Testimony of Gio, from Tacloban City, Philippines, who survived the Supertyphoon Haiyan.
The winds and rain grew stronger so I had to close the door and windows. Realizing the typhoon could last for a few more hours and I had nothing to do since power was out I decided it was the best time for my prayers. After my usual morning prayers I started to pray the Rosary. As I went on with the prayers the wind and rain grew even stronger. Sometimes I could hear the wind whistle, sometimes it sounded like an airplane flying as low as 20 feet above the roof. Then I started hearing lots of noise other than the wind and rain. I could hear the sound of wood, metals and many others breaking, tearing apart, banging, flying, falling and hitting anything. But I remained calm and continued to pray. Then my roof and ceiling started to leak very profusely that it seemed like the house had no ceiling and roof anymore. As strong winds blew I could see my ceiling shaking and bouncing. Water that leaked and gathered inside the house was already about 3 inches high. I tried to remain calm and continued to pray the Rosary. But there were times when I would feel tired so I would rest my head on the wall. But I kept praying.
As I was on the 3rd Glorious mystery I suddenly smelt something different, like the smell of canals and mud and when I looked down to the floor I could see black water slowly coming in from outside the house. I continued to pray and when I finished the Rosary I opened the window and had the shock of my life. Water outside the house was already chest-high, flowing rapidly to the west and filled with lots of debris. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was at that very moment when I realized the typhoon was really, really strong and should not have been underestimated. I also realized I had to leave the house because I was sure the chest-deep flood water outside the house would enter the house, could rise and rise as it seemed the typhoon would not end and could drown me to death. So I started to pack my things and plan on what to do to survive. Water inside the house has started to rise quite rapidly so I began to panic. I managed to open the main door but could not push the screen door open. I thought a lot of debris was blocking it so I started shouting to call on my neighbors for help as I was trapped inside my house. I could no longer see my neighbor’s house across the street though it was only around 5 meters away from mine. The rain was so thick and the wind so strong causing zero visibility in the neighbourhood. I could hear a lady screaming and I thought it was a neighbour calling me. I shouted back for several times but to no avail so I decided to look for a different way out. Water inside the house that time was about 3 inches below knee level so it was quite difficult to walk around the house with a lot of things floating already. I placed my backpack on top of my dining table since it was not leaking on that part and I went to the kitchen, pushed the stove aside and climbed to reach the exhaust hole. The roof of the exhaust hole was quite high and I could not destroy it with my bare hands. I was feeling helpless already but I resumed praying to calm me down. I was repeatedly saying the Seal of the Living God prayer and I thought of the last way out of the house – a very small window in my bedroom. I rushed to my bedroom stepped on a chair to reach the window and removed the five jalousie blades and tore open the screen. When I looked out of the window I saw my neighbors already climbing the wall to reach the roof of my house. One of them saw me and told me to get out of the house immediately as the water was continuously rising. I panicked all the more and tried my head and body out of the small window but it was hard for me. Jun, the neighbour who shouted at me to get out told me to grab the cable wires outside the window and push myself out of the window but it was still hard for me considering my height and the height of the window. Then I suddenly thought I had to kick something to push me through the window. I saw a plastic cabinet and without thinking twice kicked it with all my might and voila – I was out of the window and hanging outside my house. My neighbors reached for me and helped me get onto the wall beside the firewall of my house. I sat on the wall and saw 9 neighbors, 2 of them kids on the roof of my house making my water tank as cover from the strong wind, rain and flying debris. I think it was about 8am when I was able to get out of the house. And I stayed with my neighbors on the roof of my house, soaked in the rain, trembling due to the cold, strong winds for more or less 2 hours.
My Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Story: Part 2
As I was sitting on the wall my hands were clinging to the firewall on my right for fear of falling and injuring myself. The firewall covered me from flying debris but not from the strong winds and heavy rain. I was worried the water would continue to rise and reach us at the roof top. I continued to pray in my mind. I kept repeating the Seal of the Living God prayer, Hail Mary, Glory be and there were moments I would sing praises to the Lord as I was reminded of a bible verse saying “..in every circumstance, praise the Lord”. The women and children on my roof looked so worried and afraid too. We would often make eye to eye contact to give each other hope and encouragement coupled with a slight smile.
Suddenly I saw an empty plastic bottle of drinking water floating so I asked my teenage neighbor’s son to get it for me as he did not climb up to the wall yet. Then I looked for a rope so I can tie the bottle around my waist. What I found was a cable wire for tv but we had no knife or scissors to cut it so I rubbed the wire against the firewall to cut it. In just a couple of minutes the wire was cut and I was able to tie the bottle around my waist so I can use it as buoyant in case the water surge could reach us. My neighbour Jun also prepared several cable wires we could hold onto in case the waves reach us.
