On walk to Tacloban Airport, I learned the smell of death

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By Mikhaela De Leon, World Vision

Devastation from typhoon
Devastation from typhoon

I wrote this in my diary while I was waiting to board the C-130 plane bound for Manila from Tacloban, hindi pa nga lang tapos:

“I learned the smell of death.

The stench of at least 1,000 dead bodies hung in the air as I took the longest and most depressing walk of my life. I will never forget that trip to the Tacloban Airport – it was noontime, and the air already humid and stale, a far cry from the billowing winds of two days prior.

A jeepney driver ahead told us to cover our noses as we passed, for the air reeked of the dead.

“Where are the bodies?” I asked him, as I didn’t see any.

“There in the rubbles, buried in those collapsed houses. Hundreds of them,” he said.

I cringed. It didn’t take long before I actually saw them.

In the streets lined up dead bodies — bloated and stiff, their bodies twisted in awkward poses. I had never once imagined myself seeing such a ghastly scene: human corpses and dead animals lying side by side along the highway as though on exhibit.

“Yan ang nangyayari sa matitigas ang ulo. Ayaw kasi mag-evacuate kahit sinabihan na.”[They were stubborn. They were told to evacuate but they didn’t listen], I heard someone say.

I looked away. It felt disrespectful to stare. I walked on. I was only thinking one thing: home.”