Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda): The Great Voyage


(Hover your mouse over the photo above & click the arrows to view the gallery. If you're viewing on a smart phone just slide your finger across the image.) Our voyage took significantly longer than we were told it would. It ended up being about 20 hours from Cebu to Tacloban. It was a ship crowded with people, there were several other relief teams from around the Philippines. There was a team of newly graduated doctors from a school in the Philippines. They hadn't done their internships or residencies yet but they were passionate about helping. We enjoyed getting to know them.

One of the highlights of our voyage was seeing flying fish! No kidding, it was just like being in the Life of Pi. The locals must have thought we were kids as we were jumping up and down laughing as we watched the fish skim along just above the water. It was really fun. I wasn't fast enough with my camera to grab you any video.

About 2 hours away from Tacloban, the ship stopped dead in the water. We had to wait for the Harbor Pilot to come to steer the ship through the narrow channels between all of the tiny islands scattered along the way. The Harbor Pilot came out in some sort of a motorized outrigger. After seeing the narrow passages, I was glad we waited for him! Wow!

As we got closer to Tacloban, we started seeing small coastal villages that had been slammed. It was gut wrenching to see the people standing on top of what's left of their homes, waving white flags begging for help. I can't imagine being in their situation as ships pass them by every day. Hopefully, we will be able to connect with them.

We called our contacts to let them know that we were arriving (8 hours late) as we passed under the main bridge across the waterway. The port was quite a scene. Three white guys in red shirts were pretty easy for our contacts to spot. The first person we met up with was Kathleen Yaokasin, the wife of the Vice Mayor of Tacloban. We hand delivered some medications to her. She was a delightful woman. She shared with us that she and her husband had lost their home and they were living with some friends. She was grateful for the supplies and blessed that we had come to help.

We met up with Felix, one of Andrew's fraternity brothers, and he brought a truck for the supplies that we had on a palate. We offloaded our mini-truck with the rest of the supplies and then met up with the folks from International Medical Corps: Dr. Rob, Nora (RN) and JB (our Filipino contact). As we drove through the streets, we were all overwhelmed by the amount of devastation. Buildings smashed, palm trees snapped, power lines down for miles and miles. People wandering and waiting.

When we arrived at our guest house, we unloaded the supplies and immediately started to sort through them and categorize them. We sorted medications into antibiotics and other, pediatrics and adult.

There are several teams at this guest house. There is one group that is filtering water on a huge scale. There are a couple of other medical teams. One of them held a evening clinic last night. It started to rain like crazy. People crowded under cover. The team did the best that they could but they hadn't sorted their medications so we had to stop the clinic and help them sort their supplies so they could fill the Rx that the doctors had scribbled out on scraps of paper. People will come back in the morning to get their medications.

Rob and Dan experienced their first MREs (military Meals Ready to Eat). Each one of them has about 1800 calories and a shelf life of 25 years. They are actually very good but known for causing some serous constipation (much better than the alternative). They have a baggie with a piece of cardboard and chemicals that gets hot when you add water so the "main course" is actually hot.

Living in this house of about 30 folks has cured me of any desire to live in a commune.