Days of Terror: The Onslaught

Sunday, November 24, 2013

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.)

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,

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