I have drafted this post a week after I left Tacloban for Manila post-Haiyan. But I just didn’t really had the urgency to post this, maybe I was just waiting for the right time. I realized, this is the perfect time to post this, as this is about finding a purpose or meaning to our lives at times when the world where we live in is not in its natural state. May you find your life’s purpose and live it to the fullest.

Photo: gapyearblog.info

Someone said I have an amazing spirit. *cough* *cough*, and it's only because I chose to also see the other side of every event. Well,it's not me who said it. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. I take it as a compliment. But what I do know is that it takes a lot of effort to stay positive in a negative situation. Being pessimist is not an option for me during these times. If I do become this type of person, I can’t imagine how my children would get through a situation like this. I would never be able to bring the rest of my family back up on our feet.

But, it’s not just me. There are many others who have shown their amazing spirit through the selfless acts they do.

 Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) caught us by surprise. Nobody knew it would bring that much destruction. With destruction, all the negativities in the world surfaced. And when we didn’t get the support we should have received from whoever was responsible, people went into a “survival of the fittest” mode. And from there, people were forced to show their negative character. It was indeed a big challenge to remain positive, choosing good over evil, while your stomach growls in hunger, shiver from the cold and become anxious on dark nights.

Photo: butler.edu

But the destruction that the typhoon brought to our beloved Eastern Visayas, more than many people were brought to finding their purposes. From the ruins, heroes and heroines have risen with their   purposes and set out on a common goal, to help those affected. 

I have seen people I know and how they took the matter of helping out on their own or through their affiliations, in the best way they know how. I have witnessed ordinary people become heroes in the eyes of their families and friends. People who on their own, in a survival mode, along with adrenaline rush, became experts in life-saving, of their own, of the people they love and even to strangers.

Photo: trust.org

This catastrophe also made us realize which things are important to us. At the height of the typhoon, we were made to choose which things are worth saving. I believe, all of us chose to save our family over  possessions. Some were not so lucky, they did not even had the time to choose. Their loved ones were swept away by the surge right before their very eyes, faster than they could think.

We may have lost possessions, family members, friends and homes, but we did not lose hope in our hearts. It may have broken up families, ironically, it also brought families together. One of the first things we did after the typhoon was to look for family members. We traveled, literally walked for miles and miles in search of surviving family members. Estranged husbands and wives put aside differences for the safety of their children. Siblings separated for years searched for one another. Family reunions were common. Sad, that it had to happen in a very difficult and different circumstance.

Photo: Mabelle Lim
Looting from the remnants of an establishment
We could have not prevented the worst from happening, the looting, the chaos and the pandemonium. But more than that, kindness and generosity overwhelmed the place. Even if our very own national government has been incompetent and incapable of helping us victims, help from ordinary people has been overwhelming.
The most notable of all, countries all over the world have shown their support for our country. They have chosen to set aside their differences, and worked together towards a common goal, to help the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Citizens of the world cried with us and offered whatever they had in their homes and chose to donate it to help the affected.

Photo: Tindog Waray Help for Haiyan/Yolanda Philippine Typhoon Victims
Onset are 2 of my sisters, nephew and niece, sister's in-laws. Photo taken after distribution of noche buena packages to
residents/survivors in Magay, Tanauan.

I realized, that if we people could be as generous as we are now, and being initiative the way we are living out our purposes and leading the way to help, why did we have to wait for a giant catastrophe to be of service to humanity?

Yes, it is true that Yolanda (Haiyan) brought us to our knees. We need to be down on our knees once more to be able to rise again. This time, not because of anguish, but of humility and acknowledgement that there is a God.

I am deeply grateful to all those who have helped me and my family and everything they offered us. I am thankful for every clothing, every centavo, every canned good , every bottle of water, every concern and prayer offered to us.

Likewise, I am truly grateful to all the organizations, the nations, the charitable institutions, volunteers and individuals who have answered to our pleas, our cries and extended help and devoted not only their time, but strength, sweat and blood as well.

Photo: us.tzuchi.org

I know that at some point, they not only have helped but have found a certain purpose for their lives too.
I honor the men and women who have taken up arms against hopelessness, they that who have found their purposes among the ruins. Only a great love for others can make an ordinary man a hero. But nevertheless, we each has the spirit of a hero inside us, because, the human spirit is loving, kind and generous by nature. All it takes is one life-changing moment.
Merry Christmas!

