November 7,2013
The Day Before Yolanda Strike Us

The forecast was out days before. We were expecting what’s supposedly a strong typhoon. Thursday morning, it started to rain a bit, but I still went out of the house to meet a woman somewhere.
After two hours of waiting for her, she arrived and said her apologies and handed me a bag of dried fish. Something for the typhoon ,I thought to myself. I couldn’t resist it so I took it. I know how delicious dried fish can be on stormy days.

A few minutes after she left, I also started heading home. There was a message for me from Red Cross Officer in charge Jennifer Chico asking me to help them with a rush tarpaulin they would need for the typhoon. I told her I don’t have access anymore since I was already home. I gave her Print Options number instead.

This is how the streets looked like at noon.

At home, everything was still normal. I keep worrying about how big and strong the typhoon is going to be because I have been hearing news about it being the world’s largest storm. I checked on my pantry. Canned goods, check. Stored water, check.  Candles, good.I am ready.  But it has stopped raining and grew very hot. Scorching hot that most of us were really wondering if the weather forecast was right. I thought, I don’t think a super typhoon is coming when it is this hot. At about 4-5 pm, I saw on TV that we were on Signal #4, and yet it was still calm, no strong winds, except for the occasional rain. I checked on my sister where she would be staying because I was already waiting for her since she initially said she’ll spend the night with us. She said she’ll stay at her boyfriends’ house.

Night fell and the anticipation grew. Not that we were excited over a strong typhoon but because we were anxious to have been prepared and yet there was no sign of the Yolanda. I could not really work, so I tried taking the Google Certification exam once more. Yikes! I failed at it again.  So I tuned in to an FM station and wanted to know any update about the typhoon. I also started posting in my Google+ profile and asked for prayers after reading other people’s post about Typhoon Haiyan ( international name for Typhoon Yolanda).

Contrary to word of mouth info that the electricity would be shut down at 12midnight, a lady representative of the Leyte Electric Cooperative  informed the public that there is no truth to this report and would only terminate power supply once the electric posts starts falling. I shared this information on my Facebook wall. 

Outside, nothing can be heard. There was an eerie calm, no sound of the wind that was supposed to come with the storm. “Now this is what they call ‘the calm before the storm’’, I said to myself. Then my helper said to me, “I think I can hear the sound of the sea.”  I told her, the sea is far from where we are. But she was certain she could hear the sea, having been born in Tingib, a coastal town of Samar.

And then the wind came. I can’t exactly recall what time it was but I started texting Sis Angel de Guzman- Ureta, my group leader of the Intercessory Ministry of Feast Alabang. I said, “sis, I’d like to request a prayer for protection for me and my family. It is starting to rain now.” And she texted me back, “Just worship. God is there…”


I started to worship. Lying down. And when I ran out of things to say in my mind, I switched on my cellphone and played worship songs. I switched between playing worship songs to praying because I was trying to save on my cellphone battery. And the only song I was able to sing over and over in my mind was “How Great is Our God” by Hillsong. I prayed a silent prayer, “ Lord, cover me and my family, with the  seal of protection, your Holy Cross.” As I made the sign of the cross, I imagined a huge cross covering the whole building and my family.)

Photo:quotespicture.com

November 8, 2013
Yolanda (Haiyan) Is Here

I didn’t get any sleep. At around 2-3 am, the power went out. I started to check on our door and pushed some furniture to keep it from being opened in case the wind would be very strong. I also double checked if the windows were sealed. In my bedroom where my kids were, I tried to seal it with a sleeping mat because the wind was strong it was seeping through the windows. I was afraid the jalousies will break.

And then more rain came. I forgot to secure the steel gate that was protecting our door, so it was making a very loud banging noise.  Around 4 am, me and my helper moved the furnitures away from the window, since water was starting to seep into the spaces of the window sill. There already was a big puddle of water in my living room. My kids were starting to get wet also from the rain spraying so I tried to cover all the windows with some bedsheets to prevent the water from directly spraying the sleeping kids.

About 6 am, the noise outside grew louder. And water was already shooting through the windows. The whole living room was already showering with water and I was worried the rooftop was leaking. I was worried the rooftop won’t hold much water, it might collapse so I asked my helper to pack some clothes just in case.  I was still texting with my sister Arianne during these time as she was checking in on us. Also, my children’s dad was also checking in on us. Her last text was, “it’s a good thing you still have signal. Smart tower is already down.” That was the last text I received, I couldn’t reply anymore.

By 7 am, in my bedroom, the wind already blew off my shield against the water and the pressure was so strong I was afraid the windows would break. So I evacuated my kids into the middle room with only one window. I covered the window with a bedsheet again. Good thing there was a tall building beside us, Accudata. Later on, we heard glass shatter. We peeked through the windows and we could see that the glass wall of Accudata was broken.  And then we looked down below and saw that there was a flood that was about waist-high. We then went to the living room and I tried to record everything through the window sill, we also saw the water was already starting to rise up.

