Reminiscing Unfriendly Haiyan (“Yolanda”): A Yea After

A year has passed after powerful Typhoon Haiyan (“Yolanda”) severely hit certain islands in the Philippiness (specifically Leyte and Samar) on that fateful early morning of November 8, 2013. Based on accounts, Yolanda was the strongest typhoon recorded in recent history. It left approximately 8,000 people dead, about 1 and a half million (1.47million) families affected (less than a million displaced) and about 1.17 million houses damaged.

Most of the victims and survivors have still vivid harrowing memories of what happened on how the 315kph winds and 380kph gusts lashed the said places, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. The sight and memories of their loved ones being carried away into the swirling waters and hard-earned properties being wiped out by the storm surge made it more agonizing and difficult to get over with for some of the victims and survivors.

Becca whose family is based in Tacloban City, Philippines was so worried hearing the news about the very strong typhoon and so she gathered her family in their home the night before the deluge and asked them to join her pray the Holy Rosary. At that time, they were in a quandary on whether or not staying in a hotel in the downtown area would be a safe refuge for all of them. But some of the family members were adamant; they were not feeling comfortable driving to the city centre with the heavy pouring rain. They decided to stay home and wait for the typhoon to come. They thought it could be just one of the previous typhoons they normally encounter.

Early dawn of the following day, the typhoon woke them up from their sleep. There was like a mighty weeping roaring sound of the wind which to them was very frightening. Just after they had a very brief breakfast, the very strong winds started to tear up the entire roof but luckily it did not, but it successfully smashed and damaged the front windows, allowing the rain to come inside destroying their furnitures and personal properties; they were all shocked and terrified. Everyone quickly run to and hid at the back area of the house, some of them were screaming and asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness, they all thought it was the last day of their life. The loud bang and noise outside caused by the raging of the angry wind kept on torturing them for hours, some of them cried and felt hopeless as they have no other recourse should there be more flood water as their house  was a bungalow style. They were all prepared to climb up the water tank if worse comes to worst.

Fortunately, just before noon and after several hours of being battered by the strong winds and heavy rains, the wind died down and the rain stopped . Some of the family members bravely went out of the house to check outside. They did not worry much about the damage of the house but they were all aghast to see a sudden change of the environment of the  subdivision/residential community. Everything outside  appeared different, it was  all clear and bright that one cold see what’s on the other side of the road.  The surrounding was filled with sunlight but trees were down, some of the houses were torn apart while others have no more roofs. They didn’t have a single hint that several kilometers away from their place, the scenario was much more painful to see. They didn’t know the adverse impact of the typhoon in the downtown area as shown on TV which looked like a war zone with dead bodies on the streets and people in chaos searching for their loved ones and struggling to look for food.

At first, the family of Becca may have been fortunate to survive the deluge which they were all very grateful to God. They were all thankful for the “blessing in disguise” that they did not push through with the plan to spend a day in one of the hotels the night before the typhoon as all of those who stayed in the hotels witnessed a more dreadful experience. In fact, everyone who checked in in one of the hotels perished because the hotel itself was completely washed away.

But Becca’s family wasn’t completely spared from Haiyan’s wrath. It was only after 3 days when they visited their newly refurbished beach house (located about 30 minutes away from their place and facing the Tacloban City harbor), that they found no trace anymore of the said beach house. The land where the house stands was completely flattened, what was left was merely the concrete stairs. The house and all the newly bought furnitures and appliances were all gone, the flowers (orchids, etc.), the mementos, fruits  and coconut trees which were standing there for more than a decade were completely wiped out by the storm surge.

I can simply understand why it is hard for some people like Becca for not being able to completely move on after one year of Haiyan’s wrath.  Some people are still in the healing process stage.  It takes a while to recover.

For Becca, the beach house was filled with happy memories. It was the result of their hard work and perseverance so that they were able to buy  and own a rest house  which could serve as temporary relief for their very hectic stressful moments.   The hard-earned money which was gradually invested in the said beach house through the years was like  it was all lost to gambling in split seconds.  As such,  what happened to her property was  totally heartbreaking.

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The beach house was indeed memorable to Becca and her family. It was sometimes used as the family’s reunion gatherings and important occasions.   Becca herself loved the place so much, in fact she once  said that one day in her life, she would prefer to live there.

Material things come and go, so with our possessions, jobs, etc. However, the most important thing remains and that they live on in our memories.  As they say,  it is better not  to worry about the things which have been lost but to be thankful of the opportunity of experiencing such memorable moments.  The love of our  family is always there. The wonderful times spent countless opportunities could ease the pain and let it go, and so we can be free in the end and be happy once again!

To Becca,  I am so grateful for the kindness you have shared with us, for inviting us to stay in your beach house when we are on vacation.  I do have sweet memories of the place and it is not easy for me too.  I hope and pray that you will be showered with God’s abundant graces and to keep you happy and  healthy  for many long years!  Love ya much!

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