Return to Leyte Part 2: In Imelda’s Bedroom

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Waiting for breakfast at the Haiyan Food Stop, refreshed after a good night’s sleep and ready for another day!

After our two long days of driving, we slept late on Tuesday morning. The grand opening of Cumpio Midwife Clinic was not taking place until evening. We ate a delicious breakfast and set out for Tacloban, about half an hour away. Our delays the previous day meant that we would not have time to see all the places that I’d hoped to visit with Naomi and Gabriela, but we meant to make the most of the time we had. Driving to Tacloban, I was amazed at how many changes there had been in the 5 months since I had left. It was so encouraging and heartwarming to see shiny new roofs where six months ago there were weather-beaten tarps. The recovery and rebuilding had clearly come a long way!

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Morning refreshment — fresh buko juice (coconut water) and tiny single-serving pineapples, eaten off the stem like a lollipop.

Naomi and Gabriela agreed that of the various landmarks that we could visit (the scenic Leyte-Samar bridge, the MacArthur Landing Monument, the several large ships that had been washed into town by typhoon Yolanda) they were most interested in the Sto. Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum, built as both a museum and one of the 29 residences of President Marcos and taken over by the Philippine government in the 1980s after Marcos was ousted. Tacloban is former first lady Imelda Marcos’ hometown, and the museum was built on her family’s property. The mansion suffered extensive flooding and damage during Yolanda (link goes to a news site photo slide show) but has since re-opened. Our tour guide, who told us she was already part of the staff in the days when the Marcos family still used the residence on their visits to Leyte, was clearly devoted to the building and grieved over the damage caused by the typhoon. Despite the storm damage, the girls were impressed by the grandeur and opulence.

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The ballroom with its enormous, octopus-like chandeliers.

Naomi was particularly fascinated by the dioramas depicting Imelda Marcos’ life, from her childhood in Leyte to her benevolent good works as First Lady of the Philippines, in each of the downstairs guest bedrooms.

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Example of one of the dioramas: a youthful Imelda is crowned beauty queen.

The second-floor rooms had sustained less damage than those on the ground floor, as they had not been flooded (apparently the mud was knee-deep after the waters receded.) These included the ballroom, the larger of the two dining rooms, and the family bedroom. Our guide insisted I take a picture of the girls sitting on Imelda’s bed:

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This picture does not do justice to the size of the room. The luxurious ensuite bath was quite a big larger than my bedroom.

Our tour complete, we left Tacloban and headed south to Dulag, where I had spent four weeks in the spring volunteering at Bumi Wadah’s “birth camp” clinic, which at the time was located in San Jose elementary school. We drove past the school, which is in session but still under construction (a Japanese NGO began repairs to the school shortly after I left Dulag.) Bumi Wadah has a lovely clinic building now which they share with the rural health unit. We visited there and were treated to a delicious lunch (eggplant salad, pumpkin soup, rice, vegetable lumpia, and fruit salad – yummy!) Because our lunch visit was a day later than planned, most of the midwives were attending a seminar and I would not get to see them until later that day at Nerissa’s opening, but it was great to see the new clinic building and see old friends again.

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Lunch at Bumi Wadah.

One of the things I enjoyed most about my time in Dulag was the beach right across the street, where I went walking almost every day unless it was pouring rain or we were extremely busy with patients. In Davao, it’s easy to forget we’re on a tropical island since the city is so built up and the water so polluted — to get to a beach from Davao we have to drive a long way down the coast, or first drive and then take a boat to Samal Island. So after lunch we walked across the street to enjoy the fresh ocean breezes and the lapping waves.

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Naomi enjoying the beach in Dulag.

On the beach, as well, signs of recovery were evident. Though the debris of ruined houses remained in many places, the surviving coconut trees, which had been almost bare of leaves in March, were green again and new fishing boats lined the beach. Naomi splashed in the waves while Gabriela and I visited with a new Bumi Wadah midwife volunteer who had just arrived from Australia. All too soon, it was time to head back toward Tanuan, for the most important event of our trip: the grand re-opening of Cumpio Midwife Clinic.

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