Vernon Velasco / MIllennial Universe
TACLOBAN City—I took a lesson from a senior reporter, who said that one should write with the heart and not with the mind. This I recalled as we stood and beckoned at the camera from the anterior deck of a supposed shipwreck that run aground on a storm surge and killed scores at the height of Supertyphoon Yolanda four years ago. Refurbished, the ship in question now looks like wax and has been turned into a memorial, one of the many that stand around these parts of Tacloban City, the ground zero of the disaster that somehow turned the place into a tourist spot.
The journalist was aghast that tourists huddled grinning for a picture around this totem of history. “That is a memorial,” he said through gritted teeth. “How are you supposed to smile in the face of something that commemorates death and destruction?” “Because they’re happy?” I said. “Proud?” I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to point out that at least I didn’t take a happy picture. I did once he was gone.
“Exactly,” he said. “If you are writing this for Tourism [section of the newspaper], your goal is supposedly to reconcile the fact that disaster-hit Tacloban and that tourism is supposed to make people happy.”
“They should be sad you mean?”
The journalist’s face soured, the way you might when you reprimand children for misbehaving at a holy place. The point, he said, was that one should not forget.
We don’t, I said. We don’t forget. Here we stand before this symbol of the human spirit, the essence of it well seared in our memory.
But one should also not forget to smile at the camera.