Days After Haiyan

Monday, November 10, 2014

The days after the typhoon went by swiftly as morning turns to night faster than it does on December. Mostly because we were forced to be at home at 5 pm, or once the sky started to darken. There was no electricity power, the whole province was in a total blackout. 

There were occasional generators run by these big media companies and NGO’s, but even that came later, and it was only in selected areas like the City Hall. We would walk everyday to the City Hall, because it was the only place where there was signal, thanks to these big telecoms with their own satellite dish to serve the people of Tacloban. On the third day, I learned from my friends, whom I met along the way, (walking became a part of our daily life since there was no public transport available), that there was free 3-minute internet use at the City Hall. I took the chance to be able to send out a message to my relatives and friends to inform them that we were okay and that we needed help.

 I chose to post a status on my Facebook account since it was the best thing that could send out my message to as many people as it can. I wasn’t able to wait for the replies or comments because time was very limited, there was a long line behind me waiting for their turm. There was a TV network doing the interviews and the person before me was interviewed, so I guess , if my relatives were watching that channel they would have seen me. The only time I was able to scan through my Facebook account was when we were out of Tacloban and boy was I surprised to find so many comments on my post, friends asking for their relatives, asking me about the situation.

I would like to say I am sorry to everyone who send me messages to check on their relatives. I only got to read your comments after I reached Manila. We were given only 3 minutes to use the internet for Facebook so we can tell our status to relatives and friends. Also, there was no means of transportation. I can't walk to these places because I was mostly alone, walking on my own and I have kids waiting for me at home. I am so sorry.

This was that incident that I had to run for cover because some detainees from the nearby detention center had a situation. Two to four detainees apparently grabbed a jail guard’s service pistol. They were also in a panic mode. If free people were in a panic in the world outside, how much more for them who were inside the jail? They were also affected by the storm surge since the whole of Tacloban City was under water. How they managed to survive, I do not know. But one thing I know, they were also starving inside , that’s why most of them were released, to look for their relatives . The prison management does not have anything to feed them too.

After running for cover and experiencing how it was like the movies when someone just tells you to keep your head down and no sudden movement, I started to panic because I was thinking what if the gunman barged into the room I was in and took us as hostage. I frantically prayed. My body was trembling as I tried to fit under the tables, not feeling the shards of broken glass lying on the ground. After which seemed like forever and finishing a couple of Our Fathers and three Hail Mary’s, somebody said all clear. I didn’t even know if indeed there was a gunman inside or what. We all acted out of fear and traumatized . I was in the same position as then PIA Reg.8 Director Olive Tiu, an aunt, my father’s cousin’s wife.

That was when I was finally able to use the 3-minute free Facebook but it was already getting dark. I had to brave the dark so I can finish my goal for that day, to inform my family and friends about our whereabouts. I walked alone for almost 1.5 kilometer going home without any flashlight with me. 

What I did was to walk behind a group who had flashlights. But there were times that they would make a turn so I have to continue walking home. Good thing there was a full moon that night.  And that was when I started praying, talking to God, while I walk. I asked him why such thing happened to us. I was talking while I was walking home. Sometimes I thought that I was going to lose my mind. I keep on asking God, why? I would occasionally stop because there were things along the way, it could have been dead bodies, because dead bodies were all over. The clearing up had not started yet. The stench was  getting stronger, seeing dead bodies along the road became a normal sight.

My kids were just at home and I was starting to worry because my supplies box was getting emptier each day. In a couple of days, I won’t have anything to feed us. I was able to ask for some rice from an acquaintance, Mano Herman, (thank you btw) but he insisted I hid it in a bag because he was afraid his neighbors would know that he had sacks of rice (they were able to loot in one of those rice mills). He gave me extra packs of noodles. At that time, generosity had a limitation. You only choose who you can be generous with.

The third day had me waking up early and walking back to my friend’s house because we already planned on leaving Tacloban. We already understood the situation, that there was nothing to hope for and wait for. Staying there would mean hunger for us. I don’t have a male companion at home, so how can I compete with those who have? At that time, the more men in your household, the bigger chances you’ll survive. You have someone who will barge into the stores to loot for the family. In my case, I had none. In the survival game, I was weak because I do not have the courage to join in the looting spree.

I went to my friend M's house and we set out to look for surviving members of our association. We remembered our dear friend Candy who just got married on September, almost a month before the typhoon. She was on the heavy side, so we worried and also because their house was in San Jose, near the airport, which was one of the badly hit place.

It was only a day after that we learned she didn’t make it. Her mom and brother died with her and only her husband survived.

Me and M walked , hitched and walked again, in search of some of our friends. Another aunt, my dad’s sister was assumed missing. Her daughter in law went to M’s house that morning and asked if my aunt passed by because after the typhoon, she set out and started walking going to a cousin’s house in Palo. I don’t know how many kilometers is that but it could be like walking from Baclaran to Lawton or more. I worry because my aunt was diabetic. They checked-in at Leyte Park Hotel, which was also located on a beachfront. Good thing they had the presence of mind to move to higher ground when the wind started blowing hard and the pressure blew up the whole glass door.

We parted ways around lunch time and when I went back to their house, she already left for Manila via a commercial plane.  ( There were commercial planes coming in and out of Tacloban already aside from the C130’s that started transporting people out of Leyte). At this time, there was not much people leaving yet. Some were still able to get queue numbers especially if you have someone who needs medical attention.

M was a Civil Engineer and daughter of one of the political families in a town in Leyte, but I was quite amused by her. While walking the streets of Tacloban, we saw an empty container that was good enough to use as a makeshift wagon. She tied a string on it and we were tugging it like scavengers would and we checked on whatever thing we could get that can still be used. But then the string snapped so we have to leave the wagon behind.

There were less bodies at the downtown area compared to our place in Real St., one of the main streets in the city. Dead bodies were strewn all over the coastal side of Tacloban. That was just the other side of the street. 


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