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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A rainy week of ‘diverts’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Rosario, Cavite - ABS-CBN's ENG 2 wades through the floods (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Rosario, Cavite – ABS-CBN’s ENG 2 wades through the floods (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The requirements start early in the morning and end near midnight. Two to three hours of sleep—in a bed if you’re lucky—and it’s back to the setup for another cycle of live shots upon live shots. All the while you’re stuck in the middle of rising and pouring water. There is little leeway to move around and take a break. And every so often, a call comes instructing you and your team to move to another location.

There is hardly time to digest the extent of the calamities in each stop. All you can do is take the requirements as they come, knowing that airing them can pave the way for responses and solutions.

The week was supposed to begin with follow-ups to two big news coverages. First was the pork barrel funds scandal and the yet-unfruitful hunt for its suspected culprit, Janet Lim-Napoles. The second was miles south in Cebu, where rescue teams scoured for passengers cast to sea by a collision of ships.

An unrelenting torrent of rains the weekend before that changed the tone of the entire week.

Las Piñas City - The stretch of the Alabang-Zapote road leading to Coastal is waist-deep in habagat floods. Cars are submerged. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Las Piñas City – The stretch of the Alabang-Zapote road leading to Coastal waist-deep in floods. Cars were left stranded. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Our news field operations team had been keeping vigil at the offices of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) the week before in case Napoles & Co. were caught. In Cebu, a satellite team prepared to air TV Patrol’s live reports of the sea tragedy with anchor Noli De Castro and newsgathering crews from ABS-CBN Manila and Cebu.

That and a few live features for morning show Umagang Kayganda (UKG) made up our initial location assignments for Monday, August 19.

But as the day progressed, waters rose throughout Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces. Classes were already suspended the night before. Residents in the worst-hit scrambled to the roofs of their homes. Others trickled to evacuation centers. Cars were stranded in submerged expressways.

EDSA -- Francis Faulve and crew drive through the floods (Shot c/o Francis Faulve)

EDSA — Francis Faulve and crew drive through the floods (Shot c/o Francis Faulve)

Typhoon Maring lounged way up north but was too far to directly cause havoc. It became clear that the growing story was the comeback of the southwest monsoon that inundated Luzon last year. Now, Maring had made Habagat stronger.

ENG vans on standby at the DOJ and NBI were moved to flooded spots in Laguna and Bataan. A team that aired a feature for UKG in Quezon City was supposed to transfer to the Maritime Industry Authority office for updates on the Cebu collision. Instead it proceeded southward to Kawit, Cavite, where the strong currents already reached chests.

Kawit, Cavite - Chest deep floods passable by boat (Shot by William Natividad, ABS-CBN News)

Kawit, Cavite – Chest deep floods passable by boat as seen in Atom Araullo’s TVP report. Click to watch. (Shot by William Natividad, ABS-CBN News)

A team from TV Patrol’s production staff followed there. Already less some of its staff due to Noli De Castro’s anchoring duties in Cebu, TV Patrol dispatched another team bringing audio, lights, and a teleprompter. From Cavite, Korina Sanchez would lead-in the newscast’s live and taped reports on the Habagat.

The floods slowly receded that Monday night, but the rains repeatedly turned on and off. By then, the news desk in Quezon City decided to fix the deployed teams for the night in their locations. Hardly any of the crews would be relieved.

They were advised to look for lodging. Some however, like those in Dinalupihan, Bataan, could find none that was open. Getting food was another thing—many ended up eating takeout.

Kawit, Cavite - A makeshift  breakfast area for the ENG team amid the floods. The meal--rice and sardines. (Shot c/o Chito Concepcion)

Kawit, Cavite – A makeshift breakfast area for the ENG team amid the floods. The meal: rice and sardines, all donated. (Shot c/o Chito Concepcion)

At 3 a.m. Tuesday, our team staying at a hotel in Biñan, Laguna was told to move to Noveleta, Cavite. The flooded town could finally be reached by vehicles, and the news crew that got there first found strewn garbage and mud all over.

‘Diverts’, as we called them, were the order of the next few days. One team started the day with a live feature in the FPJ Studios for Fernando Poe Jr.’s birthday. By lunchtime they were airing shots of a flooded Araneta Avenue. But for TV Patrol, they moved to the Marikina River banks for Niña Corpuz’s live report on the river level.

Noveleta, Cavite--An SUV parked by the subsided floods. Garbage surrounds it. (Shot by Filemon Rocamora)

Noveleta, Cavite–An SUV parked by the subsided floods. Garbage surrounds it. (Shot by Filemon Rocamora)

The Noveleta team found themselves rushing back to San Pedro, Laguna to air President Benigno Aquino III’s quick visit to an evacuation center there. The next day, they returned to Cavite for another P-Noy stop.