I went back to the room with my children as Matt was starting to cry because of the loud noises outside. I told them to stay under the blankets and gave them something to eat while they were under the blankets. Water was also starting to splash inside the middle room so the blankets kept them dry. The door to the bedroom was hard to open. The pressure was just too much.  My daughter Gabrielle said that it was like being in an airplane. Their ears started to ache and I just told them to chew on some biscuit. I agreed because I also felt the pressure in my ears. Gabrielle did a good job entertaining her siblings under the blankets by telling them stories.

And then my helper Melanie said, “It’s like we are in the sea. I can see waves below.” I peeked again and true enough the water below was ocean-like. But I had no idea of what was happening outside on the main road.

I could hear people shouting, some for help, others were inaudible. I was frantically saying a prayer. And I was talking to God. I said, “God, you said that you will never once again destroy the world with water. Please hold on to your promise.” I continued praying, at the same time trying to check on the kids. Good thing the jalousies didn’t break but just fell off .The other room was already spilling water from outside, my mattresses were all soiled. Good thing I was able to keep my laptop in my bag.

After what seemed like eternity, the wind stopped. And the sky cleared a bit. We went outside to check the damages. I could see my neighbors roofs, partially or totally damaged. I went to the rooftop to have a clearer view, but all I could see were coconut trees partially bent, houses without roofs and buildings with shattered glass walls.

Inside our unit was a total mess. Leaves strewn all over the place, the walls, the ceiling and on the floor. It looked like it was part ot the wall’s design. The wind inside our unit was everywhere. It kept turning in circles like a tornado inside our house. The wind kept changing direction.

I could only see through the gap from the corner that some people were rushing and that there were some that were carrying something. I saw somebody pushing a wheelbarrow with a body in it. I hear my neighbor said that there are dead people near People’s Center. I could not fully comprehend why would there be dead people.

When I went down, the Brgy. Chairman’s wife asked how we were and said, “You won’t see or feel what just hit us if you stay up there. Go out into the corner and see the main road.” When we finally went there, only then it became clear to me.

I saw the walls of San Fernando Elementary School all broken down. There were piles and piles of debris everywhere.  The street was muddy. People were shocked, some were walking with stoic faces. Ocassionally, one or two person crying would walk past us.  Still, I could not fully digest what was happening. I saw Ted Failon, a local news anchor walk past us and people were talking to him. Everyone was confused, shocked.

After a couple of hours, my sister Arianne arrived with his boyfriend and a friend. They looked so exhausted. When Arianne entered the house, that’s when she said, “I thought I was going to die.”

Video from ABSCBN News Youtube Account

To be continued...

Please watch out for the rest of the story. I can't think of how to shorten it, because each detail is very important and will remain forever in our minds and hearts.

Keeping the faith,






I am alive. 

Yes, it feels so good to be alive.

I am a survivor of the worst and strongest typhoon ever to hit land in this lifetime, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

I survived the typhoon, or better yet, she spared me and my family from her deadly wrath.

For whatever reason, I don’t know. But one thing’s for sure, I have a story to tell my grandchildren when I grow old.




And then time stood still. It was as if the world stopped turning and allowed us more time to find our lost loved ones and grieve for those who died. We lost track of time. It was as if every day was just the same, a nightmare that we all wanted to wake up from. We didn’t know what time of the day it was, what day of the week. All we did was to number the days and series of events as Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and so on.

It was a gloomy day for all of us. Gloomier were the faces of the people, us, who were struggling to come to terms with what hit us.

Photo: elysplanet.com


There was no electricity, no signal, no means of communication, the whole province of Leyte was just isolated. And we never felt more alone when we could not feel the help that was supposedly given to us immediately.

Normally, when forecast of a typhoon comes out, we would, by habit, go on a shopping spree for groceries and stock up on our pantries. Normally, you would stock up only what’s going to last for a couple of days or for a week.

In my case, I didn’t stock up on food much, so I was able to prepare 2-3 days worth of food because I know, establishments would be open by then.

But this wasn’t the case. What we expected didn’t happen and what we didn’t expect, happened. And as the series of events unfolded, every Waray-waray (Leyteno and Samareno) never knew that in a blink of an eye, our whole lives would change forever.

We could never fully prepare for something, a catastrophe, a typhoon as powerful as this. We can never say that we were fully prepared for something that we haven’t experienced before. Not in this lifetime, at least. No amount of preparation could have prevented loss of lives.
“Storms draw something out of us that calm seas don’t.”
- Bill Hybels

Photo: rappler.com

Difficult times like this can make or break a person’s character. Survival of the fittest was apparent and doing bad was easier than doing what was right, just to protect the welfare of the family. In times like this, is there really a right or wrong way to do things? I think that many people thought that looting was the only way to fill up hungry stomachs.

I became a victim of bullying by a snobbish elitist woman and was called stupid because I couldn’t lift a soiled box of soiled paper during the gun-grabbing/shooting incident between military men and inmates during a jail break at the City Hall. But I chose to forgive her because she was just being herself. This is one of those instances that however you try to mask poor character, it will always show during life and death situations.

People were pushed to their limits. We showed courage we didn’t know we had. We also showed evil we didn’t know was inside us. 

