Yolanda's Eatery, Haiyan Hotel: Businesses flourish from monster storm's ruins

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 06 2019 05:57 AM | Updated as of Nov 06 2019 08:42 AM

The Yolanda Eatery in San Jose Village in Tacloban City, reopened in 2016, 3 years after Super Typhoon Yolanda hit central Philippines. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

TACLOBAN CITY -- Jennylyn Hayag wipes the sweat from her forehead as she prepares to welcome the Sunday lunch crowd at her eatery that is the namesake of a monster storm that killed thousands in this coastal city 6 years ago.

It took 3 years for Hayag, 50, to rebuild Yolanda's Eatery, known for its kilawin (ceviche), grilled squid, and buttered shrimp and counts among its customers, television host Boy Abunda and actress turned Congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez.

Named after her mother, Yolanda Manrique, who died of a stroke in 2011, Hayag refused to rename the eatery before it reopened. Some 6,300 people were dead or missing after super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) struck central Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013, triggering storm surges that wiped out entire communities.

"There was nothing in my mind or imagination that gave me the idea that we could rebuild the eatery. I believe it was prayer and God’s will," Hayag told ABS-CBN News.

Jennylyn Hayag holds a photo of her late mother Yolanda Manrique, after whom Yolanda's Eatery was named. Jonathan Cellona. ABS-CBN News

Nothing was left of the old Yolanda's Eatery, which stood along the shore of San Jose village. Hayag rebuilt it farther from the sea.

"Many people say that it’s bad because thousands died during Typhoon Yolanda but for me, the storm’s name was only a coincidence. This business is very close to my heart, I remember my mother because of this," she said.

STEADY REBUILDING

Hotels, restaurants and other businesses across Eastern Visayas were steadily rebuilt in the years after Yolanda, one of the world's strongest storms on record, according to a 2018 report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). 

In 2018, the region's gross domestic product grew 5.9 percent, buoyed by the services sector, which makes up 40 percent of the economy, the PSA said.

In Tanauan town, around 40 minutes by car from Tacloban, stands Haiyan Hotel, named after the killer storm. It boasts of a swimming pool called "Ground Zero," a café called "Coffee Surge," and function rooms named after storm signals.

"It’s a celebration of the resilience of the Leyteños despite what happened during Yolanda," said the hotel's general manager, Rolf Yu.

The Haiyan Hotel in Tanauan, Leyte was inspired by the Super Typhoon Yolanda which devastated central Philippines in 2013. Jonathan Cellona ABS-CBN News

The Haiyan Hotel in Tanauan, Leyte was inspired by the Super Typhoon Yolanda which devastated central Philippines in 2013. Jonathan Cellona ABS-CBN News

The Haiyan Hotel in Tanauan, Leyte was inspired by the Super Typhoon Yolanda which devastated central Philippines in 2013. Jonathan Cellona ABS-CBN News

The Haiyan Hotel in Tanauan, Leyte was inspired by the Super Typhoon Yolanda which devastated central Philippines in 2013. Jonathan Cellona ABS-CBN News

The Haiyan Hotel in Tanauan, Leyte was inspired by the Super Typhoon Yolanda which devastated central Philippines in 2013. Jonathan Cellona ABS-CBN News

Originally built in 2014 as an eatery called Haiyan Foodstop, it was remodeled into a hotel in 2018. Yu said the hotel met its target revenues in its first year of operations while the restaurant remains a hit among tourists for its crispy pata (deep-fried pork knuckles) and bulalo (beef bone marrow soup).

"The name makes it easy to remember and it helps so that people wouldn’t forget that Yolanda happened," Yu said.

STORM SURVIVORS

A man walks by the Survivor Auto Parts and Surplus Center in downtown Tacloban City, Nov. 3, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

In downtown Tacloban, Survivor Auto Parts and Surplus Center stands as a tribute to the resilience of its employees, all of whom lived to tell stories of the deluge.

"No one among us died so we’re all survivors," said shopkeeper James Cabus.

Since it opened in May 2014, Cabus said the shop has become a go-to place for car batteries and lights.

Yu, the hotel manager, said using tragedy as an "inspiration" for business is a way for survivors to look at the "bright side" after Yolanda.

"Many people actually find it amusing. Everyone knows about Yolanda and the deaths. But it’s time we celebrate the resilience of the people," he said.