Everyone here in Leyte has problems to solve. The biggest one is of course is of course figuring out ways to live and how to rebuild each of our broken lives. The world saw what happened to this island when super typhoon Yolanda wrecked havoc and leaving behind an unspeakable amount of devastation. But I got some problems too as a runner:
I think I lost my running haven in the storm.
However, I’m determined not to buy the notion that Running is also dead along with the thousands who perished in Tacloban City. For me, it just went into exodus somewhere or just taking a break after a successful year. It has to come back.
And Last Sunday, in God’s unbelievable show of faith, it came back with an awesome show of force.
Two weeks ago was an accident when a few of us, runners in Tacloban, decided to run again a month after Yolanda. But it was different; this time it was a deliberate and planned running event. It was bigger, meaner and more powerful run. We call it “Tindog Tacloban: A Unity Run for Hope.” It’s the first official post-Yolanda running event in Tacloban.
I helped organized the event. My bro and fellow Tenderfoot Organization of Enthusiastic Striders (TOES) member Jake Bramida is the organizer since it was his crazy idea of hosting a running event in just six weeks after Yolanda. As the resident organizer, he lost a couple of events to the storm. I handled the publicity because I’m the one with electricity and an internet connection. It was not an easy undertaking especially in the preparations because: a. we have no money b. I’m 130 kilometers away from Tacloban c. Jake and I have day jobs to fulfill d. everything’s a mess in Tacloban City and e. we only got a week to prepare. It was nothing but an abnormal undertaking in an abnormal time of our lives. WE know we got our faces up against the wall. But we took on the challenge and proceed with reckless abandon. It was tough.
Thankfully donations poured in even though we never ask for it. Sun.Star provided the much-needed publicity, ate Rose Buenconsejo of Aktib.ph & Runroo.com poured in money for the tarpaulin and race bibs and my former boss in Crown Regency gave me us some money for the other expenses. LNU helped in housing the Cebu runners for free!
We decided to host the event free of registration fees. There’s just no point of collecting money from the runners who themselves are victims of the storm. Life is pretty tough financially out there already for the survivors. And these people deserve to run regardless of their affiliation, political colors (Aquino o Romualdez?) and financial capacity. We want to let them run for free because they love running even though it would mean there will be no singlets, no medals, no official time, no hydration station, not even marshals to escort us. There are two categories in this event: a 5k and a 10k originally. But later we decided to extend the 10k to 18k because we have to consider that most runners are on training for CCM and we can’t break their training schedule and beside we wanted to make sure that the Cebu runners get to see the devastated areas. They need to see it and let them know this is where their donations and generosity goes. This is why we run today fellas.
The Unity Run’s starting and finish line is in Tacloban City Hall. It’s the only place we could host the event because there are lights and electricity out there. The rest of the city is still in the dark since Yolanda. WE have to borrow the sound system and transportation from Leyte Normal University, good thing its current president Dr. Jude Duarte is my former boss and I volunteered to clean up that campus. The publicity was done mostly through word of mouth and a few help from my connections in social media and the Sun.Star Cebu who ran a series columns about our first run two weeks ago. The radio stations aired the event like wild fire because I have running buddies out there. It’s really a good thing to have friends; you just don’t know when you are going to need them.
Coming into the event, I only wanted to see my TOES running buddies again and pray to God that the Cebu running groups I invited will be able to push through. Kahit sikwenta lang magpapainom ako! I never expected a huge crowd turning in on race day. But by some stroke of luck and good faith all of them showed up! My God, the TOES group is there of course noisy as ever and proudly wearing our uniform. I can sense their hunger to run again. There are also runners from the Bureau of Fire Protection, the PNP and other running groups in Leyte. Then there are kids and students. And most importantly the Cebu runners showed up!
The A Runners Circle – Cebu (ARC) run club was led by sir Jidan Jakosalem who I bumped last weekend at his store in Cebu. He was very instrumental in forming the event because I was after his relief assistance, I told him even if you bring just a quarter of what donation you can give we will make the event happen for free. The other Cebu group was headed by doctor Willie Estepa with his Toledo Adik sa Dagan (TAD) runners, they joined the crow around the halfway mark at the airport because of their tight travel schedule. Just to see these great runners from Cebu is a huge morale booster to the running community of Tacloban and to the community.