We each have our own story of survival. Other people’s suffering and experiences may be more than what me and my family dealt with, but this is our story. A story of how we cheated death, a story of how God has protected me and spared me of this tragedy, not only once but twice.

Photo: au.ibtimes.com
And yet, this is not just about me or my family. This is a story about every Leyteño, of courage, love, compassion and generosity. Every Leyteno’s story is a story of triumph, of how we made nations set aside their differences towards a common goal. To help.

This is humanity at its finest moment. And we are proud to be a part of world history when at very rare moments like this, citizens of the world became heroes in their own ways.

Photo: Philstar.com


We may have lost some of our dear friends, some family members, but the spirit of volunteerism and humanity did not die with them. And in the end, it all boils down to realizing what matters most in life.

I left everything in Tacloban. 

I only took what I treasure and needed. My family. I didn’t have qualms or second thoughts about leaving the place I love, after all, I had with me everything I needed. My family. And I know, in the next months to come, Leyte will rise again.

To be continued…

Please watch out for my next posts as I will give a detailed account of how I and some of our friends survived. I will write everything my memory can recall.

P.S.

I have taken many pictures, but unfortunately my memory card become corrupted. Maybe it's one way of telling me to move on. With or without pictures, the memories of this tragedy are still alive in my mind.


In loving memory of a friend and her family, Jeanberly Ross Macato, who died in the storm surge. I was honored to be a part of her new set of friends. Thank you for the happy times we shared, lunch at Zansibar, talks over colas and chips, your smile that I won't forget. Thank you for treating me the same way you treated your old friends. Thank you for inviting me to your wedding last September 12, 2013. I've never seen you so happy.  Thank you for the laughter and fun at your bridal shower.


Rest in peace Candy, I love you. You will be missed.

Rest in peace Rosario Macato, Jeanberly Ross Macato and John Raymond Macato.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon them.





I wrote a post about her bridal shower here.

Of Friends and Masks and Shower Bloops






Keeping the faith that better days are coming,



Photo: jobspapa.com


It's 1243 am and that boy next door has been crying for almost an hour. And then the cries just went louder, and I can hear the mother shouting, "Inaano ka? Inaano ka?" ("What's with you?") But the boy kept crying saying "ayoko, ayoko!" ("No. No. I don't want to!") I went near their door and I can hear some slapping. I was trembling but I knocked on their door so hard. I wanted to tell them to lower their voice down, my kids are sleeping. I heard a man's voice, he said, "may tao, may tao" ("Someone's at the door"). The woman said,"diri ako, di ako mag aabre." ("No, I won't open the door.")

So, I went back inside our unit. Now, it's quiet, but I wonder if the boy went to sleep crying, or he's just inside their room still enduring whatever it is he went through earlier.

I don't know what happened but no mother in her right mind can endure hearing her child cry in the middle of the night for hours. Won't you just give in to whatever your child wants just for the sake of some peace and quiet in the neighborhood? And how can a mother not send her child to school when school's just across the street? And for free. I may have been crazy, but she's crazier than me.

What to do? Some told me to leave them alone, but if you live next door to them and you hear the boy shout at his mom "p*a ka" (Wh*re!) , maybe she deserves it, but there's still something wrong how the boy is raised.

Their door is closed all the time, and the windows too. She don't open up to people knocking on their door, whether it's a mail or the electric bill being delivered. Why? Is she hiding something? She comes out of their unit with the boy to buy supplies, and that's the only time I see their door opened. Oh, and sometimes when the woman's boyfriend, who by the way looks like a crack addict. When he does come, that's the time our neighborhood's peace is disturbed. Either the two of them would shout and try to kill  each other, or the boy ends up crying just like what happened earlier.

I also want to live in peace, me and my kids, but sometimes, you really can't hide from your conscience. Just like what I said to the police when I first called for help because of a "suspected domestic violence" activity next door,  I don't care if they kill each other, I'm just concerned about the kid. The police even joked about it and said, maybe that's how they have sex. And I said, "so , what about the kid? They let him watch?"

Yes, that boy has witnessed how those two would try to strangle each other.

There may be so many reasons for how that mother treats and raise her child, but the most obvious one is mental problems. She should seek help. I pity the boy so much and I don't know how much I can take of this.

Maybe I am over reacting, but a child's cry can pierce through the deepest parts of anybody's heart. More so because I have kids of my own. True that sometimes when children gets irritating and annoying especially when they have tantrums, we lose our cool. But a disciplinary action is different from depriving a child's right to play and study.

I pray that the boy next door finds someone whom he can feel love. I pray that he grows up to be a good person in spite of everything he's going through. I pray that someone rescue him and put him in a nice place where he can run and play with other kids. I pray that he'll be able to go to school and learn what every boy needs to learn. I pray that the sun plays on his face and he can breathe in fresh air every day. I pray that he be free from the harsh situation his parents has brought him in.

Lastly, I pray that God hears and listen to the boy's cries and give him all his little heart's desires.

Photo: shutterstock.com

This is how I would like to see him one day, exploring under the sun.

Keeping the faith,

Mei


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