Monthly Archives: December 2013

Through the Eyes of a Survivor

After a terrifying experience in Leyte, I have arrived in Cebu on the midnight of November 18.

No. I am not a refugee. I did not wish to escape from Leyte – I love my hometown. I really wanted to help in rebuilding our place but my parents wanted me to continue my studies so here I am right now – in Cebu, enjoying petty little things that my family in Leyte lacks – electricity and an abundance of cold drinking water. But we’ll get to that later.


We have been hearing news about a coming typhoon all week so we had our preparations. BUT, for me (I am not speaking for other Leyteños), we (my family) have underestimated the storm.

That night, my youngest sister and I got home late. We attended a church activity just near the village. My mom was in our room, had the air- conditioning on and was watching the latest movies on my father’s laptop. My other sister was in the living room, surfing the net. We were acting like it’s a normal day because for us, it is. We have been through all typhoons of different intensities that we thought that this would just pass quietly like the others.


I woke up at around 7:30 am because of the loud noise that the drops of rain made on our roof and the loud growling of the wind. That was the first time I heard the wind growl so loud – it was like the sound the wind makes when you’re riding an open-air bus. At that time, the typhoon was not at its strongest YET.

I noticed that we didn’t have electricity and my phone can’t connect to any GLOBE and SUN signal. Still, I didn’t mind. By the way, only us girls were at home – my brother has gone back to Mindanao for college and my father was in PASAR. I’m guessing he was assigned to look after their department’s office as the storm comes through. My mother was cooking breakfast in the kitchen while my sisters were at the main door, taking pictures and videos.

At that time, the wind was already very strong. I’ve never seen those tall Christmas-like trees in our compound’s basketball court (we live near it) bend so low before. And I’ve noticed that many families who lived down the lower area of our compound have evacuated in the bowling area (behind the basketball court). Several cars were parked outside. A fire truck was helping the people evacuate.

So I guess this typhoon is something after all. Then BOOM! The wind suddenly rushed on soooo fast! The noise it makes – that unforgettable and fearful noise of air gush – it was as loud as the sound you hear when a plane you’re riding on takes off. And that went on for four hours. It was agonizing.

My sisters went inside the living room because it was starting to get dangerous outside. We only looked through our windows. Every tree we see were almost bowing. GI sheets were flying together with laundry basins and garbage bins. As I turned my gaze towards the basketball court, the metal score place which was taller and heavier than me was not only toppled down but also jumping. YES, the wind was really strong that I can still here it this instance.

Water was starting to come through our glass sliding doors. My sisters and I tried to cover it dry with rags but to no avail – rain water just keeps seeping through. I can see through the sliding doors our mango trees which were planted by my lolo. They were all dangerously bowing towards the house. Seeing that the wind was getting stronger and stronger, and the water was continuing to seep through – my sisters and I started to carry the TV, and family pictures to the master’s bedroom. I then started to open the windows.

My sister tried to stop me saying that the air and rain would wet our living room. But I could not forget what my physics teacher, Mr. Ed Quiñones taught us. The pressure outside was greater than that inside our home and it’s seeping through. If I don’t open up, our roof would fly and we’d all be wet. So I continued to open windows up. The wind together with the rain came through the windows and flooded the living room.  We can all but stare and silently pray. We stayed back in the boys’ room (the girl’s room was already wet and the masters’ bedroom was full-packed).

We ate our lunch in the boys’ room.

Then BANG! Our glass sliding door shattered! Something flew and hit it so hard. A great burst of the fast, chilly wind came through the living room. The wind ravished on and on. For the first time, I doubted the strength and durability of our home. While my mom and I tried to get the water out of the house, I can’t help but mumble. Why is this happening? Why is the water in the living room still deep? Ugh, our house is the only leaking house in the compound…


When the wind had subsided, we went outside to look around.

I was humbled down by the storm. My complaints – they were bratty. My mom, siblings and I were more fortunate than my neighbors. Most of them have dilapidated roofs, and they even are wetter than us. And for the first time, my hometown changed. The once lush green background has become apocalyptic. It was as if a wet wildfire existed and ravished the leaves of the trees. Everywhere I set my eyes on was disaster. I could not believe it. For 19 years of living in that compound, this was the first time a great change occurred in the village and in the town itself.

My sisters and I walked around, trying to take in the bigger picture. It really was devastating – GI sheets were scattered everywhere. There were even some on lamp posts. Speaking of lamp posts, some lamp posts near the village’s beach were cut in half or were dangerously slanting down towards the street. These and a large fallen mango tree have obstructed one of the major streets of our village. The road to the airstrip was worse. Almost all the lamp posts have lied down on the streets and a housing made of light materials cannot be recognized anymore. It has turned into shambles. And yes, most of the houses didn’t have roofs anymore. The trees, their luscious greens were all but lost.




(to be edited/continued…)


The Brighter Experience


These are things I never thought a catastrophe would let me experience. After the calamity, our days would always begin as early as 5:30 in the morning, or as long as the sun has already shined through our windows. By that time, my family and I, as well as my neighbors, are already up and awake busying ourselves for breakfast. Soon after, we would all huddle in the dining table and gulp on hot drinks together with a simple hot meal. My father would later go to work while we do the house chores which usually consist of the laundry, the dishes and the home cleaning. Since our province’s electricity is still under the mend, we do all the chores manually. Doing the laundry is tiring but is fun and refreshing at the same time since I get to dip my hands in cold water during a sunny electric fan or aircon-less day. Cleaning the house isn’t much of a problem either. Because we often don’t stay inside due to the temperature, there’s always less clutter. Cooking is also fun. We often cook traditionally even if we still have LPG because LPG supplies in Leyte were limited. At first, it was really hard to build a fire. My sisters and I often get teary-eyed because most of the smoke goes to our eyes, but through practice and my mom’s patient guidance, we got better. In the afternoon, when the sun’s heat strikes the most, we often stay in the living room with the windows and the sliding doors open. We would turn our battery-operated radio on and listen to the music or news or simply talk about anything under the sun. When the sun is about to set, we would build a fire again. I tell you, the cooking experience outside is really best at night. Numerous fireflies would float about near the almost leafless trees around us. There’s also the bright full moon together with the star-studded evening sky which constantly keeps the night visible. While waiting for the food to cook and for my father to arrive, we would all chat happily once again. Then, we would have a nice and warm candle-lit dinner. After washing the dishes, and listening to music or news updates on the radio, we would finally sleep in the boys’ room, the only room in the house where the cool night breeze passes through, at about 8 PM. Indeed, I never thought that our lives as survivors would be this productive, interesting and positively memorable.