I was supposed to die last November 8, 2013.
As Typhoon Yolanda barrelled through Tacloban around seven thirty in the morning, she flooded our house with seawater and mud. Our furniture floated like it weighed nothing, our appliances like they were worth nothing. The water had its own current inside the house, creating a vortex-like shape. The door was swinging wide open; the two French windows beside it were broken. The water came in without anything to stop it.
And in the middle of this mess and disaster, there was me.
With a box of matches in my mouth, candles raised up with my right hand and the ancient lamp in my left, I was trapped. The furniture began to float toward me, most of them thrice as huge as I was. The water was already shoulder-level, and with my already petite height, it was terrifying to say the least. The water was rising with an alarming rate, and the current was pulling down my feet.
The wind howled outside, as bits and pieces of trees and debris began to float from the outside to our house. My heart was hammering and threatening to leap out of my chest, as I struggled to raise one foot and the other. I was not even halfway towards the stairs when I felt the water rise to my neck.
I remembered my younger siblings upstairs, needing my comfort. I remembered my parents, who counted on me for many things. I remembered my boyfriend of three years, who made me promise to him last night that I had to survive the storm or else he’d get mad at me. I remembered my book, still a draft, waiting for me to finish.
I suddenly felt a rush of adrenalin, giving me the strength I needed.
“Leroi!” I screamed, letting the match go from my mouth.
“Ate!” He replied, running down the stairs. His eyes panicked as he saw my predicament.
He caught the things I threw him, which included the ancient glass lamp. I pushed my way towards the stairs, tossing aside the floating furniture that blocked my way. I stretched my legs as high as I could, grab hold of the stair’s railing, and pushed myself up and ran to the second floor where the rest of my family huddled.
It was only my siblings, my seventy-one year old grandmother, my special aunt and I in the house. My parents were both unfortunately out of the region, and I knew deep inside that they would be worried with what was happening. It was very apocalyptic, one of the things I only saw in movies.
When I reached my room, everyone was together. The second floor was already wet because of the terrace door opening in the mater’s bedroom. The rain and the wind immersed the second floor in ankle level waters. There were broken glass inside their room, and the roof seemed to bounce up and down like a trampoline. I was afraid the roof would collapse on us, just like how one of the ceiling fans fell into one of the beds.
Luckily, no one was hit.
We all began to pray, one rosary mystery after the other. The room felt smaller, the air getting sucked out from our ears as the wind began to pick up again. It sounded like a revving car, about to zoom off to wherever it wanted. We were all struggling to get our voice heard above all the commotion, including the fact that we saw our neighbours climbing the roof of their house.
“That could be us.” One of my siblings said.
“We’ll be okay.” I reassured them
The two girls were crying hysterically when the storm began to blow, along with my grandmother. They were crying for the damage of the house, murmuring and praying incoherent things. I wanted to cry too. But someone needed to be calm.
We began to sing to pass the time, trying to distract ourselves from what was happening outside. My brother and I began to listen to the sound of my mother’s huge vases crashing into our stairs as the wave rose. We were scared when we saw that the water outside our house was higher, covering the houses of our neighbours.
We all tried to eat. But the food, no matter how delicious, now tasted stale. I remembered cooking it hours earlier, when the storm was still making its way towards us. The wind was already whistling when we all woke up, the sound of my mother calling my phone on loudspeaker seemed like a billion years ago. She called to check if everything was prepared, from the food storage down to what we were wearing. Now I had lost my two phones, our clothes were wet, but at least we saved the food.
I remember my sister yelping when she first felt the water rising inside our house. We all hurriedly packed everything we saw, from food to water to the batteries. We foolishly forgot to bring the candles, which was the reason I went back. When everyone was safe upstairs I made myself go back and take the candles, which helped us light up the house the night after the storm.
My grandmother felt helpless as she watched her house slowly become roofless, the flood rising at a fast rate. She watched it all through a window that connected our house with hers, sobbing every time she remembered something she forgot in our hurry to run to our house for safety. Her house was the first to get flooded, as most of the water that entered our house came from hers. It stood for more than forty years, the only thing she felt that was left by my grandfather.
“Ate(sister), the water is going down.”
I felt instant relief, as I counted the minutes that passed since the water came in. It was roughly an hour and a half; the water was slowly going down from the height of the first floor roof. And when everything was calm, we all slowly went down. Our house looked like it went through the power of a washing machine, only it created mud instead of soap.
The bookshelf was upside down; the huge chairs were on their sides. The glass doors were missing; its pieces were all over the floor. Outside, the trees were split in half. The mountains were bare, like a wild fire erupted and removed all the leaves. People were screaming, and some were picking up the things that were scattered along the road.
We just survived what seemed to be something that was made to kill us all but the worst was yet to come.
I am Le-an Lai Angeles Lacaba, the eldest of four and daughter of Leonardo and Romana Lacaba. I’ve lived in Nulatula, Tacloban for eighteen years since I was born. I am a writer and a blogger. And I have survived Haiyan.
It's been more than half a year since that day. I'm proud to say that I finished my book, finishing book 2 and working on book 3. Haiyan/Yolanda taught me to finish what I've started, because you'd never know when life could finish you.