Typhoon Haiyan – Stories from La Paz
When in Manila, the Nov 8, 2013 natural disaster tragedy that was typhoon Haiyan (locally: typhoon Yolanda) hit so close to home, it affected us all. The immense international media focus that followed shed some light on local government ineffectiveness, yet at the same time brought in help from all around the world. Nearly three months have passed and our focus has drifted away from Tacloban and the affected Visayas. While the Christmas holidays may be over, lets continue the sense of giving and compassion with our fellow Visayans in mind.
On a recently concluded medical mission and relief operations trip to Leyte and Samar, several families shared their survival stories. At first incredibly kind and greatly thankful for the chance to share their stories, each narrator started to cry when recounting his/her typhoon experience. It is evident that the trauma has left a deep mark in each survivor and it is now still on us to help the victims in any way we can, may it be financially, through moral support or physically in volunteer & mission trips.
These are three Typhoon Haiyan stories from La Paz, Leyte:
A family of four, Nelson T. Radam, his wife and two daughters lived a tranquil life in their hometown of La Paz, Leyte. Nelson and his wife ran a window and door shop, also offered welding services and sold and exported buko (coconut). While the couple worked, they sent their two daughters Christine, 21, and Zhyrenne Mae, 6, to school.
During the night of typhoon Haiyan, the family gathered together in prayer with Nelson’s wife holding a holy bible in one hand and a Virgin Mary figure in the other. While in prayer, the family witnessed the four walls of their house caving in and their roof flying away. Terrified and fearing for their lives, they left everything they owned behind, escaped their collapsing home and found shelter in a nearby concrete house, strong enough to withstand the typhoon. During their escape they described the scene of the ongoing destructive winds as horrifying, a tornado-like nightmare that spared nothing – houses, roofs, gadgets, trees, plants, motorcycles – everything got caught in the typhoon and flew around, destructing the very surrounding.
Once the typhoon finally subsided, Nelson and his family departed their shelter to examine the damage. They had lost everything. People around them were in tears and Nelson’s 6-year old daughter Zhyrenne Mae started asking her mother what had happened. Not able to respond, Nelson, his wife and their daughters could only cry.
Although clearly traumatized, Nelson’s wife says she is eternally thankful that her family’s lives were spared. They may have lost their source of income, their home and everything they owned but having each other and still being in good health is more than many other victims were left with.
The Radam family now plans to rebuild their house and store and pick up the pieces of their lives. They currently live in a makeshift shelter where their home once used to be.
When typhoon Haiyan hit the house of spouses Emmalyn Cernal and her husband in the early morning of November 8, Emmalyn started praying the rosary in her bedroom. Fearing that their house would not endure the strong winds, Emmalyn’s son suggested they find shelter at the nearby house of his uncle. His mother however insisted to stay home and finish praying the rosary. She and her husband hid in the bathroom while her older son went through the backdoor to kick a hole in the fence as a way to escape.
With the walls of their house shaking and the roof coming off, he knew their time in safety at home was limited. Emmalyn recounts how she and the family witnessed appliances and house parts flying in the tornado-like storm. As the walls of their house started crumbling they prepared to leave. The family made three attempts at escaping their house but then realized that leaving would be too dangerous – the winds proved to be too strong to flee safely. Instead, they all hid in the bathroom of their house and waited until the storm was over.
Like many, the Cernal family lost their home and everything they own. In spite of this, Emmalyn is thankful that her family is safe and nobody got injured. She is grateful that her daughter Michelle, who at the time of the typhoon was in Palo (by Tacloban), was also spared from harm, as she and friends hiked up a mountain to be safe from rising floods.
After the typhoon, the town of La Paz did not experience the looting and crime increase that was reported in Tacloban. Despite the destruction and desperation following the tragedy, the local community remained peaceful with people helping each other.
While there would be a chance for the Cernals to leave the country and go to relatives in the US, the family wants to stay in La Paz and rebuild their home and life. Until that is accomplished they will remain living in the kitchen and ruins of their leftover home.
Witnessing Super Typhoon Haiyan quickly destroy their fragile wooden home, Nancy and her family – including husband and three of her six children (three reside in Manila) – escaped to a relative’s nearby concrete home.
For the next four hours the typhoon demolished their hometown. Turning to their faith, the family remained in their shelter and found themselves in prayer, asking God to stop the terrifying strong winds. Fearful that the typhoon may catch the family inside their refuge, Nancy tied her 6-month old baby onto her chest to prevent being separated from him by the storm. She panicked that once the winds would get into the house, her son would be carried and blown away. Remaining in prayer and practicing patience, the typhoon passed, destroying their home and surrounding but sparing the family from any physical harm.
When one of her children visited from Manila after the typhoon, Nancy and her family became incredibly emotional and realized how grateful they could be to only have lost their home and belongings.
Even though Nancy and her family are traumatized and terrified by the memories of that fateful November night, they have remained in La Paz and, with no alternative left, done what all their neighbors and friends are doing: picking up the pieces of their broken lives, rebuilding homes that used to be and starting over from zero.
When in Manila, and you are looking for ways to help the victims of typhoon Haiyan (typhoon Yolanda), go to: https://www.wheninmanila.com/verified-legit-ways-to-help-super-typhoon-haiyan-yolanda-victims-how-to-donate-or-volunteer-with-legitimate-organizations/.