Keeping the faith,


“Sometimes, the Lord just takes blessed people because they've filled their purpose early. Everyone plays their own song. They sing their story to the world and leave behind a melody of memories. Sometimes... their song is cut short and ends too early. But that doesn't mean their music was any less sweet or that they left any less of an impression.” 

Today marks an important event in the lives of every Taclobanon, we are commemorating the 40th day of mourning for all those who perished in the world’s strongest typhoon, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). In our own dialect, we call it "pakwarenta" or “patapos” meaning, the end of mourning for our dear departed loved ones.

On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) robbed us of our houses, businesses and work. But most of all, it robbed us of the lives of loved ones and friends. On that fateful day, an estimated 6,000 people died from the surge, injuring a lot and some 1,000 more people missing. We will never forget that day.

Earlier today, people in Tacloban simultaneously lit candles from San Jose Airport to Anibong. We prayed for the eternal repose of our friends and loved-ones who did not escape the wrath of Yolanda (Haiyan).

Jeanberly Ross Macato, you are deeply missed.
Photo taken during her bridal shower.

I myself lost some dear friends and I would like to honor them here in this blog. I pray for the eternal repose of their souls and the only consolation we have is the thought that they are in a happier place.

My sister's friends, the Sustento couple, here doing a traditional tattoo during Inktrada 3.
Their son little Tarin Sustento is still missing. There is an ongoing social media search campaign for the whereabouts of the missing boy.

And now, forty days after that, we still hurt over what happened, but we have accepted that none of them who perished will be coming back to celebrate Christmas with us. We all have to move on, so that we can rebuild the city, the places that we call home.

Our prayer.

De Profundis

Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; 
Lord, hear my voice.
Let Your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.

If You, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?
But with You is forgiveness, that You may be revered.

I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in His word.

My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord,
For with the Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption;
And He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

Father God, we pray for the eternal repose of all those whom You have called during the onslaught of  Typhoon Yolanda. Have mercy on them and forgive them all their sins. Let your perpetual light shine on them . Comfort all those they have left behind, and strengthen their faith in you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Keep the faith,

Words cannot express the horrors of the typhoon. In the aftermath, everyone was just confused. People were walking without any clear direction of where they were going. People with stoic faces, walking like zombies, unable to feel anything but numbness brought about by the shock of what just happened. People were walking around in search of lost loved-ones, family members and friends that were swept away by the strong waters of the storm surge.

People just kept on walking, some carrying their dead, only to leave them in the sidewalks since all funeral parlors were broken down. Others were lucky to find what they were searching for, and some were even luckier to be able to bury their dead. But most of these bodies would be only recovered a week after the typhoon.

Photo by: Mabelle Lim

Pandemonium started when looters came. I personally believe that they are not from Tacloban but from other remote places. Others say that they were the government’s enemies, the leftists who took advantage of the situation. There was no police visibility. They were victims too.

This is what's left of our ancestral house, Trinchera's Ancestral House in Tolosa Leyte. It may look intact on the front, but behind that is hollow. All the bedrooms can be seen from behind.The house holds decades worth of history as it was the house of former Tolosa Mayor, my great grandfather, Luis Trinchera during his first term in the 1940's.

Day 1

Me and my sister both decided to take a walk around the city at around 11 am. I will never forget the atmosphere and the look on people’s faces as we walked. It was so surreal, like a scene from an apocalyptic Hollywood movie. People were either confused, shocked or crying. Every now and then you’d see someone holding either a wounded person or a dead body, some were wrapped in tarpaulins, others in sleeping mats. So heartbreaking that I found myself crying. There were dead bodies lying almost everywhere. There were two or three outside Jollibee Real, my children’s favorite place.

Farther over to Aslum, we saw that the stall where I usually buy roasted chicken was roasting. With the electric power out, those chicken would spoil if they don’t get cooked right away. We joined the queue, a commotion was already starting as people were started panic buying. Some would order 5 or more, and that made us wait a longer for our turn. Someone finally suggested a limit of 2 roasted chicken for each buyer. That way, more people will be able to eat something. It was imminent that there was no police visibility. They were also victims just like the rest of us. One of my sister’s friends handed us a bottle of Gatorade and suggested we share.

While still on queue, a group of topless men , came marching down the street. An off-duty policeman in plainclothes was behind me and he said, “Oh no, the business establishments in downtown will be in deep trouble. Those men are looters.”

