Home Is Where The Heart Is

Almost two years have passed since I last saw Tacloban City, my hometown. That long. I have been away for far too long which is why I was overwhelmed with happiness when I arrived here in Tacloban City this morning.

My return was supposed to be scheduled on the first quarter of this year. I didn’t make it. Apparently, I got caught up with work and stuff. I kept giving it a day again and again until April came. I booked my ticket on the last week of April. I got a good enough deal for a roundtrip ticket even with the date so near.

I flew with Cebu Pacific. Or TigerAir. Whichever operated the flight. The plane ride was smooth. No hassles in any way. Well, I slept for the most part. I wonder if I dreamed about anything while on the plane. You know. Like Resident Evil or World War Z. I would very much want to try visualizing a dream with those settings. No Plants VS. Zombies though. Too cartoon-y and unrealistic.

The moment I hopped off the plane, the first thing that caught my attention was the airport. Or what was left of it. What once was a very ugly BUT decent airport was now just ugly, if not uglier. The wreckage was still clearly visible. Debris was still present. The lookout windows were now just open spaces. The conveyor belt was damaged. No doors were present, except maybe the rest rooms. And all of this is a visual of the aftermath of the strongest storm that hit almost six months ago.

I opted to ride a taxi with a super inflated price. I didn’t care much. I was seriously too anxious and excited to go home. The ride took no more than ten minutes. Mister driver and I talked on the way. Before I hopped off, he uttered something incomprehensible. Just kidding. He told me that he knew mommy and her siblings and how his wife was mommy’s classmate. The Astilla’s (mommy’s side) are famous. We all are. A little.
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Heavy construction was continuously undergoing when I went inside my home sweet home. Nothing looked the same as before. Everything looked different. Well, for one thing, the other house is roofless. Another thing, our house was completely renovated. A whole new look. Talk about a house make-over. The interior was good. The walls were painted white. We had a new set of stairs. An additional bed was placed inside. Trixia’s stuff was still scattered everywhere. I guess some things never change.

First thing I did, I grew wings and flew to the Grand Canyon I took a long and well-deserved bath. I always take long baths. It’s a given. I scrubbed and lathered and rinsed and repeated. The weather nowadays is so unbearable that you have to shower again and again to feel fresh. Ate Lyn and Jocelyn, family friends, then called me for lunch at the other house. Or brunch. We had hotdogs and eggs and salty fish and noodles. Good food. The sunny side up egg was cooked to my liking. I devoured a lot. I was starving. My cousin and his dad joined me in the table. We talked about work and stuff. About how I was gonna be transferred to the Makati branch of Project Pie and how transportation was gonna be a real pain and how certain types of cups for businesses make a huge impact on sales. Random train of thought, yes.

My tummy was full from all the food I ate. I was supposed to get dressed after lunch slash brunch but found it difficult to keep moving with all the weight I was bearing so I rested for a bit. Actually, I napped. I didn’t mean to but I did. I was tired from the travel. I wanted to doze off for a few hours. Then I realized I shouldn’t waste my time here. By the way, mommy and Trixia aren’t here at home. They’re currently at Cebu for office stuff and a mini vacation as well. A reward for all the hard work mommy and her officemates do on a daily basis.

I was alone for the day. Well, not completely. My cousins and family friends were here. Still, with my family’s absence, I had to find something to keep my busy. And I did. Sorta. I went on a little tour of my city. I felt it was due time I see with my own eyes the remains of my city after Yolanda happened.

First off, I went to our local mall – Robinson’s Place Tacloban. The inside of the mall was way off. For one, the mall felt like a huge HandyMan store with a supermarket. HandyMan filled most of the space of the mall. The supermarket was jam-packed with people seemingly panic buying. There were way too many people. The counter beeped non-stop. Lines stretched as far as the aisles go. The rest of the mall was just a mini department store with mostly household items. I remember the security guard telling me that no pictures were to be taken while inside. There was no need. Nothing even qualified for a shot. I left in a heartbeat. The sorry state our mall was in now is gonna change. I just hope it does sooner. After the mall, I went on a little sand-surfing adventure I went to the downtown area of our city. We simply call it downtown.

Downtown looked different too. A few blinks weren’t enough to realize that Tacloban City really has changed. That Yolanda was real and everything I saw in the news were real. It all just sinked in all at once. The once booming place of our city was now quiet. The shops, most of them, were completely replaced by an army slash fandom of Taiwanese products. Phones, bags, accessories decorated the pavements on every corner. I hardly found a decent place to eat. I went to E.D.S. to buy a new memory card for my borrowed Canon DSLR. Memory was already full by the time I finished lunch slash brunch. I had no way of transferring the files. I had no choice. I bought an 8GB variant of Transcend’s memory cards.

Jose Karlos was my third destination. This little café was always my go-to place when I needed to chill. I used to come here all the time during high school with my classmates. So nostalgic. The interior was now different. They completely revamped the entire store. New decorations, new wall art, new chairs, but same old feeling. Good. I didn’t want that feeling to change or diminish. I ordered a Karlo Frio with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles and a Walnut cupcake or whatever it was called. I forgot. Both were so good. Same good feeling back in high school. Super throwback. The owner still looked the way she did a few years back. Great to see that they overcame the storm and continued Jose Karlos otherwise it would have been a huge mistake on their part and a huge loss on ours.
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Hotels flourished in the city. I saw a lot of new ones with really catchy names like XYZ Hotel and Granda Manor. Gotta hand it to Tacloban. The reason I checked out a few hotels is because I’m looking for a decent one where we can all check in and have some fun. Leyte Park was my number one choice. I went a few hours after roaming the streets. Leyte Park was gravely affected by the storm. They had to renovate the rooms and lower the rates to be competitive. The worst part: NO SWIMMING POOL. That was a huge factor why I chose Leyte Park. Now I’m contemplating whether or not we should check in at one of the newer hotels. I’m sorta leaning towards a NO. I hope that changes.
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And here ends my first day at my beloved hometown Tacloban City. Tomorrow is another day. Mommy and Trixia will be arriving. Psyched! Let’s see what it brings.

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