We didn’t have a gun to start our race, so we just use our watches and counted down loudly for everyone to hear that we are starting. We let the ARC team to do the honor of bringing the Tindog Tacloban banner (this time it’s borrowed) lead the 18k pack. The 5k will follow right after. Again the Unity Run is not a race, it’s a running event that promotes solidarity and support to the community, so I made sure nobody is getting a PR that day haha. We start together, we run together, we walk together and we cross that finish line together.
The running experience was simply priceless. It was a solemn run as we ran in silence amidst the breathtaking yet heartbreaking backdrop of the devastation. We ran together as one in the dark daybreak at Real Street. We walked and waived to the evacuees staying at the Tacloban Astrodome. We passed the Rotonda near the Coca-cola when the sun rose up. The clouds covered the sky with gloom and dread as we passed by the barangays of San Jose. We took a short rest when reached the Tacloban airport. Everyone noticed with a smile the huge concert facility installed at the parking area. Willie Revillame is in town.
We ran, still, together towards the City Hall for the second half of the run. Some are tired, but the pack is nowhere near from giving up. Everyone wanted to finish. And the presence of the stronger and fitter Cebu runners really helped boost up the confidence of the undertrained and hungry runners of Tacloban. From the astrodome, we did not take the Real St. highway we passed by but rather took on the narrow road of Magallanes towards the City Hall. The community there was flatten beyond recognition. Everybody went into complete silence I can actually hear their breathing. It was a show of respect to the community as we fight to hold on from breaking down into tears. We passed by a boy waiving at us as he helped his father create a giant star lantern (parol) with colors resembling the Philippine flag. That was Hope, in its purest and most innocent form!
We all reached the finish line. And the sky fell down crying. It was amazing how God has given us a clear weather all thought for us to prepare and run together in the devastated streets of Tacloban. Yes, only then after we finished that it rained as a symbol of coming clean from these dark chapters of our lives. God works in mysterious ways…
The event was a success from as I saw the eyes of the participants a bright shade for satisfaction and fulfilment. I’m so proud of these guys, these are Yolanda survivors and against all odds they showed up to run and let the world know how strong the Filipino spirit is! I wanted to hug every single one of them and congratulate their achievement. I could only hope that Unity Run that I help create brought some sense of normalcy to the survivors. That run certainly gave more Hope to the runners than them running for Hope to the community. Tindog Tacloban: A Unity Run for HOPE is my gift to the running community of Tacloban especially to my idols (that’s how we call each other) in the TOES running club.
I counted the amount of donations in kind the event was able to gather. We received 200 pieces of badly needed mosquito nets coming from the ARC team, 5 sacks full of barely used clothing, cartoons of canned goods, bags of medicines, bags of rice and a whole lot more! To be honest I never expected any donations at all (I was only the nets from the ARC team), the race was more important to me and I made it clear that it is entirely optional to bring any donations. But as I browsed through the master list I learned that each runner brought something no matter how little for our cause. Some filled up: 1 can goods, 1 kilo rice, P20, 2 pieces clothing, 1 pair new slippers, 1 jacket… ; it’s amazing to know their generosity despite the fact that they themselves could have used it for themselves. Cash donations amounted to P5,030.00.
Together with the runners from Cebu we to drop the two van loads of donations to our chosen beneficiary right after the run and the rain calmed down. We gave it to Brgy. 90, San Jose, Tacloban City. The place used to be a coastal suburbia, now it’s a tent city. I’m we were able to give something from our event.
Once again, we gave out blank race bibs to the runners for them to put their message of hope to Tacloban. It’s our specialty. We only prepared a hundred bibs so we were not able to provide for all. Runners put on their heartfelt message of hope, unity and faith like “More Power Tacloban” from a BFP cadet. “United We Stand” from sir Jidan. “Thank You World for Helping Us,” “Tindog Tacloban!” Doc Willie of TAD wrote “To Leyte runners, we are one w/ you in spirit. Tindog Tacloban! – Cebu running community.”
And for me, I wrote a little bit personal and completely irrelevant message… to my crush. Haha “@intsikchic: Dalagan ta dri TAC!!!” Finally bistohan na, malay mo mapansin niya lol. She’s a standout youth from Tacloban who finished her full marry at CCM last January before studying abroad for a masters degree. Hey, a fanboy can hope, too.