In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines with winds as high as 230 km/hr resulting in over 6000 fatalities and over 1000 missing persons. Damage was estimated in billions of dollars. For a country that lies at the centre of The Ring of Fire (called this because it is beset by almost every natural disaster known to man, except for avalanches because there’s no snow) this was one of the most devastating typhoons that hit land.
In October 2016 I was privileged enough to visit Tacloban for work. It was one of the areas hardest hit by oncoming winds. Rooftops to hotels and other structures were swallowed up whole during the typhoon, but when I visited three years later, the city was back on its feet, coping with the extensive damage including to infrastructure that was still evident around the city.
I was running two sets of intensive training workshops for leaders in the local community so that they could better prepare and protect themselves during times of disaster. So I was holed up most of the time in Leyte Park Resort hotel with a stunning view of the coastline nearby. I was told the hotel had replaced the rooftops, but was still limping back after the typhoon had damaged quite a bit of the hotels structures and grounds. An evening walk around the periphery of the hotel revealed twisted metal rods sticking out of the grounds and newly grown shoots around tree stumps where broken off trees must have struggled to keep going in high winds before being snapped off.
I struggled with the food. Philippinos love their food, it was evident, and their breakfasts were protein and carb-rich; full of meats, fried fish, congee type soups and rice. I was happy to get a bit of fruit, some toast and an egg with my coffee. The restaurant menu wasn’t appealing and unfortunately most of the continental dishes were not being made by the chef/kitchen, which was annoying. I wasn’t given any reason why. I was grateful when my hosts offered to treat me to their version of ‘dim-sum’ (what’s I’d call a Chinese hotpot of sorts) which was buying a combination of raw meats, seafoods and vegetables the throwing them into a huge vat of boiling water and making a lovely, hot, tasty soup of cooked items to share with each other. Seasonings on the side. If I had to go to the Philippines again, it would be for work, though their coastal tourism and beaches are picking up a lot of popularity. It can’t be denied the combination of their lush greenery, pristine breaches and famous hospitality makes the country an attraction to be tried at least once in your life!