Days of Terror: The Aftermath Day 1

Friday, December 6, 2013

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.

“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?


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.

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,

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