From where we were all we could see were devastation, water and debris. Had it not been for the still visible roofs of houses in our subdivision the entire place would look like an ocean. I tried to keep myself calm as I was claiming God’s faithfulness to His promise of protection through the Seal. Sometimes I would talk to God and tell Him that He is really powerful, that other people may realize how powerful He is, that He is Lord of all, Creator and Owner of everything and as such can take anything at any time if He wills it. I also remembered one line from one of His messages to Maria Divine Mercy which was published a few days before the typhoon which says, “if I have to destroy an entire city, then I would”. I also believed that there would be many who won’t make it, that many will be injured, that many will lose loved ones, homes, properties and even hope and the will to keep going after the typhoon. I also thought of my family in Samar where Haiyan made its first landfall and I prepared myself to hear bad news. I thought of friends, relatives and colleagues and I entrusted them to God’s mercy and protection through the Seal also.
After an hour and a half we observed the water level was steady and little by little it started to subside but the strong rain and wind kept coming. As the water continued to subside we all felt much relief believing the worse was over. We continued to wait and when the water was below knee level we started to descend from the wall and roof top and we stayed in Jun’s house. They immediately started to clean the house using flood water to clear the mud inside the house. I remained in their house as water in the street has not fully receded yet and I was afraid I could step on broken glasses, GI sheets, nails, etc if I force myself to my house since I had no slippers or shoes on. At around 10:30 in the morning the rain and strong winds were gone. Floodwater was almost gone too so I decided it was safe for me to get back to my house.
Everything was a mess outside my house. I was not able to open my screen door from the outside immediately as its edges were pushed too hard that they folded and sealed the door. I had to tear the screen and use a hammer to push the screen door open from inside the house. As the screen door finally opened, water from inside the house rushed its way out and I came in to find some surprises.
The first thing that surprised me was that the trace of the water level that entered my house reached only around 2 to 3 inches above my knee level, maybe due to the tight seal made by my screen door. Water level inside the houses of my neighbors varied too. Some had waist-deep, others chest-deep and one had neck-deep. I had the lowest water level inside the house. With this discovery I remembered a bible story where the apostle Peter asked Jesus if he could walk on the water towards Him. Fearful of the storm Peter started to sink and Jesus saved Him and told him how little faith he had. I suddenly felt ashamed because I acted like Peter. During the storm I was praying, I was focused on the Lord but when mud got into the house and seeing how high and strong the current of the flood water was in the street I suddenly lost focus on God and became fearful. I thought I’d be trapped inside the house and drown. With only a little above the knee water inside the house I could have just stayed inside and not be wet all over. How little faith do I have. With shame I asked the Lord for forgiveness. The guilt and shame haunted me for days. Then one day in Samar (after being reunited with my family) while I was in the bathroom taking a bath and thinking about me like the faithless Peter I suddenly heard a calm voice inside me say “but Peter was later chosen to lead God’s people…” Immediately I felt as if time stopped. I did not know what to say or think or how to react to what I heard. When the word “lead” finally sank in I asked myself, “will I later be called to lead too”? Then all the more did I feel ashamed and I kept saying I am and will never be worthy. I can never be like Peter, the leader. But later on, I surrendered my will to the Lord, for His greater glory and for the salvation of souls.
Another surprise was that water that entered the house did not reach the top of the dining table nor was it wet due to the leaks from the roof and ceiling. On top of the table was a sack filled with a few kilograms of rice, the backpack I prepared for evacuation where I placed my laptop, gadgets, some cash and clothes. The piles of clothes I placed on top of a low cabinet also did not get wet from the leaks. What went wet and dirty with mud were the bed sheets, blankets, etc inside the low cabinet. Although my bed was totally wet, two of the couch in my sala did not get wet too leaving me just enough space to rest and sleep. With all these surprises I realized that even in worse situations, God provides.
My Supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Story: Part 3
After lunch at my neighbor’s house I realized I needed to start cleaning up all the mess inside and out of the house. But with the enormous amount of waste, debris and wreckage around the neighbourhood I did not know where and how to start. My neighbors were all busy in their own homes and I was still on the sofa, thinking about what to do first. After resting for an hour I decided I had to take everything damaged and wet out of the house first. That whole afternoon I spent clearing the house with all the mess but I would from time to time take several minutes of rest because of back pains caused by my dextroscoliosis. I could not easily carry heavy things out because of this but there was no one I could call for help since everyone was busy cleaning their own homes. Each time I got thirsty I would take just a cupful of drinking water as there was just around a liter and a half left in the jug. I would sip the water so slowly so I could feel my throat get wet and I would not waste a drop of it because I knew it was precious as gold at such times. Some of the neighbors would come to me to deliver news that there were some dead bodies outside our subdivision, a lot more along the highway and in the downtown area and that devastation outside was much worse. They would always say we were luckier in our place. From all these initial reports I realized it was not practical and safe for me to leave the house. I decided I had to finish all the needed work in the house first before I could go out to seek help, find friends and colleagues, tell them I was fine and offer help if they need me.
