November 8, 2013
It was around 5 am when I woke up due to the very cold breeze coming into my room. I wondered then why when I had closed all the windows. Turns out, my mother, whilst carrying my nephew, opened the windows. Headache met me. I refused to get up then because of the pain. My mother gave me pain reliever but I still had no intention to get up until the wind made hanging objects in my room shatter.
I got up. My mother was telling me and my sister to make sure the safety of my one year old nephew’s things. The wind had become a bit stronger. Its strength made it seem like our home was shaking.
My mother told us to go down to our ground floor because the terrifying sound of our roof clattering was less terrifying.
I made sure I ate some bread. I told myself that if in any case the storm’s effect will be like that of in the Book of Job (from the Bible), I didn’t want to die hungry.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t expect Yolanda (Haiyan) to be that strong. I’ve experienced a lot of typhoons, being our province facing the Pacific Ocean, but they were not as devastating as this one.
The wind seemed to start taking of our roof above our stairs. I sat on a table with my sister as we wait for the storm to be over. I told myself to have faith. I remember the time when we were required to read the Book of Job in my senior year of high school. I told myself God will be very merciful. I told myself Yolanda wasn’t going to make very devastating damages and life will be back as normal. I even joked that ancient spirits are guarding our house so the place would still be in one piece with only a few parts of the roof damaged. I didn’t just told myself these. I convinced myself. If my sense of direction is right (based on the sunsets and sunrises at home), the wind’s direction was north. My father was checking up on the things in our house.
A few moments later, the wind slammed into the removable roof of our old store. My father told us the wind had changed direction. This time it was going south (as I peek and saw the trees swaying in the opposite direction). My mother was telling us that the most crucial part of the typhoon is when it changes its path. Since our second floor’s floor is made up of wood, my father advised us to hide in the small room next to the living room since it’s underneath our cemented terrace, assuming it is the most stable part of our house.
That was when it all started. The apocalyptic-like experience. And no, I am not exaggerating things. We all stood in that small room, our backs against the front of the house. We made sure to wrap up my nephew with my father’s raincoat of when he was still in the navy. He clung to my mother as my sister made sure that he wouldn’t get wet. I wrapped myself with my raincoat while I gripped on two important bags (my nephew’s and my mother’s).
The wind had then gushed into our house, slamming itself to our door, our sofas, our picture frames, slamming itself to my family. I could feel it. The storm wind seem to act like a tornado. Anyone could have sensed it because of the sound of clashing. It went in every direction.
The wind was terribly harsh. It made a deafening noise. My brain made sure I don’t forget how Yolanda sounded like. It was if Yolanda was screaming in anger. If Yolanda was a person, she would have a very high-pitched voice.
I remember I was starting to cry because it literally felt like we were all going to die. My words of encouragement for myself an hour earlier were gone. The devil’s advocate of myself kept telling me, “Where are you and your tough words, Adrienne?? Where are you and your brave words??”
I muttered a prayer to God, asking Him to keep us safe. My final plea, I thought, if ever I died in this storm. I tried to turn my head to see what was happening behind us. Our removable roof was removed. The door towards the living room lost its the aluminum cover. It was bent. I took a glance at our living room. The sofa was even being pushed by the wind towards our kitchen. I went back facing the wall. I was just scared.
The torture continues. I still kept my hands over my ear. The wind’s noise literally was deafening. I glanced at the wall clock that still hangs up to this day. It had already been an hour. God, I thought to myself, when will this end.
The clashes of roofs is very loud. There also those sound of heavy objects falling from somewhere. I couldn’t get a glimpse of the outside.
The wind was still harsh as ever. The rain wasn’t very helpful. The floor of our living room is not level with that of the street or our kitchen, and because our roof was gone (as we find out later), it started to flood inside. The water was already above my ankle.
Still, Yolanda refuses to leave. The water had already rose above my ankle.
The wind was still harsh. Minutes later, the wind was less harsh but it could still blew people away. I was already able to face my family. The water stink. Our wooden floor still dripping rain.
Three hours. That’s how long I had to protect my ears from the deafening Haiyan. That’s how long we had to stand to keep away from the wind.
We started mobilizing. My father checked what had been damaged. But we already knew the roof was gone. It was very bright in our kitchen and the stairs. My mother still prevented father from going into the kitchen or upstairs because the wind was still strong. We feared flying hazardous objects such as galvanized roof.
It was then that I felt it was really cold after being soaked for three hours and the harsh wind gusting over my skin.
We still stayed in our positions despite the lesser power of the wind. It still had that “anger”.
Around 10 am
I helped my father with clearing the house from the water. That was when I saw our neighbours’ homes and the Calvary Hill. All of their roofs were gone. One two-storey cemented home had its second floor totally destroyed. The electric posts were piling on the street together with unidentifiable roof and other properties.
Around that time, my family and our neighbours were telling stories of where they hid and what they felt during the storm. It was still raining so a few of them went over to our house since the foyer is made of cement. I felt tired and restless but still on tiptoes in case anything else happened.
We were only able to take our lunch around 1 pm because people were checking up on people. News of the deaths in the locality circulated. One person had died due to a post falling on her neck. A family, with a pregnant woman, died as their walls came crashing. Several injured people. People who were trapped in the corners of their homes were saved.
From 1-4 pm
People were already fixing things up and preparing for the first evening of darkness. Some news was heard by then. Someone was giving out free bread but apparently a person shouted “tsunami” so people ran away, and he got all the bread for himself.
Almost 5 pm
Our neighbour shouted that the people farther from us were starting to run towards our side of our little community. People were shouting that a tsunami was coming. Nobody had the time to think about it well, because everyone was still not over Yolanda. So people begged for people with still second floors to let them in. We still had ours despite having no roof. All of our walls still stood except for the one that was directly facing our roofless kitchen. I thought to myself that logically, a tsunami was not possible in our community. We were nowhere near a sea. The nearest water biome had been the river. They even added that the river’s water flow was going backwards, meaning it was flowing towards us. An elderly woman and my mother prayed with all their hearts and making some kind of religious or superstitious gesture. We were on the second floor for about 20 minutes until someone said that it was a false alarm. People’s tears and scared emotions were not pleased, of course. They were already hoping and expecting everything would have been relatively better.
After calling off that warning, everyone either went back to whatever’s left of their homes or they went to other people’s houses to spend the night (or even days).
Our first night. It was still raining. There was thunder and lightning. After we ate a few spoons of rice and fish that we had saved the fortnight, we immediately went to sleep in a table. The five of us had to cramp in a table that we placed in our previous store. But instead, my parents decided that I sleep on the side nearest the window (because it was still raining) and my nephew beside me so I can protect him on that side. My mother sat on a chair directly in front of my nephew, protecting him on the other side. My father and sister each sat on a chair to sleep. The wind was still whistling. The thunder and lightning became extremely terrifying for me with everyone’s homes roofless.
I was haunted with nightmares as I try to go to sleep. Nightmares of thoughts of never ever getting out of the province, suffering from famine and possible plague of disease (due to the deceased bodies only being left along the church). Nightmares of thoughts my sisters would never try to get us back, possibly thinking we are one of the casualties. Nightmares of people going berserk, ending things up like my “The Walking Dead” dream. Nightmares of never seeing the people I care.
My nephew made the nightmares worse as he would suddenly wake up crying, already shouting “Mama” and “Papa”. Poor kid, I thought. That was when I knew there is hope for us to get out of the province. But as I try to doze off again, nightmares came back. Nightmares of my sisters failing to get us because we failed to survive the famine and the “war” in the province.
The hardships continue.