Filipinos braced for the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Hurricane Haiyan) earlier than any previous typhoon..
We were all warned ahead of time. Photos of this massive storm cloud were all over the social media sites and the news. Everyone within the path of Yolanda prepared as best they could for what international news agencies have dubbed the strongest typhoon in world history.
Classes were cancelled in all areas that were expected to be on the path of the storm one day before the typhoon was expected to make landfall. To give people ample time to prepare their houses and stock necessary items like water, food and alternative sources of power, even companies in Cebu cancelled work and let employees go home early by late afternoon. People were asked to evacuate their homes and seek refuge in designated evacuation centers. The supermarkets were filled with people stocking essential items. I even saw representatives from the power company checking the electrical poles the day before the storm hit to ensure they’re stable and strong.
On Nov. 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda started to tear a path through Visayas.
My family and I waited for the storm to hit Cebu City and we watched and listened to the wind howl outside our window. The rain that fell was practically vertical and we could literally hear our roof creak and strain over our heads. The power company already cut off the power since 8 am and instituted a province-wide blackout to ensure no additional casualties are incurred due to live wires from fallen posts. The wind and rain in the city was at its worst from 10 AM to around 1 PM and then, it was over.
Cebuanos were elated to have survived this monster storm with so little damage. People left their homes to do damage check on their businesses and other landmarks around the city. We gawked at fallen trees, signs and the damage on some fences and posts. By and large, though, the city was unscathed and everyone was happy.
The happiness was, however, shortlived. When the electricity came back on, we were greeted by photos and videos on social media and on the television of full horror that Typhoon Yolanda caused throughout the Visayas. Cebu City was just lucky.
No one could have prepared for the real strength of Typhoon Yolanda at its strongest point. NO ONE. It is unfair for people to assume more could have been done to prepare for something as unprecedented as the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda.
Tacloban was decimated by a massive storm surge on top of unbelievable winds. The dead littered the streets and the entire city was flattened.
Samar and Ormoc were brought to their knees. Even Iloilo and parts of Palawan suffered unbelievable damage. And closer to home, in Northern Cebu, 90% to 98% of houses were lost to the storm.
A friend called Stan and on an impulse the group decided to take trip down North to distribute relief goods.
On November 10, people made pledges and armed with our donation, we met up in Compostela to repack the relief goods so it would be easier to distribute the goods to families throughout Northern Cebu. We estimated that each pack has around 3 to 4 days worth of food with 5 cans of processed meat, 6 packs of instant noodles, and around 2 kilos of rice each.
We finished as quickly as we could with a quick count of our packs which reached almost 1,000 packages and headed out North.
Soon enough, we saw first hand how many lives were affected by this storm.
Even though I was already expecting it to be bad, it still brought tears to my eyes to see so many lost their livelihood and their homes.
The streets are lined with people and children begging for help.
We wanted to make sure each family got one pack each so that more families would benefit from the relief goods so we approached barangay captains to help with distribution. People were following our convoy and were cheering loudly while the barangay captains shout for order in forming lines. He explained that one family gets one so that we can move on to other barangays who need help just as much as they did.
There were so many happy people who looked relieved to be receiving a little bit of relief even though our meager offering will only last them a few days at most.
On the drive home, it struck me that I didn’t know darkness until I saw what it was like at night in a place without electricity or even candles or matches to use. The families we saw lining the street during the day were still there at night as they had no place to go home to. My children mused about how hard it must be to have to stay outside in pitch darkness and not know when the next meal is coming.
Since our trip, they include the victims of the typhoon in their prayers.
Even though it was a long trip and a long day, especially for a pregnant woman like me, I am very glad we went on the trip. It opened my children’s eyes to why it is so important to help people, especially in this time of crisis.
It only redoubled our determination to help as much as we can.
On Monday, November 11, I was so happy to see so many people throughout Cebu planning their own relief operations and buying food, water or other essentials for towns affected by the super typhoon. Among my little circle of friends alone in Facebook, there are huge operations shipping goods to places not just in Northern Cebu but even Ormoc or Tacloban. In fact, rice warehouses and grocery stores are cleared of their stocks in the mad dash to buy relief goods.
The huge outpouring of love for the victims is what makes regular people — who have no concern of who gets the credit for their actions — heroes in my book.
Even though the reaction of the government is lackluster and frustratingly slow, seeing the reaction of the private citizens is a quiet ray of light in these dark trying times.
In addition, the huge donations and concern showed by other countries throughout the world gives us hope that we will be able to rebuild in time.
This catastrophe will take months of recovery and rebuilding… the country has a long way to go.