Ground Zero


November came in with a shockwave when supertyhpoon Yolanda came and devastated my home island of Leyte. Hundreds of thousands of lives changed in a span of one day, no, it was just a few hours of intense pounding of vengeful winds, strong rains and murderous giant waves. I am from (Southern) Leyte and I’m a runner spared by Yolanda’s wrath. But you should know upfront this is not a running story. This is a story of a runner who came back and help bring back a city one trash can at a time.

It took me a few two weeks to finally get out of my maddening office works and head back to Tacloban, Yolanda’s ground zero. I worked in a university so there’s plenty of young souls eager to help out so I dropped a few of them my idea:

Mangadto ta’g Tacloban karong Sabado. Manabang ta.

In English, let’s go to Tacloban this weekend to help. There’s no way I’m heading out there without to the city without a companion. So despite having a notorious convincing power, I managed to convinced a few to come with me. The Idea then became a plan. One man became seven. And all of a sudden I’ve had myself a relief team. One accountant, one instructor, five senior students and, oh yeah, I’ll be dead if something bad happens. After all I’m the mastermind. Fair deal.


My minions, I mean, my team in the LNU!

Our mission is not to deliver relief goods, or to heal the sick, or pick dead bodies, not even to make long runs in the city. Our mission, believe it or not,  is to help rebuild a school. I’m a fan of the academics and it’s importance to the society.  We picked the Leyte Normal University in Tacloban City it’s new University President, Dr. Jude Duarte, happens to be our  former boss from our university so visiting there is like paying our belated “we miss you sir”.  Actually I just want to have a place to stay. Well that’s my idea. Sue me.

Now, for a breather, let’s do a little accounting. Riding a van from Sogod to Tacloban City = P150. Riding a pedicab from Tacloban Terminal to LNU = P200 (holy s**t!). Missing an important long run in my marathon training = priceless. Sharing meals with the biggest officials of a prestigious university in the region = you bet, freaking priceless!

LNU was also hit by the typhoon. It was just three weeks since they hosted the SCUAA meet where  I snatched 8th place in the half marathon. Now the campus’ a mess. Many classrooms and building were damaged if not destroyed, but trust me they are lucky. UP-Tacloban not so lucky, so yeah there goes my Graduate school plans next year (shit!). But two weeks after the beating from Yolanda, LNU still got a lot of grounds (and buildings) to cover and repair. Dr. Duarte, graciously gave us the Brillo Hall to cleanup, it’s the oldest structure in the campus proudly standing since 1927. And he sure let us know up front that this building already lost a grade school teacher in the typhoon. Her room was the only one cleaned up. The other seven were a complete fucking mess that the expression “ewwww..” is an understatement. And ewww we went through two days of cleaning rotten papers and classroom bruhaha props from whatever the grade school teachers come up nowadays (they should encourage running to the kids, who knows).



The Brillo Hall of LNU.


This is one of the cleanest rooms to cover.


This is how we dump the garbage, Bayanihan style.



Dump it like its the end of the world. And pray to God the payloaders will collect them later.

But through team work and good humor from the team. We managed to clean the whole building up. Yeah baby! We came up with our own way to relieve the Bayanihan spirit in those Amorsolo paintings. But in our bayanihan there’s nothing gorgeous carrying shitloads of trash and rotten stuffs Yolanda left rotting. But for this city to rise again, it must be done. It was a just a small victory, but the war #TindogTacloban is a long way from over. It was a big achievement nonetheless. I knew there will be plenty of weekends like this, doing menial jobs like cleaning up and constructing houses somewhere. You wont recognize me as a finance professional, and the only thing that will remind you of my runner’s heart is through the singlets I’m wearing.

Spending a weekend at the Ground Zero was a fun and very tiresome weekend. Parang nag-Marathon.  “One building down, 42 rooms to go” says the wife of president, Maam Aa, who happens to be my accounting teacher in college. I know all our efforts are just very minimal compared to the scale of the recovery that needs to be done. But still it’s an idea well executive to its purest purpose. We came not to expect anything in return, not even a gratitude from LNU. Truth be told, the team feels we owe Sir Jude for taking care of us especially in our accommodation and the hearty meals. We ate relief goods, by the way.  And as the one in-charge, it did cost me a lot bring the team there for our fares, the foods we have to bring and sporting that confident figure to face those distinguish persons hosting our stay.

But nothing beats the emotional toll seeing the city on its knees. Out there in Tacloban where I can be the coolest runner with lots of fans and supporters.  Right here at home I’m just a freak running the town before it wakes up. I love Tacloban because it is my running haven. I go there to run, hangout with running buddies and chill out a their coffee shops. I don’t know when it’s going to be back there, but I just want it back. Tacloban is home for me as a runner. I want to see my running buddies again.. I want to join happy races again in this great city. But at the end of the day if I really really want running back in the city, I better pick up that trash can and start cleanning one city street at a time. So for now the little things definitely help. The little things like Hope and Brotherhood and Kindness to one another.

I am Lester Glenn Tabada, a runner and now a volunteer of  the great city of Tacloban. This is my Ground Zero Initiative.

Rise Tacloban

Next post, I will tell you about my adventures and races in Tacloban this year!


Written by:

Lester Glenn Tabada. A certified public accountant, writer among non-writers, the photographer at the wrong angles, the uninspired illustrator, the not-so-cool graphic designer and the blogger at
View his aktib profile here >>.


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