We learned that Cornerstop had already been looted, as some people we saw have goodies from the stores.  I saw a young pedicab driver whom I used to take rides from YKS apartments in Pericohon to Shed Market. He was holding 2 slices of pork belly.
Photo: Purnhagen.org

“Te, hain kamo?” (where are you staying), he asked me and my sister. “Real”, I said. “What’s that you’re holding?”

“Karne  (meat), from Cornerstop”, he said. He was referring to the Monterey inside Cornerstop.

 “ I’m waiting for Godsend.”  

He was of course referring to Godsend, another convenience store in Real which has not been looted yet as there was a barricade in front of the stores premises.

I might just have been paranoid at that time due to lack from eating nutritional food, but to me, everybody was looking at Godsend in a rather suspicious way, like anytime they would ransack the store. 

After almost an hour queueing for the roasted chicken, and listening and butting in to a couple of arguments from the vendor and customers who insisted they had reserved some earlier, we head home. We decided to bring home the food first before going to Kalipayan Road to check on some of our relatives.

It might sound funny but we really thought of holding on tightly to our roasted chicken. Everyone we meet along the way was looking at our food in a rather different way. Maybe it was paranoia, or maybe it was just instinct, but we really felt that if we do not held on to our food, someone might grab it off from us.

That, or the dog that has been following us since we started the hike would only be too happy to steal it away from us.

After lunch, we then decided to go back to Kalipayan Road to check on some relatives. But as we neared Godsend, there was a commotion starting. It turned out that the owner of Godsend had already fired a warning shot to ward off the mob that was starting to pry open the steel doors, using steel cutters. (Yes, these men were professional looters! They are prepared. They have their own equipments to forcibly open steel doors.)

We went through the crowd so we could continue our mission, to check on some relatives. We were halfway to Kalipayan when we saw that there was still water in their place. So, my concern was leptospirosis, that’s why we turned back and went to my friend’s house instead, where I was given a big can of Bear Brand milk. It was, as I suspected from Godsend which the looters sold to my friend’s mom instead.
We wanted to go to City Hall to get anti-tetanus shots for Arianne.

After leaving the can of milk at home, we set foot once more to the City Hall. I chose to wear running shoes so it would be easier for me to walk since the City Hall was farther than going to Kalipayan Road. Going to the opposite direction, the further we walked the more we saw the destruction Yolanda (Haiyan) brought upon our city. Historical landmarks of our city were destroyed. 

The most of which I think was the Sto. Nino Church. The pews were overturned, window glass shattered, the roof gone. Decades of history etched in the very presence of the church were washed away. It broke my heart to see particularly the adoration chapel which I consider to be my place of solace. The Eucharist that was kept hidden inside was now exposed. I thought, if God was here, how could this happen?

Photo: rappler.com

Trudging along and careful not to be wounded by more debris strewn all over the place,  we were able to pass by Hayward's and was able to buy from the last supplies they were selling, a bag of chips, 2 cans of juice and a can of coffee.  They were out of mineral water. Once we arrived at the City Hall, Arianne had her shot. Good thing there were not much people lining up. But the stories kept coming. I heard from one survivor how the water in the downtown area went over as high as 15 meters and how he managed to swim with one hand while the other hand was holding his 3 month old baby.

After the shots, we decided to take the road going to the downtown area to check the situation. The looting have already started at the Gaisano Central Mall. People were everywhere with bags of merchandise looted from the store. Some with the grocery carts and more people in motorbikes were there with their loots.
I was amazed at how greedy people can become when faced in a survival of the fittest situation. 

The emporium at the opposite street has just been looted too. I pitied the Taiwanese owner. He could not do anything about the situation, he just sat by the stairs leading to his store, with just one bag of grocery left for him and his family. I knew he was the owner, we were in the same emergency room and I was next door to them also at Bethany Hospital when Arashel got hospitalized from asthma.

The whole city was like a ghost town. People were alive, yet they were as if dead. Dead from feeling any other emotion except confusion. This very situation can also make people be the opportunists they can be. We passed by a Japanese or Korean man near Recuerdo, in front of the Knights of Columbus office. He called us and offered fish in the styro case he was holding. It turned out to be Lapu-lapu (a fish that costs a lot in restaurants) and some packs of tiger prawns. The seafood were still frozen. He was selling the Lapu-lapu at P320.00 apiece.

I was not really interested in buying but I told him that it was too much. He asked me how much I wanted to haggle the price of the lapu-lapu and I said 250.00. He said, “No, 300.00.”

I said “No way, we’re not gonna eat something that expensive at this time.” It was too much. It’s going to spoil anyway, because sooner or later, the ice from his fridge would melt.

