TACLOBAN CITY – Seven years have passed since super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ravaged Eastern Visayas, claiming at least six thousand lives, destroying countless numbers of home, property and infrastructure, that left survivors still remembering, to this day, their harrowing experience, stories of survival, and perished loved ones.
Department of Tourism Region 8 (DOT-8) Director Karen Tiopes can still recall the seemingly endless hours of fear and tension on that daybreak of November 8, 2013 that left them with so much trauma that will never be erased from their hearts and minds for the rest of her life.
“The aftermath left us shaken, in deep grief but not broken and, undoubtedly, hopeful that we would rise back after the storm and surge. Today, we remember and pray for those whom God took home with him during ‘Yolanda’,” she shared.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Mario Jose Chico can still remember not hearing anything about the fate of his family in this city, but reassuring him that his wife being the officer-in-charge of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Tacloban, she would be able to take care of herself and their two children.
“As the Operation Officer of the 1003rd Brigade of the Army at that time, I went around Davao del Norte province to check on our disaster rescue preparedness with our partners from Davao del Norte DRRMD. Little did I know that my family in Tacloban was already clinging on the roof of the single-storey building of Red Cross for four hours to survive the storm surge,” he shared.
Egged on by his desire to know more about his family, Chico set off on his own in his car, travelling from Davao del Norte to Tacloban where he, himself, had to search through the rubble of the PRC building, looking for his family as tears rolled down his cheeks.
“It was like a scene in the movie which I find as ‘bakya’ that I never had an appetite to watch. After a few hours of searching in the dark, in different places, I found them at the Leyte Park hotel together with the other Red Cross staff and volunteers. I thanked God for protecting my family to survive the onslaught of ‘Yolanda’,” he said.
Don Leandrew Tiu, a former local television anchor and reporter, also shared his story of survival when the storm surge swept through their station, and claimed the lives of some of his colleagues.
“The water suddenly filled our station which prompted us to climb to the roof for survival, while we clung on to steel trusses so we will not be swept by the storm surge,” he recalled.
Tiu still offers his prayers for his colleagues Archie Globio, Malou Realino, and Chito Lopez, who sacrificed their lives to bring information to the public amidst the onslaught of the typhoon.
Meanwhile, lawyer Simoun Cercado expressed optimism that one day, people will forget the anxiety, the devastation, and the fear that the super typhoon left behind.
“Maybe one day, man will realize that nature is shared to be carefully utilized. One day, but not today. The pain and anxiety still lingers, the apocalyptic destruction I remember, the wanton disregard for our environment still puts us in danger,” he said.
He added that “Yolanda” should be a constant reminder to everyone, especially those in power, that what people do to the environment ultimately comes back in a destructive, apocalyptic, and life-ending manner.
“Today we celebrate, today we remember, but tomorrow we make a solemn pact to love our environment better,” he said.