Samar

Can-Avid, Eastern Samar: A throwback to pre-Haiyan/Yolanda days

Back in 2009, I got to cover a surfing competition held in Can-Avid, Eastern Samar. It was the first surfing competition in Can-Avid, an undiscovered surf spot in Samar, which is known for its countless surf destinations.

Before visiting the province,  I knew only two things about Samar: First, that Ferdinand Magellan landed in Homonhon Island in the town of Guiuan on March 16, 1521; and second, that it was connected to Leyte via the San Juanico Bridge, the country’s longest bridge which I really looked forward to see. It did not cross my mind that when I finally made my way across the bridge, I would be transported into an entirely different world. From bustling Tacloban City with its seaside McDonald’s and busy streets and markets, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the sleepy fishing region of Samar, whose residents still practice the simplest ways of living.

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Unlike the municipalities of Guiuan and Borongan, both popular surf spots, Can-Avid is a relatively unknown part of Eastern Samar. The road going there is long and winding, with zigzags that caused me and my friends to constantly bump against each other at every sharp turn.

What came at the end of the rocky three-hour road trip, however, was definitely worth the initial discomfort: a seemingly endless stretch of sandy beach with a shoreline spanning 3.6 kilometers—just a little shorter than Boracay’s Stations 1 to 3. It was a quieter Boracay, equally breathtaking but without all the commercial fuss.

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The resort where we stayed faced the sea, near the rift where the Ulot River meets the Pacific Ocean. Early risers are afforded a great view of the sun rising against the ocean—I managed to catch the sunrise during a failed boat ride to Pasig Island (which I will only relive over a bucket of ice cold beer). Sunsets, on the other hand, are best seen when taking a leisurely afternoon cruise by the Ulot river that runs across Northern and Eastern Samar.

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Here, flocks of migratory birds flying back to lush patches of mangroves are common everyday sightings for the locals.

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My favorite moment of the trip came while we were waiting for the waves to roll in for the competition.

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To my left, away from all the noise and action of the surf competition, I saw this little trio playing by the quieter side of the beach.

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Watching them somehow brought me a sense of peace. I couldn’t resist taking their photos. Every time I look at this series of shots, I feel transported back to this moment of utmost calm.

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Today, however, the photos do not bring me the solace I seek.

I don’t know what became of Can-Avid after Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda flattened most of Central Philippines, but I really hope the damage to this sleepy town is not that extensive..

When I turned on my TV yesterday, sleep still in my eyes, I woke up to the images of towns and cities reduced to piles of debris, monstrous winds powerful enough to uproot trees and blow away houses, corpses lying on the road unattended, and countless Filipinos crying over lost loved ones and missing family members. Leyte and Samar were among the provinces severely damaged, and I feel deeply saddened by the devastation the storm has caused. It has been a truly trying time for the country.

Amid the destruction, however, have been moments of inspiration. For one, the support from the international community has been overwhelming—more than 20 countries have offered assistance and countless private sector and non-government organizations are currently in the middle of rescue and relief operations. Looking through my newsfeed on Facebook and Twitter, people are mobilizing efforts to donate and transport relief goods and offering different forms of support. I have never felt the Filipino bayanihan spirit this alive.

It warms my heart to see all the support pouring in from both the local and international community—especially from people and places one least expects. It shows that even under especially under such dire circumstances, there really is nothing greater, more powerful and transformative than human kindness. <3

Do check out cnn.com/impact for a list of vetted Typhoon Haiyan relief organizations. Any help is greatly appreciated. 

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8 comments

  1. I got emotional reading this and seeing your pictures pre-Haiyan. Especially the ones of the children playing in the water. It breaks my heart to think of those children who have lost their homes and, much worse, their parents or other family members. I hope you and your family have been safe throughout this ordeal, Tricia. I’m praying for all those affected by the typhoon and will definitely be making a donation (I was leaning towards Red Cross but if you know of an organization that’s more effective please let me know).

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    1. Fortunately, Haiyan was barely felt in Manila where I live. It barely rained here, but I did wake up to the sound of the wind howling outside my window. It was stronger wind than usual, but nothing as horrifying as what I saw in the news. I’m also lucky most of my family live in Southern Philippines so they were unharmed. It’s just heartbreaking to read the status updates of some people in my Facebook feed whose relatives are still missing in Leyte and Samar. Even Coron, which I had posted about in earlier entries, wasn’t spared by Haiyan, and this region usually enjoys typhoon-free weather. I heard that one the town’s most popular landmarks—the cross located on top of Mt. Tapyas—was blown away by Haiyan’s winds. It’s just terrible what’s happening in the affected areas, and no communication in most of these places apparently so it’s been a waiting game for most people.

      With regard to your inquiry re Red Cross, so far it’s been among the most active organizations I’m observing so far, so your donation will definitely go directly to relief efforts. World Vision, an organization that advocates children’s welfare, is also a good organization to send donations to. Thank you in advance for your support—I’m sure I speak for the Filipinos in the affected areas when I say it is greatly appreciated. :)

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      1. I’m relieved to hear that you and your family were safe during the typhoon. It must be so hard for people waiting to hear if their loved ones are safe when there’s no communication. There’s a good number of Filipino-Americans living here in Southern CA and a few of them have been on the news. They always hold up pictures of their relatives in the Philippines and ask if anyone has heard whether or not they are safe. It’s so hard to watch, hopefully communication will improve in the coming days. Thanks for recommending the Red Cross, I made a modest contribution to them earlier today. I really wish I could give more, I hope the money will be able to help those in the most affected areas.

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