Having flown back to their native hometown a month after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines back in 2013, siblings Jack and Lucia had never imagined to open up a hostel. A year and a half later, the Yellow Doors Hostel is Trip Advisor’s and Lonely Planet’s top travellers choice. Here, we find out how a pinch of chance, a joint penchant for travelling and an ironic twist of fate have pushed the siblings to follow a dream.
Their story begins by actually stumbling on a house. Jack was helping a volunteer find an accommodation with decent prices when he literally walked in an abandoned building. In the aftermath of the typhoon the demand for housing was high, sky-rocketing the prices for accommodations at exorbitant prices. The house inspired Lucia and Jack to rent the place out and fix it up for volunteer friends who were flying to Tacloban but couldn’t afford hotels.
Opening up a hostel was never their initial plan, however, as Lucia and Jack toiled over the restoration of the building, the idea of a hostel naturally followed. ‘One of the challenges Tacloban faced after Yolanda, was the availability of materials and labor, and their respective prices shooting up for months.’ Lack of infrastructure as well as the unavailability of resources led them to extend the restoration for months. ‘We used all our personal savings and had some family members lend us some money for this project.’ At the time recovery was imminent and as Jack rightly said ‘first step towards recovery is action.’
Rebuilding became a communal effort. Everyone in Tacloban helped to restore a certain kind of order, normality and familiarity. Everything from bottles to tires were recycled for all sorts of uses. This type of up-cycled décor can be seen in bits and pieces around the city and is echoed all throughout Yellow Doors Hostel’s interior. Doors are used for tables, suitcases for tables, and old PVC pipes as wall lamps. Everything’s a wild bric-a-brac of found and pre-loved objects, mixing the new with the old. ‘We realised as we were coming up with ideas that we had very different hosteling experiences and the common favourable aspects of those experiences we applied to Yellow Doors Hostel.’
Yellow Doors Hostel opened on November 6, 2014, exactly two days before the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan. The after-math of the typhoon caused an immense influx of workers, volunteers, locals and families into the Leyte region that it ironically created the gumption and market for a hospitality trade. In a way, the natural calamity was instrumental in bringing Jack and Lucia’s dream into action.
‘After Typhoon Haiyan, we accepted that life in Tacloban would never be the same again. We had a yellow main door at our parent’s house. When Haiyan struck, that house became unlivable. The first thing we did, when we moved into an apartment, was paint our doors yellow. This small inconsequential act inspired us to breathe new life into this abandoned building.’
There are still millions displaced from the typhoon and rebuilding the hardest hit regions will take years. What is interesting about Yellow Doors Hostel and the likes of it, is that it rebuilds a community, attracting locals and aid workers, tourists and travellers, artists and children in an environment of complete interaction.
Jack and Lucia show us that it is possible to change along a new Tacloban and to create new versions of pre-Haiyan dreams. ‘Everyone who survived, needs to make most of out this second chance.’ That said, aren’t they scared that business will run low after aid workers and volunteers fly to another disaster risk area? ‘No, we see their leaving as business actually starting.’