove to the Tacloban Airport and set up ABS-CBN’s second satellite live point in the city on November 14.

The terminal had been inundated with the influx of rescue and relief operations  from outside and the exodus of desperate residents from the city. Crowds of people begged for space in the departing military planes. Reports said President Aquino would also arrive.

The wrecked airport was where this calamity story was moving, and even international news services like CNN were already airing live reports from there. Our setup at the provincial capitol could not move elsewhere for security reasons. Plus, the requirements of an anchor and 5 reporters were too much for just one.

The only spot the team of 15 could find for their broadcast setup was beside the ruins of an eatery. Their other choices were risky all the same. Around them were more wreckage and unpicked cadavers. Even the area they picked had to be cleared of trash and debris.

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Dead Leyte firemen honored as heroes

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

A fire truck carrying a flag-draped casket in honor of five fallen fire service men passes through Rizal Avenue in Tacloban City. (Shot by Jong De Guzman)

(Shot by Jong De Guzman)

TACLOBAN CITY – Sirens wailed through downtown Tacloban as firefighters paid tribute to comrades who died during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda.

At a motorcade that waded through the city’s main streets under the heat of day, members of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) stood guard over a casket draped with a flag and perched atop a fire truck. It represented not only one, but five fire service officers washed away by flood waters as they rescued relatives and compatriots.

The BFP is still busy with relief, recovery, and restoration efforts, but they halted it on Wednesday to honor the lives of SFO4 Ricardo Raga, SFO3 Marius Andre Sison, FO2 Rolando Cinco, FO1 Felix Miranda, and FO1 Melquiades Baguio.

These fire servicemen, like others, were on red alert during the storm. Their bodies, identified by uniforms, were found days later and buried soon after.

“They responded to the call of duty, I respect them so much,” said S/Supt. Pablito Cordeta, the BFP director for Region VIII. “They’re really heroes.”

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Taclobanons want weapons against looters

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(First published on ABS-CBNnews.com on Dec. 4, 2013)

The few people left in the subdivisions look after homes damaged by the typhoon and whose owners left the town. (Shot by Archie Torres, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Archie Torres, ABS-CBN News)

TACLOBAN CITY– The worse is not yet over for some natives of typhoon-ravaged Tacloban City.

At the Cristina Heights and Kassel Homes subdivisions, many homes are deserted and locked up, their owners having abandoned them out of fear in the aftermath of super storm Yolanda (Haiyan).

The few people who chose to stay are concerned about incidents of theft by burglars who take advantage of exposed areas like roofs.

Such fears run counter to statements by the police that the peace and order situation in the city is under control.

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Welcome to destruction

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Life after Yolanda Log 1

Aerial view of Tacloban City coastline damaged by Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda (Shot Nov. 26, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

TACLOBAN CITY–“Maligayang pagdating sa Tacloban,” the flight attendant’s voice said over the intercom. Our DHC-8 Q400 plane approached what was left of the terminal of the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport, the end of a dawn trip from Manila that included a two-hour layover in Cebu.

The attendant merely read through the airline’s usual spiel for landings, but it was odd hearing them after the sight that welcomed us from the air: Bare mountains, smoking coastlines, and devastation that grew clearer and larger as the plane descended into the runway.

For the plane’s multinational group of passengers, most of them here to help in relief operations, this was the unwanted greeting they expected to get.

Two small commercial jets like ours were on the tarmac, proof of the effort to ensure Tacloban’s, and consequently, Leyte Island’s connection to the world. That despite the obvious incapacity of its airport. Military personnel took over the smashed-up control tower. A portable radar antenna they brought in scanned the horizon from the runway.

Landing at the damaged terminal of Tacloban City Airport. A United Nations representatives receives foreign aid workers. (Shot Nov. 26, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shots by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A donated tarpaulin identified the arrival area, which was plastered with announcements for foreigners. There were technical summaries of the ground situation. Other signage gave contact details for certain nationalities. A booth manned by a representative of the United Nations registered their names.

Airport staff did their best to carry on with work. Baggage hauled by cart went inside the terminal and were dropped directly on the ruined conveyor belt. Across a neck-high makeshift divider, one could see departing passengers line up for security checks in plastic tents.

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