As of Friday, officials had tallied more than 5,209 dead in the Philippines in the destruction from Typhoon Haiyan. But while people mourn and try to rebuild their lives in the province of Leyte, the country’s tourism industry is still functioning, a travel writer from Destin reports.
That was the case in Boracay, an island about 200 miles west of Leyte capital, Tacloban, when Malcolm Teasdale visited last week. He arrived Nov. 11, four days after the typhoon made landfall, for a SCUBA diving trip he planned months earlier.
"The information that was coming out of Boracay was sketchy, although there was no communication because the internet connection was down there. So I made the decision go anyway," Teasdale told The Log.
Some areas of Malay, which Teasdale traveled through on his way to Boracay, were still suffering when he drove through.
"It was a bit scary. There were downed telegraph poles and power lines across and streaming down buildings. And it was torrential rain during that time. And it was nighttime driving it. It was pretty horrible, actually," Teasdale said.
Boracay is a world-renowned tourist destination with beaches that have been named some of the best in the world. The tiny island, less than four square miles, dodged a major catastrophe. The center of the storm appeared to be heading right for it, but turned slightly north before hitting the island. Aside from a loss of internet connection and spotty access to power, the island didn't suffer much damage, Teasdale said. The storm didn't keep the tourists from visiting, either.
"I got that sort-of feeling of guilt being there, knowing full well what happened in part of the country," Teasdale said.
There was a sense of helplessness among everyone there, Teasdale said. Many locals tried to get news of their relatives who were in some of the worst-hit areas. With phone lines and internet connection down, and no money for travel to Leyte, many still had no way of knowing if their loved-ones were alive.
"They were staring at their phones most of the day, waiting for the call to come in," Teasdale said.
Teasdale is a travel writer. He moved to Destin from Atlanta in 2010. For more information on Teasdale, visit his website at malcolmjteasdale.com.