Go find another fish if you can”, he said. “See if you can sell that to others”, I answered. “I’ll keep my money, you keep your fish.” I  was thinking, my money would not spoil but his fish would.
The next day, I still found him selling the same fish in the same place he did.

Upon reaching home and after cooling down a bit, Arianne and my helper, Melanie set out to see what happened in YKS compound, the house I just transferred from, where my sisters were staying.  They wanted to see whatever thing they would be able to recover.

Photo: Facebook.com
This is a photo of where I used to stay a month before Haiyan/Yolanda. The apartment with the red roof is
YKS Apartments in Old Road Sagkahan. We used to live in door #4. Now only door #1-3 are left intact.

When they returned, all they had was a bag and a basin. Inside the bag were some photos of my sister Mabelle and her family. There was nothing else they could recover, except for some baptism and birth certificates.  I remember I still got some dress and clothes left in that house, that too were washed out together with the rest of my sister’s things, computer, laptop, playstation, clothes, Sony Bravia and another Kolin TV set. Along with those material things, even the bittersweet memories we have had of that house were washed away by the storm surge.  The only thing that we have left are the fragments of memories that are in our mind and hearts…our first Christmas in Tacloban, Matthew’s birthdays, so many memories in just a year.

According to Arianne and Mel, they had a hard time going there because of all the debris and piles and piles of what used to be fragments of people’s homes. We used to stay in door no.4, the only ones standing complete were doors 1 and 2, the rest of the 9-door apartment were all brought down by the storm surge. What if I did not move house? I remember of wanting to relocate as early as June this year because I thought the house was starting to have bad feng shui. That, and with my boss’ suggestion of me moving house, t I decided that it might be a good idea to relocate. Me and my sisters finally decided to switch houses.

My children’s asthma became a saving grace to us. Because they were always having asthma attacks, my boss suggested that I look into what causes the asthma. He particularly said, “even if meant relocating to another house”. I don’t know why those words struck me, that I started thinking about moving. Good thing I listened to him. It turned out to be the one that saved our lives.

What if I postponed my move? What if I decided to stay there? What would have I done to save 3 kids and myself? I shuddered at the thought.

Another Night, Tsunami Scare

We were all lying down and trying to get some sleep at around 7pm. I could not really sleep as I was busy fanning my kids and shooing the mosquitoes that were disturbing their sleep. At around 9pm, we heard many voices, and I was sure that they were all panicking and were asking if there was a way to the mountains behind our houses.

They knocked on Brgy. Chairman’s house which was just next to the apartment units we were in. And in a few minutes, many people were already going up to our units and even forced open the vacant unit next to us. I hurriedly went over and ask what’s happening. 

There’s a tsunami coming. We are the evacuees from Redemptorist Church and someone said that the water by the bay has receded. There’s going to be one so we need to go to higher places”, one woman said.

“How can you say there’s a tsunami coming?”, I asked.

“Someone was yelling earlier on and told us that the water has receded,” another woman said.

“Let’s not panic okay? How can there be a tsunami when we didn’t even had an earthquake?”, one of my sister’s friend who stayed with us for the night said.

It turned out some guy panicked when he saw the water at the bay receding and thought there might be a tsunami so he went about telling people about what he saw.

That seemed to have calmed them, but many insisted they stay. Others went to the rooftop and waited for  whatever was to come.

At around midnight, the noise died down, and we could hear only a few women talking. Many have started going back to their homes and evacuation shelters. I pity one baby who kept on coughing and coughing. In as much as I would want to help them I could not even offer them water.

I was starting to feel helpless.

To be continued...

Still keeping the faith that Tacloban and the rest of Eastern Visayas shall rise again,

I would like to take a break from posting the series of blogposts I was planning on doing. I would like to dedicate this space, this post, to the people who helped me in any way, to get back on my feet after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Photo: whowhatwhy.com

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) birthed new heroes and heroines. We saw ordinary people transform into  modern-day heroes right before our very eyes. To them, it was just a call of duty, or a case of adrenaline rush, but for us, the victims and survivors of the strongest typhoon in the world for this year and maybe for the last hundred years, it was a token of love, of compassion and heroism.

I would like to dedicate this blogpost to all the people who have helped me in any way they can. I know most of them would not want to be mentioned, but I want to, because at times like these, they were the ones who were beside me and help me get through these very difficult moments. They are my heroes and heroines, my friends for life.

