Wednesday, September 1, 2010

White hair chronicles XXXII: Tacloban - I have returned

I had a USAID-funded project in Tacloban City almost twenty years ago. That project started a string of other projects that involved traveling, but Tacloban was among the first. When I had the chance to work briefly in East Africa ten years ago, I was reminded of Tacloban though I'm not sure why. Now I'm back in Tacloban for my current work, and I realize why I thought of this city while I was in Dar Es Salaam.

Dar (10 years ago, at least) is a quiet city. It was just recovering from a horrendous terrorist bombing. When I wanted to while away the time, I looked for a mall or a moviehouse. The small malls (actually boutiques) closed early. And the entire city had just 4 moviehouses, all showing Indian Bollywood movies. It had no tall buildings but it had a busy international port. The people were proud of their heritage. You could feel the nation's soul.

That picture reminded me of the Tacloban I knew. Quiet. People are off the streets by 9pm. No fastfood chains, no department stores. And a noisy port near a public wholesale market.

That was then. Now there's a Gaisano's and a new Robinson's mall just outside the city. There are several Jollibees and the usual fastfood chains. There is even mild traffic in the morning. It is still far from the buzz of activities in other cities but it is getting there. One thing I notice though, many hotels have sprouted (and degenerated) since then. But it is still hard to find a good Tacloban hotel. The reviews at are spot on.

But it is nice to have returned.

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