Below is a collection of articles, personal blogs, musings, and poetry. Many have been published locally, domestically in the UK and internationally. Others are written for my own pure satisfaction. Please enjoy this selection.   

  • Dom

Updated: Mar 17, 2018

Reflecting on a trip back to a country that changed my life - the Philippines - and the organization that made it possible.

I left Project Leyte in October 2015 after almost a year both volunteering and working for All Hands Volunteers. It was my first project, and typically – like so many others – my initial prediction of staying a couple months was immediately dumped in favour of extending… and extending some more.

Without sounding too melodramatic that first project truly did alter the course of my life and I just knew I had to go back one day. That time came last week when my girlfriend, Evelyn (who I met on project) and I returned to Tacloban.

We stayed, of course, at Yellow Doors Hostel where Jacques and Trixie, who ran the hostel and the infamous Mobile Bar welcomed us ‘home’. It was fantastic to catch up with this wonderful pair, who helped AHV in so many varying ways during the project’s time.

Revisiting each project and walking the streets of Tacloban brought back a flood of happy memories. It was truly special to wander back into 83-C where we built 42 permanent homes and see each one still standing strong with many, many happy homeowners.

At the likes of the Inte family’s house we were warmly welcomed in and promptly fed dried fish and rice, while when we visited the Macatalad household we were amazed to see the extension they had built. Nancy greeted us with astonishment and gifted us two small homemade purses. Their generous nature had not changed during our absence.

There was further emotion when we visited the home of the elderly Hilario Espino and his wife. He continued to stun us with his amazing English and further tug at our heartstrings when he pulled out his All Hands book on how to care for the house and a list of names of all those who worked there. He reflected to us how without the organization he and his family would not even be here today.

There were a lot of visits we felt compelled to make while in Tacloban and one was of course back to our old base in Utap. Guided by the legendary beer ladies Gina and Ofelia we wandered round the old rooms and corridors reminiscing and laughing together. It seems the building will now become a hostel. All Hands reunion and takeover anyone?

We also drove through Magallanes to visit the Barangay Improvement Program projects. I squeezed in a terrible 3-pointer attempt on the still beautiful basketball court, while the rainbow barangay hall greeted us on our first visit - what a breath-taking sight. Still in good condition stood the chapel and both day care centres, but sadly the playground was overgrown and no longer in use.

Everywhere we went people would happily greet us and recognize my All Hands Project Leyte t-shirt with gratitude. It was clear the organization has left a happy and positive footprint throughout Tacloban.

Leaving Magallanes we headed for Santo Nino where we had previously built transitional homes and a transitional kindergarten. It was also where many of our old local staff lived such as the laundry ladies – Delia and Eufemia – and our driver – Allan. All three were stunned to see us there with Delia’s reaction best as she shouted out our names and ran down the street to us.

Interestingly both projects here met different ends. The transitional homes are no longer in use with everyone having moved into permanent homes. A positive conclusion for residents but it seems sad that these adequate

homes, though they would now need some sprucing up, are not being used at all. The kindergarten is still in use, though it is now cramped in next to the concrete buildings of the school.

Another visit was across the San Juanico Bridge to Calampong in Samar where All Hands responded to Typhoon Ruby and began building boats for this cut off community. Picked up by Rosalie and her beautiful family on their All Hands boat was a fitting moment. Much like Tacloban, wandering round here brought back so many memories as we visited our old base, the boatyard, and saw so many of the beneficiaries. Fortunately, we can report back that practically all the boats built and repaired by AHV are still in use with many delighted owners using them. We were even greeted by one, who ran up to us in the street to thank us for our efforts and for coming back to see them.

Unfortunately, the legendary Jindra who worked so hard on our boat building projects and the evacuation center in Hernani was not there at this time.

However, we were able to meet her back in Tacloban for breakfast and a good catch up. She still retained that winning sense of humor and it was amazing to see her again.

While our journey here was exciting and every reunion was special, there remained a tinge of sadness spliced throughout each visit. Practically every family or local staff member we visited had nothing but positive words for us and messages of gratitude, but each admitted openly that their financial troubles continue.

This wasn’t intended for pity but simply honesty with friends and I must admit it was difficult to accept. All Hands Volunteers has provided refuge, hope, homes, boats and so much, but still the hardships in many ways do continue. This is not a criticism of our wonderful organization but simply a recognition that for our beneficiaries and old staff that their lives remain a battle and that they have seen and witnessed things we can barely begin to imagine.

I am reminded of something my own father wrote about me to All Hands Volunteers in that every parent wishes in many ways for them to be better than themselves. And this too is particularly evident in all the communities we worked in. Understandably, their hope is that their children can make something of themselves to ease their financial concerns and better the world.

Leaving Tacloban again was a hard moment, but I know that so long as I visit the Philippines I will continue to go back there, simply to share in those smiles, listen to people’s stories, reminisce on what was a life changing place for me and show each person there that they have had just as big an impact on us volunteers as we had on them.

