Remembering Haiyan

Posted by Sean Francis N. Ballais on November 8, 2015 08:21 PM

Today’s the 2nd anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan. I thought it would be a great opportunity to share my experiences during and after the storm. There won’t be any pictures in this article because I wasn’t able to take any photos relating to my experiences during and after the storm. I am sorry. However, if I find any photos, I’ll upload them.

It all started on November 6, 2015. The day was calm. It was sunny with no clouds. We have heard of an incoming storm that formed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean days before. The storm was named Haiyan. Yet, we weren’t really worried. The people of Tacloban City did the usual preparatory measures before the storm came. They bought canned goods, batteries, water, and other things necessary for survival.

Classes were suspended on the afternoon of that day in anticipation of that storm. I do remember trying to compile SDL2 in my machine in school at that time. I also remember showing a friend of mine Python. I also recall having a scientific talk with two of my friends (hi, Limher) about Haiyan, and if it will be just another storm. A friend was playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in his laptop before we did the conversation.

I arrived at our house from school. I watched the news informing us about the incoming storm. I sat, and ate a piece of slice bread. Oddly, I was having a weird feeling about this storm. I know that it won’t be like the others.

Our family decided to evacuate to the President’s House in front of Eastern Visayas State University the next day. My late father works in the university. He was able to reserve a room on the second floor for our family. It was rainy as the storm goes closer. All throughout the day in the room, I was playing Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, and reading ebooks relating to Computer Science since there was no internet connection in the place. That day, I was having high hopes that the storm won’t be very destructive.

The strength of the storm slowly became clear as it draws closer to the islands. The winds were getting stronger since the night before the landfall. I couldn’t sleep properly because of the winds. I was trying my best to be optimistic. Haiyan told me not to.

I woke up at around 5:30 AM when the storm started landfall. There was still electricity. It was raining. Everything seems fine - except for the howling winds. I could see in the TV the intensity of the storm.

Then… BLAM! Lights out.

Power was off suddenly. The storm was near for sure. Winds were strong for I could see the metal sheets tumble on the grounds like crumpled paper. The cellular networks went dark an hour later.

We then ate our breakfast, and anticipated the storm. I went back to the room and went near the window. It was shaking. The wind was getting stronger and stronger. The rain is pouring down hard that everything is white outside. The wind was strong that a glass door on the second floor was opening and closing violently. We went to the side opposite of the door. A hinge broke but nevertheless it was still standing. Soon enough, the chandelier was swinging (no puns intended). There was a constant threat that it might fall down at any moment. So, we had to walk near the walls just to make sure we won’t head hit by the chandelier if ever it goes down.

Slightly terrified and not knowing what to do, I sat on a chair near the table. I looked to another glass door near the window. Time slowed down a bit at that moment. And… SWOOSH! The door was sucked out by the storm like in a movie. I got scared. We moved the table to where the door used to be as a blockade for others not to go near. Then, water started leaking inside the rooms. The beds got wet so they had to go to the living hall, where we were. Water was leaking even in the living hall. Luckily, our room was not leaking water. All of us went in our room.

In order for us to be safe, we went to the first floor of the building. Near the stairs was an open window. Droplets of rain was entering from there. A droplet fell on my father’s tongue. “It tastes like saltwater.”, he remarked as he went down the stairs.

When we were finally on the first floor, we noticed that there was flood water, and it was rising fast. We didn’t know why it began flooding. I sat on a chair waiting for the storm to stop. I didn’t know what to do. I was wondering what was happening outside. The wind was stopping, and going in huge bursts. The rain was still turning everything white. A glass broke again, and the doors were shut. It was a scary time. The winds kept screaming in a ghostly with the sound of a jet plane engine. I could hear my niece crying in the corner.

While waiting for the storm to stop, an awkward (maybe hilarious) “conversation” occurred.

Me: (wind seems to calm down) Ah. Fortunately, the storm will be over in a few minutes. Haiyan: That’s where you’re wrong b*tch! (wind intensifies)

I got bored a bit while waiting. So, I went to the sofa and slept.

I woke up at around noon. The storm was over. All that was left was a little rain, and a devastated city. My parents went out to go home, and grab food for us. I grabbed my laptop, and read more about SDL2 until there was no battery power left.

I went out of the building to see the wreckage, and relax a bit, at around two in the afternoon. It was clear that the damage was huge. Trees were uprooted. Metal sheets were on the ground like crumpled paper. I was wondering if our house was spared. The sun shined a bit. Then slowly, the rain clouds came.

There were coconuts on the ground. They were cleaned, and opened. We shared the coconut for its meat, and water. And I could still remember how delicious it was. I also that the papaya tree that was full of fruits the day before, was now but a stem sticking out of the ground.

I went upstairs to our room to see how things went. My cousin and I talked with each other to relieve boredom. It relieved me from not only boredom but also stress. But I cannot deny that I was worried on what the future holds for us on that fateful day. A little later, I heard that the flood in the center of downtown was deep. And it was rising fast. They never anticipated it. And dead bodies were scattered around place. I was never expecting dead bodies after the storm. I was shocked.

By around 3:30 PM, my parents arrived in the place where we evacuated. They brought food for us. We ate, and filled our hungry stomachs. We also shared the food to people who stayed in the place.

By 4PM, we walked back home. That’s nearly a two to three hour walk.

On our way home, I saw the destruction Haiyan brought to us. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. Words cannot describe what I have seen.

By past 6PM, there was 750 meters left to walk before we reach home. The only problem is that there was flood that was blocking our path. Without any options left, we walked into the flood waters just to reach home. We had to be careful in walking for there were many wires in the water. The electrical posts were also on the ground.

Fortunately, we arrived safely at home by 7PM.

I had nothing to do. After eating dinner, I took a bath, and fell asleep.

But my sleep was interrupted by our family friend. She saw the mountain near us to be full of brights stars. Those bright stars turned out to be flashlights by people who evacuated to the mountain thinking that there might be a tsunami. After looking at the mountain, I went back asleep.

The days following the onslaught of the typhoon was full of fear, and adventure. Fear because I don’t know what to do. Criminals escaped from prison. Looting was everywhere. I don’t know how we will push on with life despite the precarious situation. Adventure because it made me experience things for the first time. I drove a pedicab for the first time in a long while just to get water. I bathed in the heavy rain. I volunteered for a medical mission (and got head ache in the process). And falling in line for the relief for the first time.

Haiyan has taught me a valuable lesson. It thought me to appreciate life. To enjoy it even in simplest ways. The typhoon may have brought destruction to Tacloban. It took the lives many. Depressed a lot of people. But the people of Tacloban City will stay strong despite hardships. Despite the lackluster relief aid of the government, and the clear challenges of the storm’s aftermath, the citizens of Tacloban City will never be always rise up, stand, and walk into a brighter future. Mabuhay!

To all the NGOs that helped Tacloban City recover from the disaster, thanks a lot! Thanks for helping us get back on our feet, and rise. Without your support, Tacloban City would have been different than it is today.

Credits to Patrick Cabañero for letting me use one of his Haiyan photos as this article’s header image.

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