WARAY ngaRUN: a day for unsung heroes – Philippines

24 July 2014

We all know what happened to Tacloban last November. We saw it. We felt sad about it. And many of us acted upon it, but most have stopped after the hype stopped as well. But when I met the Youth for a United World from Tacloban, they inspired me to continue on.

They are from Tacloban City and neighbouring towns. They are students and young professionals. All of them are survivors of the typhoon, and their lives were changed after Haiyan. They lost their houses, swam in high current water to reach safety, walked for miles to reach their loved ones and even looted from stores in order to feed their family and friends. They were victims, but decided to do something about it.
I met them last May when they presented us with a proposal: to conduct a fun run in Tacloban. I was a little hesitant at first, but what got my attention was the name they thought of: WARAY ngaRUN, a play of words in the Waray Language. WARAY ngaRUN derived from a waray phrase “waray ngaran” which means “nameless”, is a solidarity run event.

It aims to commemorate the unsung heroes and nameless victims of the typhoon, and at the same time, have awareness that more help is needed in typhoon-struck areas. They also want to tell the world that the young people are not indifferent, but can be active proponents of change. The proceeds of the event is for the START AGAIN PROJECT, which is also a project by the young people to help the areas that was devastated by the typhoon, especially in terms of education.
 

What touched me most was that these protagonists were victims themselves. They could easily rely on others for assistance, but instead they decided that they, as victims, can do something. They can help their fellowmen. They can be the support that their fellow Taclobanos were looking for. As Edward, one of the young people from Tacloban said, “We organized the run as our ‘thank you’ to everyone who anonymously stood by us when we had no food, clothing and most of life’s conveniences. It was inevitable to reciprocate; deep inside us we wanted to creatively respond and be a ripple of kindness to our fellow survivors.”

 

Then came the event day. We were surprised that the people from Tacloban were looking forward to the event, such that there were 1,500 registered runners and bikers, from Tacloban, other areas of Leyte and other provinces. There were also foreign runners, mostly coming from the NGOs that have been helping after the typhoon, alongside a group from the U.S. Navy, Marines, Air-force and Army who supported and ran with us. Each had a race bib, that says, “I am running for __________”, in order to offer their effort for someone/something close to their hearts. Many wrote “survivors of typhoon”, or “those who died during the typhoon”, even some writing names of their loved ones who perished. There was a little boy of around 10 years old who wrote “New Beginnings” on his race bib, which many of them wish for. Before the run, a minute of silence was dedicated to the nameless victims who lost their lives. It was a very special moment, as everyone really dedicated this time to pray and remember them.

 

And thus, the run began early in the morning! It had a very joyous atmosphere as professional runners and those who just simply want to try to run (and walk!) along the route enjoyed the exercise. It was intentionally done that the route passed through areas where destruction was still evident, as to make the runners feel that it was really an event for the nameless victims and heroes. As the runners and bikers approach the finish line, a marching band welcomed them along with people cheering them on. It was a very festive atmosphere, wherein everyone simply wanted to have fun and forget about the sorrow they have been feeling for the past months. Some runners even went back to fetch their companions who were left behind. Ladyliz from Tacloban said, “As part of the working team, I was so happy having been able to love the others by giving water, throwing a big smile and cheering almost every runner and biker that passes our water station during the run. I would look at their race bib and read aloud who they’re running/biking for. The most heart-warming for me are those race bibs that says “I’m running/biking for You” which gives hope and reassurance to every person that sees it that they’re not alone in this journey of rising up and starting again.”

 

After the run, a street fest was launched, with different food concessionaires and booths, continuing throughout the night with a solidarity fest, with performances from different Waray artists with various types of music, songs from young people from different parts of the Philippines, and even a performance by two Europeans who have been in Leyte helping out since the typhoon. The night was capped off with the dance floor where everyone had a chance to let their hair down and have fun, not only the organizers but everyone in the audience, youth of Tacloban and NGOs alike. Eg, a college student from the northern part of Leyte said, “The solidarity fest that followed was the perfect way to end the day’s activity, I really felt the unity of everyone. It was exercise for the Body, Heart and Soul!”

 
Indeed, it was a full day of great experiences. Thank you to the Youth for a United World of Tacloban for inspiring us to continue loving the least of our brothers. Young people have proven their stand, and we are ready for action. We have raised a considerable amount to continue funding the projects in public schools around the area. We remembered the heroes during and after the typhoon and helped uplift the spirits of the survivors. Indeed, we can start again.
 
“I understand that the smartest thing to do is start again when we fail. By now it has become an obsession for me, yes, yes, always begin again. I understand that starting again is the most important thing.” – Chiara Lubich

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