Apr 6, 2016 · 5 min read

Study Tour in the Philippines 2015/2016

By Tristan Nodalo (HANDs! 2015 /2016 Fellow from the Philippines)

Fellows was very existed to visit Tacloban as you can see on the photo.

After our intense experience in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, we flew to Manila for the next leg of the Hope and Dreams! (HANDs!) Program.

Our second day in the Philippines started with a one-day trip to Tacloban city — the hardest hit area of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the world’s strongest typhoon in recorded history in 2013.

The moment I stepped out of the plane, flashbacks of what happened on November 8, 2013 started pouring in.

Memories of Haiyan

I was a segment and news producer back then for a national television’s flagship newscast. I was one of the producers tasked to cover the upcoming super typhoon.

On the dawn of November 7, 2013, we started a back-breaking, 20-hour trip from Manila to Tacloban. On the road, not once did I see the sun. The gloomy weather felt like a premonition of what was about to happen the next day.

All the hotels in Tacloban were fully booked, we opted to stay at The Oriental hotel in Palo, Leyte. It was right beside the sea. At around 4AM the wind started to become stronger. And right outside, the waves were getting higher.

My cameraman and I decided to get out of the hotel to get some footages. We thought it would be better to go outside the town, but on every street, fallen trees and posts blocked our way.

The strong winds slowly started to tear apart the roofs of buildings. it started to howl as if signaling the start of a nightmare. Adrenaline kept us alert.

Our instincts told us that we should look for a higher ground, luckily a nearby Department of Education building was opened to us by its security guard. Inside the building we found families, huddled together, praying as the storm raged on.

I cannot exactly recall the worst of Super Typhoon Haiyan. But one thing is for sure at that time, our situation during the onslaught of the Super Typhoon Haiyan lasted for more than six hours.

I was already shaking. Scared and terrified is an understatement. I thought it was our end. We had to keep our camera rolling to document the storm, though; the journalist’s instinct had kicked in. But we knew we were no match for the deadly storm surge that had started to engulf the city.

For the first time in my three years as a journalist, I couldn’t find the answers, when the other people inside the building asked us how long the storm would last. The only thing that I was able to tell them was: let’s keep on praying for the storm to pass.

The Aftermath

The day after the storm was even more heartbreaking. There was death and desperation everywhere.

It was like being an apocalyptic movie scenario, with people tearing apart establishments and even climbing buildings just to salvage whatever they thought would be useful.

There were no rules or law that day, with death at their doorstep,

Indeed, it was survival of the fittest. Relief goods did not arrive for another few days because of impassable roads.

But you will be amazed to learn that even in the midst of unimaginable desperation, people were still sharing what little food and water they had.

Two days after, our team decided to go to the airport and take the first trip available. I left Tacloban with a heavy heart.

Tacloban City, two years after Haiyan

Looking around Tacloban, it is easy to say everything now is business as usual.

HANDs! Fellows was able to experience the Disaster Education through Experiential Learning (DEEL) project of the first batch of HANDs!.

DEEL aims to teach disaster preparedness and education to children and community through games and stories.

We ended our Tacloban trip by visiting sites that was made remarkable by Haiyan like the Anibong district. A barangay where huge ships were washed away during the super typhoon.

We stayed in a place called Yellow Doors hostel, a hostel built by Haiyan survivors themselves and from materials washed away by the super typhoon.

Creating Human-centered designs

When we got back to Manila, series of workshops awaited us. We started with CO.LAB which introduced the importance of co-working spaces in exchanging ideas and developing project concepts. ASHOKA Philippines also had their share in introducing systems change. Kevin Lee, an ASHOKA fellow, shared the story of A Single Drop of Water project.

Habi education lab, on the other hand, focuses on teaching the participants the importance of making human-centered designs. Habi taught the process of creating designs out of the needs and values of the person and listening to what the person wants.

To know more about the existing disaster program of the Philippine government, participants paid a visit to Project Noah, a government funded Science institution.

Capping the last two days of the Philippine leg of the HANDs! program, was another workshop by the Habi education lab. This time they’ve focused on the importance of making empathy-maps and different methods of research and identifying your stakeholders.

Ending the five-day Philippine leg of the HANDs! program, was a presentation of their rough ideas of their country projects. A brief introduction was also made for the Thailand and Japan trip, the second part of the HANDs! 2015–2016 program.

The importance of creating projects focusing on human-centered designs is one of the highlights of the Philippine trip. The Tacloban visit, although short, struck a chord with the participants.

The trip showed, that indeed through helping each other we can HOPE again, and by empathizing with one another we can DREAM again. A renewed hope and dreams that no storm can wash away.

Written by Tristan Nodalo (HANDs! 2015 Fellow from the Philippines)


The HANDs!


The HANDs! Project is a human resource development program sponsored by the Japan Foundation Asia Center. The Project was created as a place for mutual learning, sharing knowledge, and cooperating to solve problems for disaster prevention and support for disaster-affected areas.


Written by


The HANDs! Project is a human resource development program sponsored by the Japan Foundation Asia Center. The Project was created as a place for mutual learning, sharing knowledge, and cooperating to solve problems for disaster prevention and support for disaster-affected areas.