Proud, gracious and giving are all words commonly associated with Filipino people and Cordencia M. Tado embodies that. The 74-year-old does not let age stand in her way as she strives to make her community in Magallanes, Tacloban better alongside All Hands Volunteers every day.

Mrs Tado, a resident of Barangay (Filipino terminology for a village) 58, where the Project Leyte team recently completed building a chapel, gave up her time each morning and afternoon six days a week to sweep and tidy the work site for the volunteers and carpenters.

It is her heartfelt way of showing appreciation for the ongoing work of All Hands Volunteers to help rebuild communities almost two years on from Typhoon Haiyan.

“I’m very lucky to have All Hands Volunteers here,” Mrs Tado said.

“It was my job before, I was a cleaning woman. I was a barangay cleaner for 20 years. But now I will happily do it voluntarily. If I was younger I would definitely volunteer with All Hands because I really want to.”

The Barangay Improvements Program, which Mrs Tado has become so attached to, is targeted in Magallanes, a coastal area of Tacloban that was wiped out by Typhoon Haiyan, and places a key emphasis on restoring people’s pride in their communities.

The team organizes clean-up drives in the communities they are helping. This counts as the first stage of each build, before the team then meets with people in the community to identify what they would like to see built. Once it is designed and agreed upon plans are put into action.

With a basketball court, playground, learning center and covered pathway already complete, the chapel is the fifth of eight sites to now finish and Mrs Tado quickly became a known face to all the volunteers and carpenters on site.

“When I wasn’t cleaning, I always stopped by to talk to the volunteers, to check on them, praise them and appreciate them,” she added.

“The residents here see the chapel is really beautiful and know they now have a place to do their mass and other prayer meetings. The barangay has always been very religious. This chapel gets renovated slowly every year by a sponsor family. They fix a part of the chapel bit by bit. But this is a big improvement. It’s perfect beauty.”

It is clear to see Mrs Toda and All Hands Volunteers share the same ethos in helping communities even if it can be portrayed as being on a smaller scale. For the 74-year-old, who moved to Barangay 58 from Manila with her husband in 1973, the involvement of the NGO has already helped to transform attitudes in the community.

“There’s a big difference in the community since I moved here. People didn’t care about each other before,” she added. “Now, especially in the presence of All Hands Volunteers, people have started caring again and also praising the job being done.”

Published by: talkSPORT World Cup 2014

Get the passports ready and start the plane engines, England are officially out of the World Cup.

In truth, Three Lions fans were always hoping for a huge favour from Italy to progress having lost both their group games to the Azzurri and Uruguay.

Statistics were against England as no side had previously achieved the feat at a World Cup and Costa Rica’s shock win against Italy – arguably the biggest in Brazil so far – meant there would be no final day drama in Group D.

That the goal came from Fulham and Premier League outcast Bryan Ruiz against an abject Italian outfit – who had beaten England less than week ago – further rubbed salt into the wounds.

Surprisingly, it means the unfancied Costa Ricans – who beat Uruguay 3-1 in a shock victory in their opening game – have already reached the last 16 and just a point against Roy Hodgson’s men on Tuesday will secure them top spot.

Costa Rica started the game the brighter and carved out the first opportunity as Celso Borges narrowly headed over with Gianluigi Buffon well beaten.

Italy looked a shadow of the side that had beaten England with star man Andrea Pirlo afforded next to no time on the ball – something Roy Hodgson could take note of even if it is a bit too late.

Despite their flaws Cesare Prandelli’s side were always going to get a chance and it fell to England’s conqueror in the first match, Mario Balotelli.

However, the former Manchester City man fluffed his lines, taking the ball down well before lofting it over Keylor Navas and desperately wide of the far post.

The 22-year-old followed that up with a thumping strike that the Costa Rica goalkeeper saved well but from there the Central American side took control of the match.

Christian Bolanos, Ruiz and Oscar Duarte all went close before Joel Campbell was denied a certain penalty by referee Enrique Osses after being bundled over in the box.

Boss Jorge Luis Pinto went bonkers on the sideline but his anger was quelled just minutes later when Ruiz put the Costa Ricans in front on 44 minutes.

In scenes reminiscent of England’s awful defending for both Balotelli and Luis Suarez’s goals in their Italy and Uruguay defeats, Giorgio Chiellini allowed the Fulham striker to peel off his shoulder and plant a firm header in the back of the net via the bar.

Goal line technology confirmed the strike was good and it was richly deserved for the side ranked 28th in the world.

Following the break Costa Rica proceeded to expertly shut out the Italians while happily counter-attacking when they could.

The Azzurri offered nothing to suggest they would find a leveller as they totally ran out of ideas, setting up a straight shoot-out with Uruguay to decide who will join the Ticos in progressing from Group D on Tuesday.

For England it confirms a sorry exit which was always expected after the Uruguay defeat.

© 2019 by Dom Bryant

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