I talked with some military men while we were at the hangar after our botched up Operation C130, they admitted they were deeply affected. They have lost some of their comrades too that were stationed over at the airport. One particular soldier, would sneak all the bottles of mineral water his uniform pockets could carry and would give it to us. It helped us throughout the night we stayed at the airport or what was left of it. Maybe having the same last name as his helped us gain his sympathy.

But I salute them. They have to leave their families and risk their own in a wasteland, where even they do not know where their next meal would come from, and what experiences they would uncover beneath the rubbles. But it had become more than a duty for them, when they started sympathizing with us. I would not forget how they played and entertained my children while we waited for our turn to take the flight out of Tacloban.

And the first time I saw Nikko Dizon of The Philippine Daily Inquirer, I broke down and cried on her shoulder. I appreciated and thanked her for all the efforts she did for us to be able to take a flight. I appreciate this more because she did something beyond her call of duty, which was to report.

We may have not been able to take the C130 but seeing her efforts was enough to merit a lifetime of appreciation.

Inside the airport, BBC South Asia Correspondent, Jonathan Head, not only once asked us how we were doing. Every time he passed by where we were sitting, on the airport trolley, where my kids have started to lie and fell asleep, he had not once but many times gave us a bottle of water. When he talked to me, he said that he was also a father and his little boy was almost the same age as my Matt. And that’s why he kept on going back to check on Matt from time to time. In a little while, he asked if he could ask me some more questions, which I obliged. Listening to our story, whether it made the cut or not, was more than enough for me to know that we were not alone on that journey.

My sisters and brothers of the Light of Jesus Feast Alabang unceasingly prayed for our safety. Led by Sis Tita Audal and my team leader Sis Angel de Guzman-Ureta, whom I texted for a prayer request when the wind started to howl and the rain started to fall, I will forever be grateful for their passion for praying over another person’s intentions. I did not also expect the financial help you extended and the packs of goodies from the Feast Alabang.

This is the pack of goodies I received from LOJ Feast Alabang

The de Leons (my sister’s in-laws) and Placiente family opened their hearts and homes to us. They had to go back and rescue us from the airport and bring us to Catbalogan City. In Catbalogan, we were able to have a full meal, although the first one we had was at a sidewalk resto. Nothing beats a cold shower and to be able to brush my teeth finally after an overnight stay at the airport. 

And to the Astorga Family for the can of Bear Brand that fed my kids, lending me the cash I needed for our exodus to Manila. Now my kids drink that brand and have forgotten the more expensive milk they were used to.

My friends Rosalind Ngo, Clarisse Yuhico-Mamitag, Jeffray dela Cruz, Mary Grace Trinidad, Meiann Morishita, Raymond Rodriguez and Family, Cristy Yu- Reyes, for the financial assistance and relief goods including used clothing. Thank you for giving your time to bring me shopping for new clothes for me and the kids. I really did not expect this. Mr. Sy of Rotary Club of Quirino Manila Central gave groceries handpicked by me and his trusted friend. My cupboard runneth over, full to last a month.

My Swiss boss/co-worker who checked on me a day after the typhoon and send me an unexpected amount of financial assistance so I would not worry about that thing, even though it means I have to work  for it forever to be able to repay it. Most importantly, for unintentionally saving me and my children’s lives when he suggested/ insinuated that I move house, because the children were constantly having asthma attacks in our former house at the YKS Apartments in Old Road Sagkahan, which is one of those houses that fell flat to the ground after being lambasted by the high waters and strong winds. Moving barely a month to the new unit in Real, we were saved from high waters and there was minimal damage to my things. If we didn’t move, we would have been a part of the statistics in body bags.

I thank dear God for sparing us on that fateful day. Only He knew what was to happen, only He knows what’s in store for the future. I once more surrender myself and my family to Him, just like how I surrendered my life and my family’s lives during the onslaught of the typhoon. It was a very difficult thing for me to do, but I trusted Him with all my heart. And I will trust Him more now because He did not fail to keep His promise.

And to the countries and every organization, charitable groups and individual who supported and send help to any part of Eastern Visayas, thank you so much.

I may not have received one single relief good from the National government, but help came overflowing from people who cared enough.

Contemplating on everything that’s happened for the past three weeks, it is very unlikely that people would forget how their personal heroes came to be. All of us survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) have someone to be thankful for.  The extent of the devastation is nothing compared to how big the hearts of those who helped us and our beloved Eastern Visayas combined.

There is hope for a better Tacloban. There is hope for a better Eastern Visayas.

Still keeping the faith,

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