Two years before Tacloban even became a Highly Urbanized City (“elite” classification of a city in the Philippines) in 2008, the Tacloban City Convention Center was officially opened.
Locals who had never been outside Tacloban in 2006 had been beyond amazed. It was unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.
It had been such a source of pride for most of us (there were some naysayers who were saying it was a waste of money and that it would easily fall apart) and was (and still is) the second-largest indoor arena in Eastern Visayas. Of course we’ve had big events in Tacloban before 2006. But holding them in Astrodome was just different. It was our way of saying to the bigger cities that we could do what they had been doing. It’s become the venue of so many events from basketball games to pageants to concerts to conventions to religious gatherings. It could seat 4,500 people inside and also rents out spaces to restaurants and organizations. There’s an open field outside the dome that would host the occasional carnival every June. Astrodome was all that to us. In 2013, it became so much more and those who had said Astrodome wouldn’t stand the test of time were proven wrong. When super-typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan hit Tacloban, Astrodome became shelter to almost 8,000 people who had lost their homes.
In 2015, a memorial was constructed outside Astrodome in honor of the people who had lost their lives in the typhoon. A year later, a playground for the future generation was built by the City Government in partnership with World Vision Philippines.
Astrodome is a representation of what Taclobanons are; resilient and respectful. And even while we remember, we also celebrate life and look forward to what lies ahead of us. Now I say this as a dreamer and a survivor who has witnessed both the best and the worst of times in Astrodome: the history of Tacloban would’ve turned out differently if this place had never existed.