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Clear Skies

By May-i Fabros

Sketchy.

This was how some of the locals described the neighborhood of the Re-Charge Tacloban facility. Number 58 Burgos Street, Barangay 33, Tacloban City. Located at the side of Burgos near the area where Yolanda parked 8 ships, and washed away the houses in Anibong, the community that occupies the sea wall.

Beside the facility is an abandoned car wash, across it a building that survived the surge, but not the fire that ravaged it after the storm, and a store selling onions and garlic at wholesale.

Early in the morning and late in the afternoon, street vendors occupy both sides, subtly covering the general merchandise shops found in the buildings that line the tip of Burgos street. From fresh produce to second hand clothes, shoes, and wares, to school, household and construction items, everything is available here.

Despite the merkado and the throng of vehicles that pass the one-way street, compared to the bustling bar-cafe-resto scene in upper Burgos, this side feels grey and abandoned. It is not empty, but it seems somehow out of place with the movement and changes that Burgos Street represents.

From Tindog Tacloban the mantra is now Build Back Better. A year after, Tacloban is seemingly back on its feet. That brief time when the barter economy was back and money as we know it had no value, business is again booming in Tacloban. New shops are being built and the old ones rehabilitated. Car dealerships have sprung, and newly-acquired SUVs roam downtown.

Yolanda cleared away communities and put the City in a shroud of darkness, but the people are taking it back. Building one structure at a time.

One of the grounded ships in Anibong

One of the grounded ships in Anibong

At the sea wall, soon after the storm with materials salvaged from the debris or donations from humanitarian groups, the families rebuilt homes around the ships. Only a number of ships remain, the others reclaimed by the ship owners and taken apart, piece by piece. The ships that remain and the tarpaulin announcing the place as a No Build Zone, an area prone to disaster, are the obvious reminder that Yolanda happened. Otherwise the chatter and games in the afternoon and videoke and drinking sprees at night make it seem like nothing happened at all.

In the morning of the RE-Charge launch, there was a ruckus outside the facility. A man was caught stealing a 350 liter-stainless steel water tank. Beaten up by three men, one of whom pointed a gun at him. Their eyes and bodies enraged, a couple more kicks to the head and they could have easily killed the man. The crowd demanded, begged them to stop. In the nick of time, the police came with armalites, and stopped the bloody show. Bloodied and broken, the man was taken away. A young pregnant woman, presumably his wife, followed the procession, wailing.

The water tank came from the car wash next door, and in broad daylight the man was dragging it all the way home. There was a police post about 150 meters away, near the corner of Burgos and Torres.

Surrounded by brewing poverty and inequality, trauma and suppressed grief, it was just a matter of time before anger and frustration spilled and spewed. Petty crimes also prevalent in the bustling area of the street – generators, tarpaulins, and other materials that can either be sold or used to build a makeshift home were stolen.

Perhaps sketchy is not the right word. I can’t put my finger on it. The range of movements in Burgos from tip to tip illustrates the spectrum of survived and of surviving, moving on and building back. But those who will steal and drag in broad daylight a tank or two, reclaim their right to build back too.

The Re-Charge facility aims to provide sustainable energy and transport solutions to encourage Taclobanons to transition and integrate renewables in normal and not so normal circumstances, and Number 58 Burgos Street is the perfect site.

Inside the RE-Charge facility during the launch

Inside the RE-Charge facility during the launch

Tacloban is not done yet. The people have barely started building back. But the sky is clear and the sun is shining, with sunlight one of its abundant resources, Tacloban is an opportunity to build back better and brighter, for all.#

Photos by Reina Garcia and Galvin Contreras

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