So, here I am in Guiuan, Eastern Samar Province of the Philippines, in a UN ‘light base camp’ that hosts not all but most of the NGOs and UN agencies in Guiuan. I’m staying by myself in a tent, which depending on how the wind turns tag is either ‘tent 2’ or ‘tent apple sauce’. Two to four generators are roaring in the background 24/7. Last night for once the floodlight next to my tent wasn’t on, maybe because we had another power cut earlier.
In Tacloban (the next working airport) people have moved in hotels, but Guiuan where typhoon Yolanda hit first doesn’t have a single building that was not affected. The whole city is in ruins. Still, the streets are much cleaner than in Tacloban. People have worked hard, even though they’re facing devastation so great, that a woman I talked to yesterday said she didn’t even know where to start tidying up the rubble that once was her house.
But let me start from the beginning. After two days travel, I arrived in Guiuan on Sunday afternoon. Though the team leader on the ground, told me I could also take a rest I told him I’d rather power through to not even give jetlag a chance. This would’ve worked much better if I had slept more than one hour the night before and about three the night before that. Nevertheless, for most of the day I was able to have a coherent conversation and only when I sat down to write the first few emails at night and fell asleep while writing an e-mail, I realized it was probably time to go to bed.
After an 8 o’clock staff meeting we distributed radios in the villages around Guiuan. What can I say… Some of the villages are completely destroyed, concrete houses are reduced to rubble, coconut trees look like giant toothpicks and here and there are self made signs asking for help and food.
The people however are amazing. Filipinos are definitely some of the friendliest people I have ever met – smiling at you and greeting you in the warmest way. Whenever I walk from the camp to the radio station people greet me and smile.
We only have a small amount of radios, so we can only give one for each village to stay in a communal area. Nevertheless, people are incredibly thankful. Having a radio seems to be precious, even though people say they used more TV than radio before Yolanda. I’m assuming the main reason is that right now the radio station is the almost only source of information (no other FM radio broadcasts). Mobiles were often lost in the typhoon; TVs and computers don’t work unless one has a generator. Imagine for a second how you’d feel if you’d have to live without anything that requires electricity. Then imagine this for a month and that you don’t know when electricity will be back on.