Nightfall already caught us just talking to some of the people we encountered. But we were not that worried since we had our own vehicle. Please never do this though, if you are just commuting. Why? Because there is no accommodation for outsiders in this town as of the moment. You will just become another problem for them to tend to, if you were caught by night-time in Hernani. On top of this, we were extra confident since our driving friend had been to this place many times, the last of which was just a few days ago.
Anyway, going out of Hernani in the darkness was still not that easy. Night driving, you know how it is on rural roads, right? And we met many convoys of big trucks and other vehicles delivering relief goods. Them and us must negotiated the roads carefully so we all fit just right in without falling off! We also had to again pass by that cemetery where bones and skulls were swept to the other side of the road and very prominently ‘on display’ when headlights would train on them. Duuu! Awooooooo!
I was happy again to have passed by the town of Gen. MacArthur. As I said earlier, they seemed not too badly hit by Yolanda, right? Kind of a respite or temporary relief for the crumbling heart. And there was electricity on their main streets! Just the street lights though, not the homes. Friend says local authorities of this town agreed to have their generators supply electricity, at least to those street lights, so it would be easier to monitor security and safety. Nice idea.
In Quinapondan, it was the same. Some residences had their own gensets on, to provide power to their homes (especially stores) but street lights were bright too! See, I learned something about 'public administration' hehe! During a blackout, endeavor to have at least your street lights immediately on, for the sake of your town in general. That be emulated, even in Quezon City! How to do it, ah, well... dyan talo ang syudad!
Oh, I learned another 'something new'! In these far flung localities, big and long bridges are actually not just connectors of highways. They also serve as a “pasyalan”, a lovers’ lane, even a play area to many local folks. So, it was interesting having passed by these bridges at night time.
Here’s more. Not sure if this was Quinapondan, Balangiga Giporlos or Lawaan, but in at least 3 bridges we passed by, there were many people all armed with their cell phones! Yep, obviously they are able to get phone signals in those areas so that those who wanted to communicate had to be there! Aliw!
Hey, if you want to feel good, drive along these towns during nighttime with only the moon and the stars (aside from your headlights) illuminating wherever you are, just as we did. Kind of cruising through a wonderful seaside highway with fresh wafts from the sea! Because you won’t see all the heartbreaking scenes we saw earlier in the afternoon. Thanks to darkness – I now know, there is advantage of that – if only to fool myself that I am not in a devastated place! Haay hehe!
8:32PM, we were driving somewhere in the darkness of Marabut’s highway-side barangays. Of course we were hungry (driver also already tired), And Calbiga, where we intended to grab whatever we can for dinner, was still about an hour or so away. Pushing it ‘till Catbalogan was probably already too risky since that would still be 2 hours or so. Thus, on sight of a “lighted” sari-sari store (8:38PM already), we decided to drop by for something to eat.
This sari-sari store had its own genset on, and by-standers told us, this was the only such luxury in the area. This explains why there was a little crowd when we approached. I learned they had a “charging service” at P10 per hour that too many folks were happy to avail of. As my friends talked to the store owner for any eatable options we might be able to grab, I went to see what were being charged. Some of them are those laid out in that folding bed. You’ll see about 14 of them here, but also charging in another table and a nearby stack of lumber are more others. I counted 37 items! Plus, my cellphone and camera to make it 39!
Interesting to see the things being charged. Not all are cellphones or camera batteries. Many were rechargeable flashlights or lanterns, some were those radios in the shape of other things like that “orange drink in can”! There was a laptop and there were tablets!
Anyway, thankfully there were things in the store we thought would be considered dinner food enough. We still had rice in our ‘tupperware from Catbalogan’ and we liked the “bulad” (dried fish) which the store owner agreed to cook for us. And they even served it at their make-shift dining table – yep, makeshift because this house was not only lashed by Yolanda’s winds but was also submerged in the surge up to the floor of their second floor.
