The Silver Lining of Super Typhoon Yolanda in Palawan

EPA/THE OFFICE OF THE MAYOR OF CORON, PALAWAN

In 2013, super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wrecked havoc in Southern Philippines. It made its final landfall before exiting the country in Busuanga, Palawan. Several towns were majorly devastated back then such that they were placed under a state of calamity. Not only was the island damaged, there were also reports that several people died because of the strong typhoon.

Fast forward to today, I was fortunate to pay Busuanga a visit last week, specifically Coron and its neighboring islands of Cabugao and Banuang Daan.

I was part of the contingency that turned over Smart’s School in a Bag in these far-flung communities.

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School in a Bag landed in Cabugao

Anyway, despite what it has experienced four years ago, Coron has kept its beauty. It easily landed on my list of best places to visit in the Philippines, right there with Batanes. Its pristine beach is truly a wonder. I strongly agree it does not need a theme park to thrive.

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Mt. Tapyas from the sea

I was able to chat with a few locals in town. Although what super typhoon Yolanda has caused will be unforgettable (and scary) to them, it is not all that bad.

The silver lining – help came.

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When we went to Cabugao, a small island community about an hour off Coron, I noticed that they have a paved “highway” going inside the community. They call it highway but technically it is just a narrow concrete road that you can walk on. It was constructed after Yolanda hit them. Before walking on the highway, we docked our small boat at the entrance of the village. Luckily, it was high tide at that time so we did not have to walk on waist-deep, murky seawater (although some of our companions had to walk).

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Cabugao Elementary School

We went to Cabugao Elementary School. To go there, we had to walk about 15 minutes from where we docked. Along the way, we saw concrete houses with galvanized iron sheet as the roof. Prior to super typhoon Yolanda, most of the houses in Cabugao are made of wood and the roofs are made of nipa palm (pawid). When the super typhoon hit, most of the houses were pummeled to the ground. According to the locals, help for the rebuilding of their houses came from the Red Cross.

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Rebuilt house with GI sheet roof

Potable water was difficult in Cabugao. A teacher from the school said they had to climb the mountain to get water. After the typhoon, volunteers built a makeshift system where there is a tank that collects water from the mountain and delivers it to them via water tubes. It is a lot easier than going up and down the mountain for a pail of water.

The locals also said that if not for super typhoon Yolanda, the world would not have noticed them. Their highway will still be a rough road. Their houses will still be made from wood and pawid. They won’t have a better channel for getting potable water.

The super typhoon may have caused a lot of damage. It is a serious and tragic incident that has taken lives and destroyed properties. However, for a small, unnoticed community like Cabugao, something good came out of it.

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