We got to the Cumpio’s place around 4:00 pm, where everything was set up for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception. I got a few photos while we still had daylight (sun sets early in the tropics!) and then we hung out on the beach while waiting for the festivities to start. (Naomi swam again.)
It’s hard to express how much it meant to be able to be there for this celebration. When I arrived in Leyte in March and met Nerissa, the site of the Cumpio family home was still covered with debris from the typhoon and it was difficult to see how the clinic would ever be rebuilt. When I left Leyte in April, the debris had been cleared, funds for building materials had been secured and the first supplies had been purchased, and I had committed to finding the money to pay the laborers until the project was completed.
As the rebuilding project picked up steam, more people became involved: last month, a new grant was secured to help finish the inside of the building so that it could pass the health department inspection, and an ambulance vehicle was donated as well. This was truly the work of many hands and hearts.
Looking around the clean, bright, spacious clinic building, I couldn’t help but remember the many nights Nerissa and I had spent attending births together in a hot, stuffy tent. What a contrast! What a significant step, not just for the Cumpio family but for the whole community, in recovery, rebuilding, and restoring local capacity! The first baby expected to be born in the new clinic is due this last week of September, with many more to come thereafter.
By the time the celebration began, it was too dark to get good photographs. My heart was so full, it was hard to imagine how much more momentous this occasion must be for the Cumpio family. Lots of tears through the smiles. It is impossible to forget the loss and devastation that preceded this event, the lives that were shattered by Yolanda. I am in awe of the resilience and strength of the people of Leyte and so very, very blessed to be able to count Nerissa as a friend and colleague.
Having learned our lesson on Monday, we left the party before it was really over to start driving back to San Ricardo ferry. I needed to be back in Davao on Thursday and could not afford to spend all day Wednesday waiting at the ferry terminal. So much for my original plan to avoid night driving! We arrived safely to the port a little after 1 am and were told that the scheduled 3 am sailing was full already but that we would be on the next boat at 8 am. Grabbed a few hours sleep in the car. The “8 am” boat finally left, with us on board, around 11:30, and we were home by 10 pm on Wednesday night. I’m already scheming about another visit, with a less tight timeline, when Matt and the kids have a school break. To quote the t-shirt depicting the MacArthur Landing Memorial which I brought home for Ezekiel, “Once you see Leyte, you will return!”