TRAFFIC: BETTER LEYTE THAN NEVER
“Better Leyte Than Never” is what General Douglas MacArthur might have claimed if he had set foot on Leyte soil today. Four months since the colossal devastation of the province, are the unaffected multitude already basking in static fatigue over the outpour of donations and relentless attention to this historical phenomenon? Did the Japanese terminate the call to revive Fukushima and vicinities after the tsunami and merciless nuclear plant explosion three years ago? Do churches stop feeding the poor, or providing shelter to the homeless? Does the world ever give up on offering aid to the malnourished and abandoned children in Africa? And, what do people like us in Japan, and far away do?
Isandaang Tahanan Para sa Barangay Inangatan (One Hundred Homes for Barangay Inangatan) is one such movement that will not cease to shed blood and sweat to reactivate the rural community of Inangatan, Tabango in West Leyte, severely destroyed by the harrowing Yolanda/Haiyan typhoon. An interesting legend speaks of a fisherman living in the barrio who went to catch crabs by the seashore, and was accidentally bitten. A Spanish soldier nearby asked the man the name of the place. The bitten man, stricken with pain, cried, “Tabang mo,” which means, “help me.” The soldier mistook it for the name of the place, saying “Ah, Tabango.” Since then, the barrio adopted the name Tabango after it was established as a municipality.
A dedicated group of volunteers headed by Tony Veloso, Fred Diaz and Felix Perez, no doubt heard that cry, and have mobilized other generous participants to dispatch relief goods to this ravaged town, disseminate blankets, clothing, flashlights, construction materials, such as hammers, saws, knives, nails, tarps, and more, to rebuild and relocate at least one hundred homes to safer and higher ground. The group has also reinstalled a Friday market in the town to serve the community and neighboring barangays. “Aside from the relief efforts, we managed to organize a huge Christmas party for the community, and provide them a venue to watch the Manny Pacquiao fight. That made them forget their miseries for awhile, and it made them really happy, especially when Pacquiao won the bout,” Felix Perez remarks. Fred Diaz, who visited Tabango first-hand, assesses that shelter is the most important need of the people. “About 80% of the houses are practically roofless. But, after distributing nails and other building materials, the people did not waste time to start rebuilding by improvisation. In spite of the rains, there have been no grave illnesses. Medicines are adequate, food supply is manageable, because the people were able to stock up rice, but we continue to propel our feeding program, especially for the children. No looters in this town! So much quiet honor is displayed at a time of tragedy. What is incredible is to see so much joy and resilience in the Filipino people. They actually smile and laugh sheepishly as they recount their panicked reactions during the storm… amazing inner joy these people have in them...”
And, to prompt more joy, so much work needs to be done—to study and implement typhoon-proofing measures for the homes, stimulate fund-raising projects, encourage participation from the public, and to impart comfort, hope, will and the impossibility of a dream. The Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain designed by the genius Antoni Gaudi, was constructed in 1882. For over a hundred years, the edifice is still being completed because compassionate patrons of art, culture, history, and preservation of tradition have not stopped believing. And, so shall we.
"Happy, cherry spring!"