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Surviving Typhoon Haiyan

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November 8th, 2013 was a date people in the Philippines would never forget. It was the day Typhoon Haiyan struck. The day those winds blew off and tore families apart. Maybe you have heard the news about it seven months ago. Maybe you’re off thinking, “Nah, this is just another mother nature catastrophe. Nothing different from Katrina, or Haiti, or Japan.”

I respectfully disagree with you. People never know what to say. Metaphors are too weak, every deep word's too small, every description fails, and every bit of news ain’t enough to describe what we’ve been through. How much that damn typhoon took from us. After all, it was the strongest typhoon to ever hit the Earth, what could a small third-world nation do about it. Four months after today, it'll be the first anniversary of the destruction and emotional pain.

This is a true story of my experiences during the Typhoon Haiyan.

The Day It Came

The night before, I was busy doing my last project for college. We already knew that a typhoon was going to hit. People have already warned us of the incoming storm surge. Problem is at that time we didn’t know what a “storm surge” is. I was staying over my grandmother’s house. The house was in the town of Sto. Nino, Tanauan; a place near the beach. The house had internet, which I needed to finish my assignment so I stayed. At that time, I or anybody else didn’t care about that typhoon. Heck, I was far more scared of missing my project than any hurricane or shit. If there was anything about a typhoon hitting us, we weren’t scared, but instead we were all excited. Typhoon meant no classes, so it’s a small vacation nonetheless, and college tended to be waterproof. Strong typhoon doesn’t necessarily happen in the Visayas region of the Philippines, which we were at, but it happens most in the Northern Luzon region. So we weren’t scared of any shit-ass typhoon.

After finally finishing the project, I went straight to sleep.

It was probably near sunrise when the water finally came. I was still soundly sleeping when I heard the screams. I did feel cold wind and water but I gave no shit about it. Thank God for my uncle for finally kicking me awake and shouting at me to get the hell out of my room. The moment I woke up, there was no house left. The roof was gone and so were the walls at the back. Saltwater was rushing from the beach and into our town, and the house was all washed up. The water was already chest deep when I finally got into my senses.

My family and I were all panicked as Hell. The water was rising up, and you could really feel your breathing turning into drowning. The smell of saltwater reeks so bad, even until today the smell is still in my nose and gives me the creeps. The saltwater that was rushing in was murky black, and you can really feel sand grinding your skin. We all held each other to get to the door, but even that was futile. My uncle tried to yank the door open, but the water pressure outside was keeping it shut. We tried our very best, every ounce of adrenaline used, but to no avail. The water was rising very quickly, and it was already in our chins. We were all scared, scared of drowning, because I always thought it was a slow painful death and my cousins were all crying hysterically.

Then, my uncle managed to rip the ceiling so we could climb the walls and get higher from the water. He instructed me to destroy the windows so some of us could get out in that way. My cousins, one by one, wobbled their way to the top of the wall. I continued on kicking the windows to get out.

When I finally did get rid of it, as I stepped outside the water suddenly pushed me back and into the open. Instantly, my foot got separated from land, and water was already rushing in strong and fast. I was never a good swimmer, I don’t even know how to float, and I hated being in the water. At that time I already considered myself dead. I shouted and screamed to the top of my lungs for someone to help me. The water was so high; I couldn’t feel anything under my feet. I sink fast, and I try to swipe my arms just to get to the surface. Breathing was so hard, and my lungs got filled with salty murky water. My uncle and cousins yelled at me to swim for my life. Panicking and almost exhausted, I crawled my way back to the wall as fast and as hard as I could. I closed my eyes and prayed.

But thank God my uncle managed to pull me up when I finally got near. I panted like Hell. I never felt so alive. My heart was still beating so fast I thought it would rupture. I lie down and saw the carnage unfolding. We weren’t the only ones who were unlucky. I saw people, the people I have known, getting swept away by the water. Many held for dear life. I saw one mother trying her best to keep her baby in her arms. I saw animals like an adult buffalo being swept away and dragged its big fat body before it crashed hard on the debris. I also saw the elderly, easily getting swept away and pulled under the water. Other people tried to hang on to coconut trees and whatever trees there are while powerful winds whip our backs, and raindrops falling hard like glass shards. The typhoon would last the whole morning till the noon. Three tsunami-like waves hit our town, and I saw those waves pull back into the ocean bringing debris, and the dead, with it.

The Week After

Tanauan-damage

After the typhoon, more trouble struck us. The local government was in shambles, so there was no one to go to. The reliefs hadn’t yet arrived, and won’t be arriving till the next week. There was no food yet for it was all swept away by the water. People did what they could to survive. They dug into the Earth thinking there’s freshwater underneath. Animals were all slaughtered to feed families because food was so scarce. The houses were all destroyed so there’s no place to live on. We also salvaged what we can. There was also no bathroom available, so people left nightsoil, or generally piss and shit anywhere they please. It was that same shit that happens in post-apocalyptic movies, and God it was horrible! Horrible like Hell!

But the most horrifying of them all were the dead bodies. There were dead bodies lying everywhere. All of them, either they drowned or got crushed. Young and old, rich or poor, they were everywhere you see. I’ve always seen dead and gory corpses in movies and video games all the time, and I always thought I was already immune to gore, but to see them up close is just nerve racking and heartbreaking. The dead were all bleached white as a marble floor. Many have their eyes closed, and some has theirs open. Those eyes, dead as they are, stare at you, still asking for help. Many are slung in position and naked. The most vile where the ones who got their body opened up, and the guts were spilling everywhere. And God their mouths, their mouths were unnerving. Their mouths were open to the biggest angle. Like they tried to scream so loud as they died in the most gruesome way ever.

