In UncategorizedJanuary 27th, 2014

Finding the Way Home: A Story of Hope Amidst the Storm

Posted by on January 27th, 2014 | No Comments »

“I have weathered many storms in my lifetime, and I will certainly weather this one.”

My father told me this, with an adamant tone. Typhoon Haiyan was three days away from a landfall in the Philippines, yet my father, driven by some drive or purpose fueled by his set of iron-clad professional ethics, decided to push through with a business meeting with his associate in Catbalogan, one of the towns in Western Samar.

At the time, little did he know that the islands of Samar and Leyte were already in the direct path of one of the world’s most powerful and intense typhoons in the history.

My father was a proud man and being someone who has been through life threatening situations many times over, I believe that he had grown and polished for himself an aura of indestructibility and a degree of carelessness along with it. His most recent brush with death came when Tropical Storm Washi swept through Mindanao in the southern section of the Philippines.

Washi came around midnight of December 16, 2011 and the torrential rains it brought caused the Cagayan de Oro River to become a raging monster of water and debris, sweeping houses along the river banks like a scythe does to the helpless stalks of wheat. Our house was near the side of a river, a hundred meter distance, more or less, from its placid waters during summer time.

But when Washi came in, the river was anything but placid.

Water rose to high levels, engulfing anything in its path, swirling cars and trucks like they were rubber ducks in the tub. The crashing water from the mountains ended the lives of more than a thousand Filipinos, rendering thousands more homeless.

But Dad survived that one. Floodwater rose higher than our one-storey house yet he managed to climbed to the roof our neighbor and braved the rains and the winds and the flood for another four hours until we finally rescued him from his perilous predicament.

We all came out from that calamity stronger, yet fully aware of Mother Nature’s wrath and how destructive it can be from a very personal perspective. Yet even with all that epiphany, my dad made for himself this notion that he can survive anything.

Fast forward to November 5th, 2013, with Typhoon Haiyan just three days away from making a landfall, my father headed to Samar for a business meeting despite the fact that a super typhoon is on its way.

Typhoon_Haiyan_viewed_from_International_Space_Station

“I have weathered many storms in my lifetime, and I will certainly weather this one.”

And so he pushed through with his trip. He even got to meet with his business contact the day before Typhoon Haiyan. He was already planning his return trip when the storm signal has been raised in the Samar-Leyte area.  All trips by sea and air were cancelled until further notice.

And so my dad was forced to hole up in a little town called Catbalogan, Samar, more than a hundred kilometers north from Tacloban City, Leyte.

It was Friday when the storm hit. Howling winds that packed more than 300 kilometers per hour barreled its way mercilessly from the waters of the Pacific Ocean and swept and blew houses, buildings, ships, and power lines like they were Lego blocks. Along with the intense winds, the typhoon brought with it swells of seawater that rose up to 20 feet. Walls of water crashed and blasted anything its path, slamming cars and ships, drowning people and animal alike.

Videos of seawater flooding the streets of Tacloban reminded me of Washi. But Haiyan was much more in ferocity and power that Washi pales in comparison.

The aftermath of the storm projected images of tragedy and loss on an epic scale. As someone puts it, what happened to Tacloban and the rest of the Philippines that lay in Haiyan’s storm path was akin to the disaster of great magnitude like that of the 2004 tsunami that took more than 200,000 lives.

The loss of communication and electricity added to the burden of everyone. My dad experienced the horror of the strong winds before yet Haiyan’s power was different.

“Trees are falling down and power is now out,”

he said, describing to me the situation before signal from cell sites went off shortly after. It was then my worries and fears began to spin its thread. Without power and communication, I had no way of knowing how my father is doing. I tried to be optimistic and positive but fear has its way of polluting your thoughts. No matter how I tried to say to myself that my dad is going to be fine, I could not help but think he was able to weather the storm.

For two days, I find myself scouring the internet for news, hoping to find articles and posts about the fate of Catbalogan. And for two days, I got no word until my cousin who is in the Philippine Army was able to communicate to my relatives in Cebu City via radio that my dad was okay. That despite winds of epic strength and angry seas that washed and crashed entire cities and towns, he was okay.

And now, he’s home.

Typhoon Haiyan is the most powerful cyclone in the history. It is also the deadliest typhoon that killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines alone. To donate and help the victims, please visit Red Cross.

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