It was about 5:30 in the afternoon of the same day when people in the neighbourhood started to panic again because of a tsunami scare. I don’t know how it all started but everyone just seemed so scared and worried. Neighbors started to flee. I tried to stay calm amidst the panic in the neighbourhood and I started to rationalize things. Typhoon Yolanda has passed and no earthquake happened that could trigger a tsunami. But with the trauma from the super typhoon I could not be at peace. I was thinking a tsunami after the typhoon and flood would be just too much. We were saved from the typhoon and flood just to die in a tsunami. I prayed and prayed again for strength and for the tsunami not to happen. That evening was one of the loneliest, darkest, longest, most silent of my life. I stayed in my neighbor’s house together with some other neighbors but we were not able to sleep well. From time to time strong winds still blow and the sound of torn GI sheets awaken and scare us. . We also took turns in checking outside for possible rise of water level again.
The horror of what I went through that day kept me awake. I kept thinking about my family in Samar where the typhoon made its first landfall and though I knew like me they were Sealed too I was worried about them. I wished I was with them at that very moment so we can give each other comfort and support. I was wondering if they were thinking about me too, if they already knew how massive the devastation in Tacloban was, that I needed in help. I also kept talking to the Lord about all these. At 5am the next day when it seemed safe already I went back to my little house to get the sleep I needed.
The day after the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda I planned to finish taking out all the mud from my house and for this I needed water, lots of water. But the only water I had was inside the tank at the roof top and I reserved it for bathroom and toilet use for that day and the days ahead. Water supply was cut because of the typhoon so I didn’t know where to find water. After sweeping the mud out of the house I took some rest and sleep in preparation for the next thing to do – fetch water for cleaning from an artesian well situated near the gate of our subdivision some 200 meters away from my house. But when I woke up from my nap lo and behold, my floor was filled with clear water. It did not rain so I presumed it came right from the below the ground and sprang forth through the floor tiles. “Thank you dear Lord for another miracle!”, I smiled saying silently as I started mopping the floor using the water God has provided for me. He has spared me from the long lines and waiting hours at the artesian wall for just a pail or two of water.
That afternoon news reached us that panic and looting of hungry and desperate survivors has started at the downtown area. For security reasons plus the absence of transportation services, and the horrific sight of all the wreckage, debris, dead bodies of people and animals everywhere I believed it was right that decided to do the things I needed to do in the house rather than leave and be in the midst of chaos and panic.
With the job for the day done I took my bamboo sofa out of the house so my neighbors and I will have a place to relax during work intervals and a front seat at night in front of the world’s biggest movie screen – the vast skies starring brother moon, sister stars and meteorites.
The next day, Sunday, I told God I wish I could go to attend Mass that day but circumstances just could not allow me. With all the trauma and desperation in the neighbourhood, the widespread looting and panic outside I told myself I had to get out of Tacloban city the soonest possible time.
Sunday was a sunny day so I took advantage of the sunshine to hang wet clothes, etc. Clothesline was limited so I used cut cable and power lines. The streets in the neighbourhood looked like adorned with “banderitas” during fiestas. Water continued to flow out from the floor beside my dining area so I resumed cleaning and mopping other rooms in the house including my bedroom.
After dinner as Jun and I were about to start sharing a couple of bottles of beer to kill time a motorcycle passed by the house and I heard a familiar voice call out, “Mr. Carlon, kumusta?” I stood up immediately and recognized Kuya Erwin, my sister’s husband and with him on the vehicle was my sister, Nancy and so I shouted “my rescue team has arrived”! It was quite a surprise to see them and relieving at the same time to finally see a loved one after all I’ve been through.
