Living With the Dead / by John Javellana

The rotting stench of an estimated 30 corpses have prevented the residents of Barangay 83 in San Jose, Tacloban from properly rebuilding their homes as they have been fearing for their health - both physically and mentally.

The children used to swim at this spot. It used to be a place where they would just jump off the pier and into the crystal clear waters to cool themselves off from the heat of the sun.

Now they have become “tour guides” of death bringing us to the spots where the dead lay.

“A skull sir, would you like to see a the skull of a baby that has decomposed?” The photographer in me was eager to the possibility of a strong image. The human in me was shocked at how casually the words rolled off his tounge of a young boy barely past puberty. 

The residents of Barangay 83 in San Jose, Tacloban have been trying to bring this matter to attention because they just want to start rebuilding again. But the stench of the estimated 30 decomposing bodies have prevented them from doing so. It has become unbearable to the point that they fear for their health both physically and mentally. They have begged SOCO (spell out the acronyms- people won’t know who SOCO is) and the authorities they have seen picking up cadavers during clean-up operations. The only answer they got was that it was the coast guard’s duty to retrieve the bodies that were ashore. Up until today they have been living with the stench and the sight. 

What personally bothers me is how normal and casual it is for the children. When I asked if it affected them emotionally, a boy timidly answered that he sees the dead just before he sleeps and gets nightmares whenever he goes back. He answered this with such shyness that it seemed as if he didn’t felt like he had the right to be affected by these things.

This is still the reality here.  And this is why I plead for the appropriate authorities to take action.