Rebuilding near danger
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.
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.
A walk through Magallanes can be sobering. There are crumpled vehicles and mounds of trash. Atop one heap is a scarecrow of sorts. It holds up a placard: “We need new house.” The air is quiet, only broken by the echoing clash of scrap iron and the bang of hammers.
Skeletons of lumber, steel, and stone remain of the structures that bore the brunt of Yolanda’s storm surge. In years past they shielded the sea from view. Now the sea looms over the crumbs of concrete strewn throughout the bay.
Walking here is viable by day, unthinkable at night. Magallanes is just a block away from the restored electric lines. But there are hardly any homes to tap into them, much less any street lights to benefit.
The residents are scarce on the street. Some lounge by small sari-sari stalls, making small talk. At a corner, two half-naked boys chase and splash each other with tubs of water. Their mothers are nearby, cleaning up at the kitchen of a hulled-out house. One of them glances at the kids with a smirk and jokes to us: “Can you take one of them with you to Manila?”