TV Patrol continued its remote anchoring. Korina Sanchez and team next visited Bataan. And after two more days in Cebu, Noli De Castro waded the floods of Pampanga and Bulacan.

Malolos, Bulacan--Noli De Castro anchors TV Patrol from MacArthur Highway. Click to watch his report. (Shot c/o Bert Apostol)

Malolos, Bulacan–Noli De Castro anchors TV Patrol from MacArthur Highway. Click to watch his report. (Shot c/o Bert Apostol)

The key to a live anchoring or reporter standup in the floods is finding a dry, elevated spot for the ENG van or satellite truck safely nearby. Once the crucial electronics are secured, the camera and the anchor can approach the water.

As the week drew to a close, the videos of destruction gradually gave way to residents huddling in evacuation centers and others trying to return home. A cameraman transmitting by broadband was sent to Manila to cover the siphoning of water from the submerged Lagusnilad underpass.

Sto. Tomas, Pampanga-- Karen Davila and ABS-CBN Pampanga's Jayvie Dizon report live. (Shot by Irish Vidal)

Sto. Tomas, Pampanga– Karen Davila and ABS-CBN Pampanga’s Jayvie Dizon report live. Click to watch the video. (Shot by Irish Vidal)

The stories moved on to aid and the lighter side Filipinos mustered up amidst the calamity. An ENG van was diverted to Sagip Kapamilya’s warehouse in Examiner Street in Quezon City to cover the influx and packing of relief goods.

One by one, the ENG teams were allowed to return to base. It was a relief for one team that had been braving winds in Aurora Province from an earlier typhoon since August 12.

By Saturday, only one remained—the team in Bulacan which was put on standby in Malolos for the weekend, in case the approaching Low Pressure Area turned rogue.

At least, at last, sunshine took the place of rain.

Marikina--Sagip Kapamilya's relief operations in H. Bautista Elementary School (Shot c/o Irish Vidal)

Balagtas, Bulacan - Evacuees on their fifth day unable to return home. (Shot by Gani Taoatao)Top: Marikina–Sagip Kapamilya’s relief operations in H. Bautista Elementary School (Shot c/o Irish Vidal); Bottom: Balagtas, Bulacan – Evacuees on their fifth day unable to return home. Click to watch Jorge Carino’s TVP story. (Shot by Gani Taoatao)

A search ends, a search continues

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Wide shot of port in Aroroy, Masbate as storm clouds gather (Shot on June 18, 2013 by Doni Bolante)

Gathering storm clouds at Aroroy Port (Shot by Doni Bolante)

AROROY, MASBATE–The port area has been quiet this week. It used to welcome daily busloads of passengers plus tons of goods brought in by ten-wheelers transported through Roll On-Roll Off (RoRo) ships. Now, the few vessels there are bancas and a large cargo ship on a weeklong stop to sell cement to local hardware stores and construction work.

Recent days were sunny, with the occasional downpour. When the afternoons are dry, the pier becomes a vast park of young people. Some still in uniforms hang out with school mates. Preteen boys wearing shorts and bare feet dive into the bay or kick around a football.

It was unlike our first few days. Jorge Cariño’s morning live reports were beset by a combination of heavy rain and strong winds that sometimes knocked over the umbrella covering our setup or had us securing our equipment from water.

ABS-CBN live set up braving the rains at Aroroy, Masbate (Shot June 18, 2013 by Doni Bolante)

Our makeshift ‘ulan’ set up (Shot by Doni Bolante)

The slow-shrinking puddles near our satellite truck only remain of that ordeal. Our truck was left staying overnight at the port after the field crews of GMA 7 and TV5 returned to Manila.

The problematic weather also set back the Coast Guard’s search and rescue efforts for the seven still-missing passengers of the M/V Lady of Carmel which sank on its way here.

The ferry sank too deep (1,314 feet, say authorities) even for divers to check out. In comparison, the body of interior Sec. Jesse Robredo was recoveredfrom a downed plane nearly 200 feet underwater off Masbate City.

The most progress searchers made since recovering the two declared casualties of the M/V Carmel was to find planks, head rests, and packed food floating around the sinking site two days later.

The following day, the Coast Guard presumed the chances of finding the seven people alive too slim and switched the operation from rescue to retrieval. And with the monsoon rains, they were resigned to wait for reports of bodies that might wash up in the coasts.

Coast Guard search and rescue efforts bring back wooden planks, a head rest, and food items from the sunk M/V Lady of Carmel (Shot on June 16, 2013 by Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News)

(Shots by Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News)

It has not given rest, however, to the missing passengers’ families our news teams talked to across Masbate.

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