The aftermath of the storm surge at Tacloban airport, photo via Buzzfeed Romeo Ranoco/Reuters
I got wind of this first hand story of a survivor of Typhoon Yolanda from our friends Major Jun & Gen Matias, via Allan Jose Taguba on Facebook. It truly is different seeing it on TV and then hearing/reading a story from somebody who was right there during the onslaught of the typhoon and lived to tell the tale.
Heartbreaking. Please read on.
Reports from Tacloban are coming in trickles. I'm not posting this to let everyone know I or we in this part of the Visayas survived the strongest of winds. But by accounts of those who have experienced the worst onslaught of Yolanda, a prayer could help ease the suffering. I'm posting this to ask just that. Your prayers.
There was ample preparation until the unexpected challenged even the expertise of the rescuers. Here's a heart-warming story of one survivor, an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel:
"Sa labas kami ng office nung 6am Friday observing. Winds brought by Yolanda were already strong around that time. We (Air Force troops in Tacloban) prepared for rescue mission days before the expected landfall of Yolanda.
Just before 7am rain started to pour so we took shelter. Around the same time parang may tubig baha pumapasok sa office so we went out again.
Then suddenly pataas ng pataas ang tubig until we started getting into the ceilings of the building - binubutas na namin mga kisame then, ako yung huling umakyat. Suddenly the building collapsed and I saw my men falling into the surging water and very strong winds. Wala na ding bubong ang building.
I was able to hold onto a piece of wood - a truss which I forcibly removed just before I was taken by waves and strong current. Hindi ko na rin napansin kung nasaan yung dalawa kong officers na bagong graduate ng PMA na katabi ko lang bago kami nilamon ng tubig.
Then I saw one of my soldiers trying to hold onto an uncollapsed wall of another destroyed building. I tried to reach for him but the current was too strong and there was confusion and hysteria. Palayo ako ng palayo papuntang dagat and all I saw were tips of coconut trees starting to disappear into the swelling water.
Suddenly may nakita akong bata nakayakap ng mahigpit sa taas ng isang puno ng niyog. By stroke of luck the current led me to the child and I was able to pluck him from his very unfortunate situation. Kumapit na rin siya sa kinakapitan ko. Then nagpalutang lutang na kami hangang sa gitna ng dagat.
Sa dagat we went through another hell. We were slapped by waves, great big waves from all directions. We were also toyed by swirling winds. Madami na kami nainum na salt water. Pagod na ako. Pagod na rin si Miguel, yung kasama kong bata. He is just 7 years old. Napakabata para mamatay.
I thought of my family. I prayed to God na bahala na siya sa aking mga anak at asawa. I thought I've done to them what every father could - naiayos ko na sila. I also thought of my men. Days prior I told them to ensure the safety of their families especially those in Tacloban since the city could be hit hard and everyone of us will be busy in the rescue mission after Yolanda. Baka wala na time para umuwi sa families nila during the rescue.
Then I thought of the two new graduates of PMA 2013. Naisip ko kung may mangyari sa akin at least nakapagserbisyo na ako ng maayos, I've done enough since graduation. Sila nagsisimula pa lang and have a very bright future.
Then I looked at Miguel. Nanginginig na siya sa lamig. His very young body could not just cope up with the elements. Sabi niya "Kuya, matutulog na ako. Pagod na ako."
Then I thought, maybe I survived because of this child. Without him I could have given up. Maybe he's the reason I'm still alive because God wants me to make sure this child will live. Sumigaw ako sa tenga ni Miguel: "Huwag kang matulog! Kaya mo yan! Tignan mo, malapit na tayo sa lupa".
Then I pointed at what I thought was another wall of swell, just to lift the spirit of Miguel. Pero shoreline na pala talaga yun. I thought there really is a Powerful Being."
The two survived Yolanda and the rough seas between Leyte and Samar during the onslaught of the typhoon. They came near Tacloban airport and were eventually rescued along the shorelines of Basey, Samar at around 1pm the same day. They floated for around 6 hours before they were rescued. Basey and Tacloban are separated by the San Pablo and San Pedro Bay. The devastation they saw along the Basey shoreline is another story worth telling. Around a score of the officer's men are still missing. These men are supposed to take part in the relief and rescue operations for Leyte and Samar.
Contrary to what has been alluded that Tacloban was not prepared for this devastation, there were rescue teams on standby. It was just unfortunate that nature took its powerful course, and nothing could have prepared even the hardiest of trained rescuers for this level of disaster.
Apparently, apart from the military rescuers, there are local policemen and even government employees who are missing at this point. A former schoolmate in UP, who is now the City Administrator of Tacloban says that they are very short on personnel, but they are doing their best to restore order and peace at the capital despite very limited resources.
More than just Tacloban, Ormoc needs our help too. The needs of Ormoc have largely gone unnoticed as of this writing, and it is also of utmost importance that relief goods and much needed supplies are sent their way too.
For ways on how we can all help, check out THIS LIST compiled by Rappler of agencies and organizations accepting donations and mobilizing efforts to bring goods to where they are needed most.