My sister told me everyone in my hometown was fine and that the typhoon has left our town with just a minimal damage. Some got injured but no life was lost. Praised be the Lord for His faithfulness in keeping my loved safe and protected as He promised through the Seal. Other neighboring towns were not as fortunate as ours though. With our hometown barely scathed by the typhoon’s wrath they all thought the same thing for Tacloban city where I lived. Not until our parish priest mentioned in his homily that Sunday morning the vast devastation of the city that’s did they start to worry and panic too. That same morning my mother sent them to find me. The 2 and a half hour trip lasted for several hours as the highways have not been fully cleared yet. She also told me the moment they entered the city she couldn’t help but cry seeing all the devastation and dead bodies everywhere. Kuya Erwin even told her that based on what they saw along the way it was impossible for me to survive so he told my sister that they better get back home to my mother. But my sister insisted that they have to see and find out what happened to me. Before they reached my house they too had their share of hardships, desperation, hunger and thirst.
My Supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Story: Final Part
That same night, my sister and her husband left to check on his family and relatives in Burauen, a town an hour-drive away from Tacloban.
The next day, Monday, I resumed cleaning the house. Helicopters, C-130 planes and other airplanes were becoming a common sight in the skies of Tacloban that time I presume making aerial inspections, taking photos and video footages, rescuing victims and bringing in relief packs for the survivors. Gunshots too have been a usual sound before bedtime and as wake up calls early in the morning as looting became even more rampant prompting the government to declare a state of martial law in the city. My sister and her husband returned without having been able to buy a single drop of fuel. Gas stations everywhere were filled with long lines of people. Fuel price started to rise as supply became scarce. They left to try their luck again.
That night I prayed and asked God to give me water for laundry purposes. I needed water again for the last work I intended to do before I leave for my hometown. I had several bed sheets, bed covers, comforters, blankets, etc. wet and filled with mud and I thought I couldn’t just leave them that way. Our faithful God woke me up to another miracle – a heavy rain at 4 am. I placed all water containers under leaking roof gutters to gather rain water and despite the darkness started washing all the stuff I needed to wash. Most of them dried and when the day ended I told myself I was ready to leave.
The next day, Wednesday, November 13, we left for my hometown. The moment I reached the high way I broke down. The devastation of the areas near the sea was beyond expectation. The streets were full of people walking to and from any direction, cars, debris, dead bodies of people and animals, mud and all the mess you can imagine. Familiar places were now almost beyond recognition. The city has been transformed into a wasteland. We stopped by to check on the hospital where I work and seeing the extent of the damage I was sure I could go jobless for several months. I spoke to a few people who told me 5 different groups of people have been asking for my whereabouts there since the typhoon occurred. I also told them I was leaving to be with my family.
When we reached downtown we saw a man using a mobile phone to call so we pleaded to the guy to allow us to make one short text message as my mobile phone ran out of prepaid credits already. The kind man lent me his mobile phone and suggested I make a call instead of sending a text message. I dialled my brother’s 3 numbers but to no avail so I called up a dear friend Gloria to ask her to contact my brother and tell him I was fine and was on the way home to my hometown. My voice was trembling and all I could say to Gloria was please, please, please……..Gloria was so happy to know I was fine and when I asked her to contact my brother for me I was surprised when she told me they have been in touch with each other since the typhoon occurred as they both were trying to get news about me. She told me the reason why I cannot contact my brother is that he left Manila and could possibly be in our hometown already for a mission to find out what happened to me and my family. I also told Gloria to tell my friends in Facebook that I survived Yolanda’s wrath. After that short call I thank the kind man and we made our way out of the city.
We were on the still flooded area of Diit, a few kilometres away from the downtown area when we saw people panicking and getting their way fast back towards the city proper shouting “Get back! Get back! There are armed men shooting policemen and civilians at the San Juanico bridge”! The looks on their faces scared us and also triggered panic on me, my sister and her husband driving the motorcycle. The fear it gave me was even greater than how I felt during the typhoons and flood. People told us the armed men were rebels belonging to the NPA and so I thought they were taking advantage of the present situation of the city to take over the government. I told him to take us back to the city and proceed directly to the airport. “We’ll ride a C-130 plane to Manila and from there ride a bus for Samar”, I said. But he told me our fuel won’t suffice so we decided to take cover on a hill beside the cemetery in Diit several meters away from the highway. Other people joined us and they were as afraid as we were. They were crying and one elderly woman even fell to the ground feeling helpless and hopeless. The scorching heat of the sun made it even harder for all of us trying to escape from the incident. I tried to stay calm as my sister was already panicking and I was praying and praying silently for protection again. I even called on the soul of our deceased father to help us get through all these and bring us home safely.
My brother-in-law, a retired military man immediately recovered from panic and observed the cars and buses en route to the San Juanico area were no longer making U turns towards the city proper. People on their way to the city proper too were no longer running but walking normally so he thought it was safe to hit the road again.
