Nov 092014

6th November

Today we started to produce the formwork for the pillars. We came a bit late to the site due to a long wait for a jeepney so we were eager to get started. The plywood were at site, but the 2×2 timber we were supposed to use, was not there yet. After cutting the plywood, we actually sat for an hour awaiting the lorry with materials to turn up. It did, eventually. The young girls were not at home today, so the radio on loud, playing popular music was our entertainment all morning.

The timber are coco wood. It is very heavy and hard. I was set to measure and saw the parts for the formwork; the Australians did most of the work connecting the pieces into formwork, supervised by the two workers. Hard work in the heat, but in spite we started late, we managed to finish some of the boxes and even place and level up two of them before lunch. The plan, as we left today was to build six boxes, place them, fill them with cement, and reuse three of them for the last pillars tomorrow. With this progress, we will start building the framework for the house on Monday. Time will show.


Awaiting the jeepney, I saw this sad collection of graves along the highway. I am not sure if they are actually graves or just a memorial site, but the small piles of soil suggested that they are graves. It is hard to imagine the grief of these people loosing so many of their own in such a terrible way as during Yolanda, and not even have a decent place to bury the dead bodies. Four brand new white crosses are placed at the memorial site among dead flowers and cardboards with the names.

A most required bucket bath and a couple of hours doing nothing, before heading for the VFV centre to see if there were something for me to do. I ended up in a pile of clothes to sort, before the kids came in hordes to the afternoon gathering for tutorials, spelling competitions and other activities. They are so eager to learn, and it is so inspiring to be there to see that, but the level of noise in the room during the hour this is going on, makes it impossible for me to participate every day.

Supper and some writing and I am exhausted. No late nights for me….


9th November

Back at my homestay after an adventurous weekend.

Friday we finished filling the last four formworks for the pillars, we filled the soil back in the holes with the already finished pillars and there were nothing more to do other than watching cement dry…, so we ended off for the weekend. The workers would continue working on Saturday, so tomorrow; we will probably start making the framework for the house.

Three of us decided to go away for the weekend. For the Australians who will be here for two weeks only, this weekend was the only opportunity to see some more of Philippines than just around Tacloban. This has also been the one-year anniversary for Yolanda, so participating in the memorial ceremonies in Tacloban, would probably have been the most decent thing to do. To me the thought of being stuck in the crowd and the heat with no other way out than queueing up for a Jeepny, was unbearable, so I decided to follow two of the Australians to Biliran Island north of Leyte. Yolanda did not hit this Island.

The tour was not very well planned, but we made our way to the bus terminal where we were lucky to find a van owner that lives on Biliran and was on his way home. He gave us a good price and the three hours’ drive in an air-conditioned car was quite pleasant; until he started talking about the risk of kidnappers in an area, we had to pass through! How could we know he was not one of them!

We made the booking for rooms at a beach resort on the west coast of Biliran, at Almeria, whilst driving. Our driver took us there and he was certainly not a kidnapper. I did not know what to expect of a beach resort in Philippines, but this was perhaps a bit disappointing. The beach was useless as a beach for sunbathing and swimming, the place was very ran down, and the standard was not even worth one star. I think we were the only staying guests. We were well cared for though and the food was simple, but good. It was a quiet place with lovely views to some small islands and the ocean. People were wading to pick fish and mussels when the tide was low. At the southern end of the beach a small village is situated, and the local kids were bathing and having fun in the water as the tide came in.

wading for fish

Saturday many families came to spend the day at the resort, they brought their own food and used the pools. We headed off to see some rice terraces and a waterfall – by motorbike! I had imagine a motorbike with a sidecar for the three of us, but first one bike turned up to take all of us. “No way, never ever!” was my reaction to that. Of course that would be ridiculous – four persons with backpacks on one bike! Therefore, they ordered one more bike to come. Well, I was still not very happy sitting on that bike clinging on to my co-passenger with one hand and to the homemade roof with the other. I really tried to enjoy the scenery as we passed by, but I was not able to. The driver took us up a valley to some rice terraces, let us off to take photos and then further up to start a 30 minutes’ walk to see a waterfall. Half the way up I said I really hoped this waterfall is worth the effort of all this, I was not comfortable walking in the heat, and waterfalls we certainly do have in Norway, so for me they are not worth risking the life to see. We reached the bottom of the waterfall and it was beautiful in the setting of tropical forest. Plenty of time to worrying about the ride back to the resort while walking back to the bikes.

rice terraces

I have wondered all week what is on the old coke-bottles on stands along the roads. It is red and for sale. I thought it might be some sort of local drink. Never had I imagined that it is petrol, but now I know. The motorbike driver stopped to fill petrol and they handed over one of these bottles. What about the health and safety in this matter?

Our return to Tacloban today started with the same motorbikes to take us to Naval where there was a van to follow. All went well, but I have had my share of motor biking for the rest of my lifetime. For the people here though, the motorbike is essential to make it work living here. Whole families on tour, father as the driver, mother sitting behind, one or two kids in the middle and the youngest in front, no helmet no security. I even saw a mother breastfeeding her baby while sitting on the bike. Most of the motorbikes have a homemade roof or shelter to make shadow. On the one, I had the pleasure of sitting on, it was made of narrow wood trimmings, a blue plastic tablecloth covered the roof and in front an old window frame as windshield. Cheap and practical, gives shadow, but no protection in an accident. It would rather be the cause of the accident.

We have passed many villages and communities during the weekend. People seems to live on the road. Kids are playing on the asphalt as cars and bikes rush by in high speed, laundry hanging on the road barriers, they spread the rice to dry on mats on the road for cars to manoeuvre between. Every second house got something for sale: petrol on coke bottles, snacks, motor parts, meat and vegetables. Even in areas not hit by Yolanda the poverty is obvious, small dirty sheds build of wood, plastic, concrete blocks or mats, but in between, some very pretty houses that stands out compared to the common ones. Sitting in a van or on a bike do not give room for taking photos, so many of the images of this weekend must be stored in my mind and not in Dropbox.

The weekend gave us a welcome break from the busy and noisy city life and its poverty. I feel ready to start working again tomorrow. If we made the right decision going to Biliran instead of staying in Tacloban for the anniversary, is impossible to tell.


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