Sunday, November 17, 2013
Meeting Haiyan: The first hand experience
It's been more than a week since the super typhoon, but I remember it like it just happened.
When I woke up at around 5 am, it was dark, since our electricity was already cut a few hours ago. Since our bedroom had glass doors, I could clearly see the trees bending and about to break, the clouds in a dangerous grey. I knew that Haiyan was bearing its teeth, smiling evilly. I knew that it has landed in Guiuan, the eastern side of Samar which was a three hour drive from Tacloban. I had three hours to get my family ready, as it was estimated to hit our city at eight that morning. The house began to creek and the wind began to whistle. We joked around, saying that the wind knew how to whistle and my sister could not. Little did we know, that the wind would soon whistle harder.
Since my mom couldn't get home from Manila because of a work training, it was just me, my three siblings, my grandmother and my aunt at home. I started my day like it was normal, deciding to cook chicken for breakfast. Our kitchen was located at our grandmother's house, a door away from our own house. The wind outside began to pick up, the rain accompanying the storm. My siblings went to my grandmother's room, which was located on the first floor. Since I could not check on the house myself, I asked my brother to go to our living room to make sure things are fine.
That was the last normal thing that happened.
The roof of our garage began to strip itself, hurling towards my grandmother's garden. Their dog was barking furiously, but we were afraid to go out because of the wind. The water from the outside poured through the roof, the drip drops becoming a slow stream of water. When I finished cooking, I checked on my brother who still did not return. Our main door, which was a huge and made of wood, was threatening to burst open because of the wind. He blocked the door with two of our strongest chairs, whose width covered most of the door.
I went back to my grandmother's house to check on them, my feet were met by rainwater on the floor. One of the wood that framed the window suddenly flew towards the floor, and water came rushing in. Just when I thought it could not get worse, one of the wooden panels of our roof fell. With the two holes providing the water a way to get in the house, I led my grandmother and aunt towards our house. I went towards our room to fetch my phone, but the room was already wet. The culprit? Our door was already open, the glass sliding door before it was already in pieces. The roof was shaking, our ceiling fan looking like it was hanging by a thread. I frantically called my brother and my sister, and we tried to push our bed towards the door. But it only made matters worse, making the other door open with force. We decided to take the important things towards my brothers room, like our files, gadgets and such. The heavy drawers felt like lightweight, as the adrenalin started to kick in. Outside you could see the outline of the EYE of the storm, hovering and as threatening as it could be.
My grandmother's house was already full of water, which could be seen from our window. My grandmother began to cry hysterically, mumbling and praying. My sister began to cry too, feeling hopeless and praying that our house wouldn't be destroyed. I tried my best to calm them down, suggesting that we go downstairs for breakfast. When my eyes landed on my brother, his arms were clutching the wooden chair, the door still fighting the wind. He told us to hurriedly eat, his voice shaking as he used his strength on the chair. We all hurriedly lit our candles, prayed then began to eat.
But when I heard my sister shriek, I noticed the water in our living room. Water was rushing from our main door and from the door leading towards our grandmother's house, and another rush of adrenalin began to surge in my veins. I told them to pack everything; the canned goods, the biscuit and even the newly cooked chicken, and run upstairs. My brother was still struggling with the door as we packed everything in our plastic container. The water was already at our knees when we rushed towards the stairs. By the time I reached my brother, which was just seconds, the huge window which was as tall as our main door exploded, the water surging towards us. My brother let go of the door as he helped my grandmother who almost fell because of the impact of water.
They all went upstairs, and I was left behind as I remembered the lamp and the matches. But by the time I stepped onto our living room the water was already at my chest level. The match, which was in my mouth as I carried the lamp , fell onto the water as I screamed for my brother. All our furniture began to flow towards me, the heavy chairs and desks blocking my way. In that second I thought that it was the end, I thought that I would die.
When my brother peeked from the stairs, I began to swam frantically towards him, giving him my things. Our dog swam beside me, reaching the stairs before I did. I don't know how I did it, but I stretched my leg and climbed the tenth stair and ran towards the second floor. The wind coming from our room blew as hard as it could as I went towards the girl's room. It was spacey, and the farthest room in the house. It was also the only room that had minimal water on the floor since water only came from the roof, which was just luckily small drips.
When we got there we were all shaken, and began to pray the rosary. It seemed to calm us, though the wind sounded like a huge car revving up, like vrooooooom. The roaring of the wind began to shake our house like an earthquake, deafening our hearing as our ears seemed to pop like we were inside a pressured airplane. We began to cover the documents with our blankets, insuring that they would be dry. That was when I checked the time: it was only nine in the morning, four hours since I woke up. We tried to eat, but food seemed to lose its taste. When my brother and I checked our window that faced our stairs, the flood reached the third step from the top of the stairs. And outside (we looked through a broken window that faced the west side of the house) the water was taller outside than inside. My brother and I feared that the water would enter the second floor, so we planned to climb our double deck bed in case. We went back to the room to soothe our crying grandmother and sisters.
But do you know the best part? We were soon laughing, joking as if there wasn't a storm outside. There were moments when we would be quiet, and the wind would take it as a cue to roar again. For two more hours we stayed in that room, praying more, quivering from the storm. And when we got the strength to go downstairs, my heart dropped to my stomach with what I saw.
Our two gates were broken, and the one stuck to cement fell towards the house. Our two big windows were broken, the door still intact but and had a lot of scratches. All of my mother's big vases were broken, leaving only the little ones. The floor was covered in mud and uncooked riceAll of our pictures were either smudged or covered with mud. . The furniture were all scattered, none of them in their previous places. Shattered glass were everywhere. And when we got to take a look outside, it was worse. Every house was either see through, had no roof, or washed out. The small stores were flooded, and roads were covered with trees.
The storm was gone, but our problems merely started.
Phew. I tried my best not to cry as I wrote that post. It was simply nerve racking. I will post some pictures of our house on the next blog post. Above you can see a new portion of my blog labeled "The Haiyan Experience" I will post the eight days that I stayed in Tacloban after the storm, before we moved here in Cebu. Please follow my blog if you'd like to read more.
On a lighter note, I was published on the "Thick Jam" website, my story is the first you'd see on the site. If you want to read that story, which was submitted a week before the storm, here's the site: www.thickjam.com