Before reaching the bridge we were informed by the policemen stationed there that it was safe to go and cross the bridge. The information was such a relief to us. When we crossed over San Juanico bridge and reached Samar we immediately looked for fuel. A lady motorist directed us to a place where she was able to buy fuel at quite a lower price so we proceeded to the place and bought fuel enough for us to reach our hometown.
We made a short stop in the town of Basey to refill our bottle of drinking water as the liter of water I brought was consumed by the 3 of us while we were taking refuge at the cemetery. I went to a dear friend’s house to find out how they were. Fortunately they all survived and I was led to the house where my paraplegic friend took refuge soI can get a refill of drinking water. Before reaching the house I passed by another good friend’s house and she was so glad to see me. We conversed for a few minutes and she gave me drinking water and biscuits we can take while travelling.
We hit the road again and saw for myself the extent of the devastation in the towns and small communities along the way. We also made other stops as we got a flat tire twice. After 6 long hours finally we reached home. My 11-year old niece Nikki and 6-year old nephew Troy were so surprised but glad to see me. In their excitement they immediately ran and called for my mother who was in her bedroom and shouted, “Nanay, Uncle Junjun is here”! I heared my mother exclaim, “Thank you Lord, this is real good news”! Then she climbed down the stairs and when I saw her, hugged her tight and sobbed for minutes without saying a single word. I was like a small child clinging to and wanting for a mother’s protection, love and warmth. She hugged me back so tightly, tapped my back without saying a word too but that was enough for me. Words were no longer needed at that time. I could also feel her holding back her tears but stood there strongly as I needed to draw strength from her. Days later she confided to my friends who made a visit that she really was holding back her tears when I was crying and hugging her but when she was alone in bathroom taking a bath she let go of her tears.
A few relatives started coming too and all of them said they were all so worried but kept praying that I was alive and well. My brother who was out arrived later and when he saw me, put his arms around me and said, a lot of people in Facebook are so worried about me and some even helped finance his trip home to find me and see the situation in the Eastern Samar towns as news on the province was scarce.
I spent the night telling my mother, relatives and friends my ordeal during and the days immediately after the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda. The trauma from all these unfortunate events kept haunting me but I knew I had to deal with all that and move forward so after a week’s rest I started working as a volunteer-coordinator of the Relief Operations in our parish and church.
I wrote this testimony to glorify my God, our God who is Faithful. He is firm but a very loving Father who provides for our needs even at the worst and most trying times. He keeps His promises especially the promise of protection for all those who accept His Seal including their loved ones.
Merciful and Loving Father, I am Yours, totally Yours. Do with me as You will, for Your greater Glory and for the salvation of souls. Amen now and forever!
Testimony of Dye from Loon (Philippines) who remained unharmed after an 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Bohol Island.
October 15, 2013 – TUESDAY – The last day KC (Audrey’s nanny) will be working for us. We were scheduled to leave Loon to get a nanny replacement in Ubay. I told KC to clean the net cafe early morning and we can bid goodbye after breakfast.
8:12 am – KC was cleaning our space. Suddenly, the earth shook… then shook harder… KC shouted, “Linog te!!!” She immediately covered Audrey and then I covered both of them while praying the SEAL of the LIVING GOD! I had my faith, 1000% sure that we will be okay & we will never be destructed…
Maybe after 2 minutes, I finished praying the seal. But the shaking didn’t stop. It was like there was a drilling machine all over us. The roar of the earth was really scary. But I told myself I should be strong for my daughter (a 4 year old toddler). I told KC and Audrey that we will hide under our plastic table. Then, we started to pray the Holy Rosary. Countless of aftershocks were felt but still we continued to pray. Our neighbors were checking on us. And I just told them we will stay there and pray. During the 5th mystery, Audrey told us she would like to pee. We have no choice but to pause our Rosary. Most of our things were now scattered on the floor. It was hard to pass by going to our comfort room. But to our dismay, when we opened our backdoor, we have no comfort room anymore! The extension of our building was totally damaged. It was really a miracle that the main building where we were renting was saved, not even a single crack. And for us, not even a single bruise.
My tears fell when I knew the damages the earthquake had made. Our church went to ground zero, some of our neighbors died & many of my friends lost their homes.
That day, with all the graces from God, we managed to get home to our parent’s house in Ubay. After 5 days, I went back to Loon. It shocked me that the building had cracks already. It was no longer a safe place to stay. And I told myself, now God wants me out of my comfort zone, His will is done…
I would like to say thank you to all my friends & relatives who checked on our safety. A never ending gratitude to our God who gave me the biggest miracle right before my eyes…
And I hope this testimony will inspire you to have the biggest FAITH in God. We shouldn’t have the smallest doubts in Him.