Report from the front line — helping the victims of Typhoon Haiyan


November 11 – Our FFL team started out for Leyte in the morning. We left our base camp at around 8am to travel some 1500 km Abuyog, Leyte. We drove to Legazpi city in the Albay province.

November 12 – We continued driving, carrying rice, dahl and vegetables, diesel and fresh water in preparation of the challenging situation ahead of us.

We then reached the port in Matnog, Sorsogon at around 11:00 pm only to be greeted by a huge line of motorists and passengers all waiting to catch the boat. All of them had been stranded for days because of the typhoon. Luckily, we managed to get into the priority lists to board the boat.

November 13 – At 1:00am we finally boarded the ship. We continued our journey until we reached Catbalogan city in Samar, about 100km away from Tacloban — ground zero for emergency relief. Some of us slept inside the vehicle while others pitched tents on the sidewalk.

The following day we continued to Leyte province, reaching the San Juanico bridge that connects the Samar and Leyte island at around 11:30am. As we got closer, we all watched with mouths agape at the devastation of the typhoon — there were scattered debris everywhere, destroyed houses blocking the road and dead bodies still lying on the sidewalks. A pungent smell of death and sadness dominated the air. The faces of agony greeted us in the streets as people wandered around here and there still in a state of total shock. Many were holding placards and shouting “We need food, we need water, we need help“. We proceeded further until we reached the town of Abuyog around lunchtime.

November 14 – we started the distribution of prasadam (sanctified vegan meals) at the Brgy.Sto Nino Evacuation Centre serving more than 500 plates of dahl and rice.

November 15 – In the morning we drove around the town of Abuyog, visiting other evacuation centers and distributed more than 1000 plates of prasadam. Then in the afternoon, at Brgy.Sta Fe, Abuyog we distributed another 1200 plates.

November 16 – Our Food for Life volunteers served more than 1000 plates of hot vegan meals in Brgy. Nalibunan, Abuyog and surrounding areas. In the afternoon, we served another 800 people in Brgy. Blvd, Abuyog.

November 17 – Early in the morning, the FFL team left for Brgy. Union in the town of Mayorga and distributed around 350 plates of prasadam. We then drive to Brgy.San Jose in Dulag and served another 500 people. In San Roque, Tolosa the volunteers served more than 400 people in Salvacion, Dulag. In the afternoon, we served another 500 people in Brgy.Kikek in Abuyog.

November 18 – Around 1 am we started cutting vegetables to cook 3 large pots of rice and 5 large pots of dahl with bean thread noodles and vegetables. After the cooking was complete, we left our camp at 7am and drive to Tacloban city — the heart of the disaster! On the way to the centre of the city we saw the total wrath of Haiyan in full living colour — a total destruction of shopping malls, office buildings, houses, trees, electrical poles, busstops — almost nothing was left in the city!

Our first stop was the evacuation centre located inside  the Tacloban city convention centre, where we served more than 500 people a hot vegan breakfast. We then drove to another evacuation site at the National Science High School and distributed another 500 plates of food, before arriving at the Tacloban public market, which now looks like a ghetto, consisting of abandoned buildings, rubbish strewn everywhere and a deathly silence. We served about 100 people. On our return to our camp, we passed the towns of Palo and Brgy. San Joaquin and distributed another 600 plates of food.

November 19 – Food for Life visited Sta Cruz, Brgy.Luna and Zone 1 and served just over 800 plates of food. We drove as far as Brgy.Batug in Dulag and passed out another 200 plates and then another 200 plates in Cabacungan, Dulag. In the afternoon, we served around 500 people in Abuyog.

November 20 – The volunteers served around 250 plates of pancit bihon and rice in the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Abuyog. The town Mayor of Abuyog offered a partly damaged auditorium to use as our camp site. We pitched our tents inside and set up our makeshift kitchen. There was no electricity, no water and no mobile network signal in the area. We had to fetch water outside and cook and prepare the food under candle light, while battling the wrath of hundreds of mosquitoes and waterlogged floors. We experienced many sleepless nights in Leyte. Nonetheless, the FFL volunteers are very happy because they genuinely love what they are doing. I am so encouraged by everyone’s spirit.

We are very thankful to Food for Life Global and their many donors and supporters for giving us this chance to be engaged in this noble service. Sometimes while distributing our prasadam, we also sing the holy names to the people here and that gladdens their hearts…Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.

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Paul Turner

Paul Turner

Paul Turner co-founded Food for Life Global in 1995. He is a former monk, a veteran of the World Bank, entrepreneur, holistic life coach, vegan chef, and author of 6 books, including, FOOD YOGA, 7 maxims for soul happiness.

MR. Turner has traveled to 72 countries over the last 35 years helping to establish Food for Life projects, train volunteers, and document their success.

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