It was nearly three weeks in the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) when the Rotary Club of Pasong Tamo arrived in the typhoon-battered Eastern Visayas but the widespread destruction remained evident.
"This is something that we will never forget," Carlo Claudio of Rotary Club of Pasong Tamo said of the massive damage he witnessed during their relief operations.
The Eisenhower Fellowships where 7CRG commander Lt Col Harold Cabunoc belongs, partnered with the Rotary Club of Makati to put into play their donation of almost $3,000 to procure food supplies for the typhoon victims. Later, these were transported via commercial ship from Cebu City towards the affected areas in Leyte on November 25, 2013.
Supertyphoon Yolanda, internationally known as Haiyan, was the strongest storm that made landfall in world history. It was also one of the deadliest storms on record. It hit the Philippines on November 8.
The destructive typhoon caused widespread devastation with its powerful winds and torrential rains. It collapsed structures, cut power and communication lines. Over 7,000 were both killed and missing as of latest. Millions took refuge in shelters.
The deluge united Filipinos and the international community and turned it to an impressive staging of Bayanihan or volunteerism.
When the plane of Claudio's team landed in Cebu City on November 24, where they set up a base because of its proximity to typhoon-ravaged Tacloban City, he observed a large number of military and civilian cargo aircraft.
"While our aircraft taxis to the gate, we noticed a large number of military and civil cargo aircraft like C130s, C-17s and B747 cargo as well as Philippine Navy Islanders and some helicopters parked nearby. This is the first clear idea on how massive the humanitarian assistance is for Tacloban," he said.
Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte province, was hardly hit by the typhoon but also served as one of the bases of humanitarian efforts. It has an airport wherein foreign and local planes delivered their relief goods and personnel to assist in the operations.
After a few days of small setbacks in getting through the relief goods, the team arrived in the province of Leyte on November 26.
The team journeyed towards Tacloban City, and while on their way, they made a brief stop at the municipality of Dulag.
"Majority of the structures, residential, commercial and government have been destroyed. We met Mayor Que who was supervising the receipt and distribution of the goods at the time. We made a donation of P10,000 to the municipality to help them with their necessities for survival," Claudio said.
He recalled that the road to Tacloban was "littered with debris and the smell is distinctly foul due to the death and decay that is present."
"The communities near the shore were all wiped out. All we can see is enormous damage to lives and properties," he added.
In the town of San Jose, where some of the selected villages would receive the relief goods, local officials remained hospitable and offered what they could give to the team.
The team was accommodated by Barangay Captain Ma. Resthia Tan of Barangay 83-A in Burayan.
"Despite the lack of resources, the barangay (village) personnel managed to prepared a modest lunch of chicken, rice and pancit (noodles) for all of us and we eat under the tarpaulin-covered area," Claudio said.
The team distributed relief goods in the nearby church. The pack consisted of rice, water, noodles, clothes and other basic necessities.
"Everyone was happy to receive the relief goods," Claudio narrated.
The distribution took an hour. The team drove around some more where Claudio saw more of Yolanda's destruction. "We cannot help but feel deep sadness for the unbelievable amount of destruction and death that we witnessed," he said.
Claudio's thoughts were still in Tacloban City even as his team made it back to Cebu City before sunrise.
"Even at dawn, it is a stark contrast to the situation in Tacloban. We were glad that we accomplished our mission and returned safely," he said.