(I learned later that he reached home that same hour we left the night before). After this, my friend with his company’s pickup brought me home around noon time. Tatay was already there and so was my brother and the carpenters. My wife and kids also were there but we spent the night and the night after at my cousin Doris home in Nula-tula. My first time to take a bath this night and I drank with Lolong the Johnny Walker I brought from home to help me sleep my worries.
Day 5: We just spent the day in Nula-tula and sometime in the afternoon another cousin from Samar came looking for us in the neighborhood, it was raining this day. He brought us grilled bangus and told us that they just came from our home and we should go there at once as Tatay has already agreed to evacuate Tacloban via the airport. So we arrived home in the afternoon and it was planned to leave 4am the following day.
Day 6: As we were about to leave home, a firetruck stopped but later on left us when we heard someone said “ayaw hito kay naka wheelchair”. Apparently, I could have been a burden to them on their way to the airport. We proceeded to the airport in two groups, my family with Tatay and my brother with the carpenters. We were the first to head out as my brother and carpenters secured the windows and doors at home before locking the gates behind them. Just before reaching the bridge in our barangay a white pickup with a Chinese-looking family inside stopped and offered a lift to the airport (4 kms away).
With the help of our neighbors we hurriedly boarded the bed of the pickup to our destination. I thanked the driver of the pickup as we disembarked and asked around where to queue for a flight out of Tacloban. Since we didn’t have tickets, commercial airline was out of the question so we proceeded to lineup for a chance to get on board the PAF C130. We were refugees in our own city and our stay at the airport was worse than anybody could imagine. We were treated by the PAF soldiers like POWs as ordered by their CO a COL. JOSE MIRANDILLA. Whenever a PAF plane arrives we were told by the CO that military dependents were first to board and next the rest of us. However, inside the airport were VIPs who were always the first one to board. We were among those in the front line of the refugees waiting for a ride out of devastation when the CO ordered me and my family to be checked by the PAF doctors outside to validate my obvious disability condition and Tatay’s ailment so we could be allowed to board the next flight out. This was only a scheme of the CO to rid some refugees who were already inside the waiting area for the next flight out.
The young PAF doctor, CPT JUSSEL F PARLAN, who examined us was disgusted over the CO’s action and he hurriedly wrote two medical notes stating that Tatay and I were fit to travel. However, we were not allowed anymore by the CO to be back inside the waiting area for the next flight out instead we were told by him to go to the end of the line outside. In frustration, my brother talked to another PAF officer in the vicinity and convinced him to allow me and Tatay to be back inside the waiting area. While inside, two non-pilot officers were discreetly helping us — CPT Ombao and CPT KALAW, the latter gave us his personal provisions of water and biscuits through another soldier. CPT Kalaw approached me later to tell me that he was only in-charge of security and it was up to the CO who goes on board the PAF C130. However, he added, he has asked a US pilot to accommodate us in their aircraft if ever we don’t get to board the next PAF plane. During this time a PAF GENERAL ROMEO POQUIZ passed by tagging along a soldier with DSLR camera, I tried talking to him about our condition but he only ignored me. At a distance, I observed him wear an elbow sling whenever he was being photographed by the camera-toting soldier. The airfield, aircraft and us refugees were his backdrops. We may have been treated badly by some officers of the PAF but the enlisted men, who were merely following orders, were discreetly sympathetic to the refugees with some even sharing their own water provisions. One of these soldiers was a SGT TOLENTINO. The big sergeant had a very long patience despite being mocked by an effeminate foul-talking young man who, ‘armed and threatening’ the soldier with a camera-phone, wanted to get past the cordon of soldiers. Later at night another PAF officer announced thru a megaphone: Since the foreign media noticed that we didn’t gIve you anything, we are now giving you biscuits and water plus carton to lie on. Fortunately the night was clear with stars above otherwise we would have been wet in the open.
Day 7: We woke up early anticipating our turn to fly out when the next PAF plane arrives. The plane arrived as a soldier searched and led us to hurriedly board the plane with my brother pushing my wheelchair. We arrived Mactan Airbase less than an hour later and were brought to the military hospital as I was on a wheelchair and Tatay was a senior citizen for standard medical checkup. But we begged off to be taken inside for checkup as we were anxious for a clean food and place to finally rest. We hailed a taxi outside the air base and all 6 of us cramped inside, the driver understandably took us despite our smell and dirt. We first went to a McDonalds drive thru for food then proceeded to my brother’s apartment. Our first day outside Tacloban.