I ‘met’ Claire Morley via Book Connectors on Facebook and was amazed to hear the story of how Claire came to write ‘Tindog Tacloban’ and publish her story on 26th August 2015. On this Remembrance Sunday I can’t think of a more appropriate time to host this guest post in memory of those who’ve died.
Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, decimated parts of the Philippines on 8 November, 2013. Two years later, the people of Tacloban continue to rebuild their lives, many of them still living in tented cities with no electricity and no running water. Claire’s guest post is in memory of those who lost their lives and to remember those still rebuilding theirs.
All profits from the sales of Tindog Tacloban go to help the organisations Claire worked with while she volunteered in the Philippines.
Here Claire tells us about her time volunteering and the inspiration behind ‘Tindog Tacloban’:
Thank you very much to Linda’s Book Bag for the opportunity of a guest post on your blog.
In the aftermath of the fiercest typhoon on record to hit land, banners bearing the words Tindog Tacloban started to appear all over the city. Meaning Rise Up Tacloban, they were a testament to the determination and resilience of the Filipino people as they tried to rebuild their shattered lives.
For many, things would never be the same:
Izel Sombilon watched in horror as two of his children were ripped from his arms and swept away by the huge storm waves
Eleven year old Lika Faye was plunged into the sordid underworld of Webcam Child Sex Tourism
For Helen Gable volunteering in the typhoon ravaged area was a chance for her to come to terms with her own personal tragedy.
In memory of those who lost their lives two years ago and remembering the survivors…
It is now two years since Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, created havoc on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. It was the early hours of 8 November, 2013 when she slammed full force into the city of Tacloban with loss of life into the thousands and destruction of homes, schools and livelihoods on a massive scale. It was the most powerful recorded typhoon to hit landfall. Winds gusted up to 315km (195 miles) an hour and were followed by three storm surges up to six metres high causing extensive flooding and destruction.
People may remember the pictures in the news of the ships washed onto the shore, there were seven of them in total and they wiped out a heavily populated coastal area. Most of them are still there, the inhabitants having built homes around them, usually out of the remains left behind. Due to the destruction of the airport and debris scattered far and wide, it took aid agencies several days to bring in any real relief, leaving people desperate, without food and water and often injured.
Four months after this devastating typhoon I set off from my home in North Cyprus for Tacloban. Despite the research I had undertaken, I was not prepared for the sights which greeted me…coconut trees ripped from the ground and lying prostrate or in the case of those still standing, their fronds tattered and shredded. On the drive from the airport, tented city after tented city lined the road, often surrounded by huge puddles from the continuous rains. Survivors reliant on relief aid, their homes and belongings ripped away by the force of Yolanda.
I spent a month volunteering, helping to rebuild schools, feed the children at lunch time – possibly providing the only hot meal they would eat that week and working alongside Filipinos to build houses. It was an amazing experience, humbling and strangely uplifting, as these people who had often lost everything, including family members, showed incredible resilience in rebuilding their lives. The name of my resulting book comes from the banners which were strewn everywhere, with the words Tindog Tacloban – Rise Up Tacloban.
While I was there I was fortunate enough to meet and interview many survivors, aid workers and fellow volunteers and it was their stories which inspired me to write a novel. They had given me their time and their stories. I had so much information and I felt I owed to them to try and raise awareness not only of the initial disaster of something like Yolanda, but also the lasting effects. It is now the second anniversary of this natural disaster and many families are still living in tented cities with no electricity or running water.
Many of the aid organisations in Tacloban ran workshops informing of different aspects surrounding a disaster and I attended one about human trafficking, it was there I learned of Webcam Child Sex Tourism and how prolific it is in the Philippines. I was absolutely horrified to learn that predators use the confusion of a disaster to recruit unwitting children into this form of the sex industry. I was hoping through fiction, to bring these issues to the notice of people and at the same time raise funds for the organisations I was involved with during my time volunteering.
Tindog Tacloban tackles some difficult subjects and at times it isn’t an easy read, but it’s not supposed to be, for these are very real issues. I have tried to refrain from being gratuitous in my descriptions, preferring to leave it to the reader’s imagination what life would be like as a child working as a sex slave. To try and write realistically about something so horrific, I was in touch with the aid organisation Terre des Hommes, who kindly supplied me with copies of their reports regarding this phenomenon, which is far more widespread than we would like to believe.
The individuals in the novel were drawn from the people I met and are a mashup of different characters and their different experiences of the typhoon and Helen, while not autobiographical, does share a number of characteristics with me, although I did not meet a dashing Dutch relief worker when I was there!
I hope TIndog Tacloban makes people think, maybe cause them to take some action whether that’s to help raise awareness of the issues or possibly think about volunteering themselves. It was an incredible experience and one which will remain with me always.
You can watch the television interview with Claire about how Tindog Tacloban came about here.