It was pure shit. I once saw a dead fat woman lying in the bridge, her bleached bloated torso open and her organs being eaten by dogs. Her skin was crispy-looking, with white ooze coming from her wounds. Her eyes were missing, must have been pecked by the crows. And her mouth was wide open, like you can put your hand in and slide down. That woman would stay there for another three days before being taken away. There was also a story of an old man who climbed the church towers to escape the water. But the poor man didn’t saw a huge piece of metal travelling directly at him at top speed, and he got beheaded right on the spot. His body was stuck clinging to that tower till the duration of the typhoon.

There was no place to get rid of them. As for the rest of the deads who wasn’t taken by any family member, we line them up on the street and covered them with tarpaulins and blankets. The line would stretch miles away, and those dead people would stay there unburied for more than five months before being taken away. Their smell was disgusting; it sticks to your nose. It smelled like salty rotten uncooked broth meat. You can really distinguish what a dead person smells like from a dead rat.

There was one time when we tried to get a family buried underneath their broken wooden house. We tried our best to get to them, avoiding getting ourselves cut, for medicine was less and tetanus was rampant. When we finally got to them, we were all too late. The family, consisting of a father; an older sister; and three youngsters, where dead. Their bodies already started to decompose. I knew that family very well. The father was an overseas worker who loved his children and provided for them, and the youngsters were all below ten. The sister was also in the same college as I was. She was an architect, blooming to be a cum laude due to her skills and intellect, but died on the spot with her dreams and oppurtunities washed away. In that day, I asked God why he’d loves so much to kill good and kind people, the same people this world needed the most.

Nighttime was a whole different story of horror. Rumours circulated that many penitentiary in the city was busted open by the typhoon, and that many thieves, killers, and rapists were on the loose. There were stories off mass rape cicling around the city. Hearing stories about a seven year old girl gangraped, her genetalia ripped open viciously. There were also stories about the weak elderly getting their own share of rape as well. We don't know if there were all true, but we kept ourselves afe and secure for anythin. One night, while my cousins sleep, me and my uncle stay guard.

The mosquitoes were flying everywhere, and there was no electricity so the place was pitch dark. Our house only has two walls left and a small room, so anyone can just freely enter. I kept a kitchen knife beside me. There were people passing by, their faces hidden by the dark. I see many of them carrying machetes and guns, and there was a lot of pressure and tense moments. Suddenly, three men approached the house. They seem to be examining it. But me and my uncle was ready. When they were close enough, they realized that we were packing and they left. God knows what they would have done.

Survivors

Christmas came, but still no electricity and little food to eat. The dead bodies were still on the road, and their stink was so bad and rough, that the people burned grass to mask the smell. There were news reports saying that President Ninoy Aquino was going to send help, and will be fixing our electricity by Christmas. But they were all big-ass lies. That scumbag is a big asshole, trying to make himself look like a hero so he can win the next election or some shit. And the worst part, is that our city mayor was a family rival of the president. So we were all fucked up. Celebrities themselves from around the world came in to comfort us. Justin Beiber visited us, and me myself played hoops with the guy.

After that my impression with Justin Beiber changed, and I respected the kid. Others like Manny Pacquiao, Miss Universe, and celebrities came. And off course, scumbag politicians also visited us and took pictures with us to make it look like they gave a damn and win the next fucking elections. But those assholes didn’t do anything and left us. Some did leave relief goods for us us, albeit with their name and face written on it to make sure we remember their “kindness”. And I also heard that Paul Walker, one of my favorite actors, died while trying to help us. The typhoon really was fucking with everyone else even outside the Philippines.

Four months have passed and things were changing for the better. Schools and colleges reopened, and job fairs were made. The dead people were still there, but many of them were finally removed to either be buried or burned. But the typhoon wasn't finished with me.

It was Sunday morning, when me and my cousins thought it’ll be nice to swim to the beach again. Like I said earlier I hated water, but it’s not gonna stop me from bonding with my family. We took a dip and swim in the water. We enjoyed it, splashing around and diving down. But then, just as we were getting farther and farther to shore. The water started to become oily and dense. The smell of it reeked. We were already getting out of it when suddenly, I stepped on something which gave in and pulled me under. My cousins didn't know what was happening. That was when I saw a human arm suddenly wrap to my waist. As I was already underwater, I saw something that will never be erased from my mind.

I saw many dead rotten corpses, all under the water, submerged by sand but still visible. Many of them were already bones, some were still rotting. The taste of the water was like rotten soup, and I lost my stomach underwater. Flesh was still floating on the water, and those eyes... those damn eyes stared at me like I can do something for them. There were out there, their hands and limb raised to accept me. My body landed on the bottom and my face hit the soft sand and below it was flesh. I screamed as hard as I could and tried to get back up. My feet stepped on sharpened metal, glass, and debris which made it bleed so much, but I still tried as hard as I can to get back to shore. My cousins managed to pull me up, and I vomited everything I could vomit. I cried so much, and I never slept for another long time. Those eyes, still staring, still screaming at me, for help.

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