When served however, we noticed there was cooked corned beef on the table, scrambled eggs and their very own rice. We noticed they haven’t had dinner yet (just about to do so) but the mother of the house offered their very own dinner food for us, in addition to the dried fish we ordered!
Now here is the bad thing about ‘hospitality’ that I mentioned at the start of this series of stories: after dinner, when paying for the food we ate and the battery charging of my cellphone and camera, the lady of the house, yes the owner and of course the boss of her store kept saying “ah pasagdi na gad ito” (ah, don’t bother about it) to their corned beef that we ate, their rice that we also ate and even the P20 for charging my gadgets! So I said “mana, are you a store or a relief service”! And I actually did not at all like her response saying “just happy to be of help to those people who help Yolanda victims”.
Okay fine, but if she’s doing this to all who drop-by at night (who are mostly Yolanda relief people anyway), then she’ll eventually close shop and there’ll be no more of her or her store to save the relief people, right? Anyway, we thanked her, but she was even more profuse in thanking us – AND I WONDERED WHAT FOR!
Hey, I know she is not unique. That is a very common trait of Filipinos especially in the countryside, right? We are even internationally known for it, right? Hospitality, right? But, at times, it is just a stupid trait we have. Yeah, I was on the receiving side of this ‘act’, and thankful, but I maintain, she and most of our kababayans should start checking this attitude out and temper, if not at all stop it.
Anyway, to quote a friend, I was told “ano pa ba inirereklamo mo”! Ok, fine hehe!
Alright, a bit recharged, we continued on with the trip. And what a change of “clime” when we reached and turned right near the San Juanico Bridge heading for Calbiga. The air became noticeably cooler. Yep, I got reminded by the driving friend that we were not anymore cruising via seaside towns but the inner roads of Samar. And there was a bright moon, with many stars still visible. I actually wanted to stop and just lie on the ground looking at the sky. But we had to move on.
Even before Calbiga, I noticed the driving friend seemed to have had it physically for the day. I should know, I am a full pledged ‘back-seat driver’ who sits front hehe! So, thankful we still reached the town of Calbiga, we decided we should make a few minutes rest. It was a few minutes before midnight!
Thankful? Yes on two counts! Thankful that we found a place to stop and rest, and thankful we saw “light”! Yeah, 22 days after Yolanda, it is only from this town of Calbiga going all the way north to Catbalogan and even onwards to Calbayog, where there is electric power. Erratic at times, but yes, THERE IS!
We saw electric lights were still on at that famous store-cum-restaurant known to all Catbaloganons to be the only place in Calbiga that serves the best tinola (manok and/or fish). Unfortunately it was already closed, so we did not bother dropping by. Though my friends know the owners of that place, we all agreed we couldn’t anymore get anything there that will not rouse the whole household to give whatever we may have wanted.
So, stopping by the waiting-shed before that well-known bridge of Calbiga, we asked the driving friend to take a needed nap, and I started out looking for Marlboro Lights. Unsuccessful hehe! But it was fun to have seen the streets below the bridge (yes, there are streets below that bridge before it crosses the river. I even got to see what is at their public market on midnights – the meat vendors already starting to chop beef, pork and carabao!
Just across where we stopped is a bakery that is open 24/7. Yeah, you guessed it correctly, my friend who had this entire trip planned to see Hernani, with all her charm, roused the otherwise sleepy crews of that bakery hehe. There was the time we bought breads, of course. But their coffee-vending machine was not working. So I don’t know what “spiels” she blurted out this time, but she was able to get them to prepare cups of hot water for us, where we excitedly dissolved the instant coffee she was able to wing from an already-closed store just beside! Abilidad!
Let’s cut this short… after Calbiga, we zoomed through and reached Catbalogan half past the first hour of December na! Yep, 23 days after Yolanda na! And all physically exhausted, after a while playing with “AJ”, we hit the beds without any further ado!
Let’s continue with my return stories next. Yep, passing by some of Leyte's devastated areas once again. That’s next!
For a chronology of this trip's stories, click these numbers: