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Before and after: Typhoon's raw reality gives clarity to survivors

Published: Saturday, Nov. 23 2013 5:50 p.m. MST

Food and supplies are unloaded from a military transport plane in Tacloban, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, following a typhoon in the Philippines. Passengers were later loaded and allowed to ride to Cebu.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Editor's note: Deseret News journalist Jesse Hyde and photojournalist Ravell Call have spent the past week reporting from the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. This is their final report from the scene.

TACLOBAN, Philippines — In the darkness, Jairus Perez drives, the rain pattering his windshield, the headlights scanning the road before him. Downed power lines and fallen trees block the way. Every few feet, he gets out and hacks through the branches with a machete to clear the highway. And then he drives on.

He hates getting out, not just because of the rain, or the cool chill that passes on his skin, but also for the smell. It is unnatural, and monstrous, the stink of death around him. He can’t decide what is worse, the stench, or the bloated bodies daylight will reveal.

The phones aren’t working, and that’s why he’s here. For two days, he has heard nothing from the people of Ormoc and Tacloban and Palo. He imagines the thousands of people on Leyte and Samar, the two islands hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan, seeking refuge in the more than 20 chapels here, huddled together without electricity, shivering in the cold, praying that help will arrive.

On this night, Jairus Perez is all the hope they’ve got.

Calm before the storm

The day before the storm, Ruby Rosales wakes an hour or two before dawn, as she does every morning, to cook for the day. An English teacher at the high school, she has to leave the house before seven, drop off her nine-year-old son at school, and then get to work before her first class.

She lives with her extended family in a compound of sorts, her father in one small house next to hers, her sister and her brother-in-law in another, the property fenced in by a concrete wall. She likes this arrangement, likes how close it makes her feel to her family. She can’t imagine living apart from her father.

He is 75-years-old, his hands gnarled with age, his eyes watery, his hair white and thinning. And yet, there is still a sense of wonder in his eyes, a joy in his face every time he smiles, which is often.

As a child, she watched him work, painting beautiful landscapes of the fishing villages around their city: the rice paddies and mangrove swamps, the hay fields and palm trees. He still paints, but he has a heart condition and walks gingerly, as if his joints are creaking hinges, and he can no longer support himself financially. She doesn’t mind taking care of him. In fact, she considers it an honor.

As she readies breakfast, her husband sleeps, and she wonders if he’ll be late to class again. He grew up not far from here, shooting birds with slingshots, fishing down by the river, playing a game similar to marbles with bottle caps for money.

He had once grown his hair long, joined a revolutionary movement in college, dropped out and stopped going to church. He had been both wild and idealistic, and flashes of that young man still appear from time to time. But he changed after they met, became more solid and dependable.

Now he wears his hair short, teaches algebra at the junior high, and goes to church every Sunday in a white shirt and tie. At night he studies for law school. He wants to send his son to private school, and a teacher’s salary won’t cut it.

This is Ruby Rosales life before the storm, the middle link between three generations. Family, she says, matters most to her.

When she leaves her home that day, nothing in the sky looks foreboding. She has little reason to think life as she knows it is about to change.

Destruction and desperation

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