“And when the day arrives, I’ll become the sky and I’ll become the sea and the sea will come to kiss me for I am going home. Nothing can stop me now.” -Trent Reznor
The mere idea of going back home never fails to thrill me. Ask my college friends. I’m at my happiest when I am about to go back home.
I would always book my boat tickets three days before my departure day. Also, I constantly go to the pier two hours earlier than my departure time.
And as I step down the ship and ride a van for an hour from the city towards my humble home, I would fondly look out the window and guess where the van currently is.
“Oh we’re already in Merida!”
“Gosh, we’re in Matlang! A few minutes and we’ll be near the complex gate!”
Finally, after an hour, the van would drive down a steep slope. I would then look at the left side and see my Alma Mater. I few seconds later, the van would drop me in front of the first gate of Leyte Industrial Development Estate (LIDE). I am at home, at long last.
Somehow everything changed yet still felt the same. It seems that a typhoon did not pass by our compound. But I tell you, Yolanda did not spare LIDE.
The tranquil aura that LIDE once offered was lost. Everything green became brown. The school buildings of my Alma Mater were badly damaged. In fact, the school library lost its roof and almost all the books were soaked in rain water. The teachers and the students, after the strong winds and showers started to fade away, tried to save some of the books. But it was all in vain.
The residential homes were also badly damaged. Our neighbor’s roofs were almost peeled off their homes. Roof sheets of green and red were everywhere. Everything, outside and inside were wet. Trees and fallen electrical posts blocked off the roads. Indeed, the scene was depressing.
However, surviving a catastrophe left me and my fellow LIDEans a fond memory.
After the calamity, our days would always begin as early as 5:30 in the morning, or as long as the sun has already shined through our windows. By that time, my family and I, as well as my neighbors, are already up and awake busying ourselves for breakfast. Soon after, we would all huddle in the dining table and gulp on hot drinks together with a simple hot meal.
My father would later go to work while we, my mother, my siblings and I, would do the house chores which usually included the laundry, dishwashing, and the home cleaning. Since our province’s electricity was still under the mend, we did all the chores manually.
Doing the laundry was tiring. We had to hand wash everything – from light clothes to heavy blankets and curtains. But it was fun and refreshing since I had the chance to dip my hands in cold water during a sunny electric fan-less or aircon-less day.
Cleaning the house wasn’t much of a problem. There was always less clutter because we often don’t stay inside due to the scorching heat.
Of course, we cooked every day, too. We often cook traditionally even if we still have LPG because LPG supplies in Leyte were limited. By cooking traditionally, I meant cooking using a burning pile of firewood. At first, it was really hard to build a fire. My sisters and I often get teary-eyed because most of the smoke that goes to our eyes, but through practice and my mom’s patient guidance, we got better.
In the afternoon, when the sun’s heat strikes the most, we often stay in the living room with the windows and the sliding doors open. We would turn our battery-operated radio on and listen to the music or news or simply talk about anything under the sun.
When the sun is about to set, we would build a fire again. I tell you, the cooking experience outside is really best at night. Numerous fireflies would hover around the almost-leafless trees around us. The bright full moon together with the star-studded evening sky which constantly keeps the night visible added to the fascinating scene.
While waiting for the food to cook and for my father to get home from work, we would all chat happily once again. Then, we would have a nice and warm candle-lit dinner. After washing the dishes, and listening to music or news updates on the radio, we would finally sleep in the boys’ room at about 8PM, the only room in the house where the cool night breeze passes through.
Indeed, I never thought that our lives as survivors would be this productive, interesting, and positively memorable.
Now, more than a year after Yolanda, LIDE’s greenery came back. Though it is not as lush as before, the serenity it offers is quite helpful. The school buildings and residential houses are now repaired and repainted. The people, who worked hand in hand to achieve this feat, are now back to work. However, unlike before that they would just silently stare at each other while waiting for the bus in their respective bus stops, now, people would casually greet each other and ask if how they are doing.
LIDE is still my paradise. It is still my home. It changed. But it does not matter because as James Baldwin said, “Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”