I simply cannot ignore the fact that as this coulmn see print, it will be the 9th year of that unforgettable calamity. Every pen pusher and pundit real and otherwise, would write and describe the said event. That era that similarly separated the Triassic to the Jurassic or the Normal Calamity to that of Yolanda.

Today i take cudgels and publish a real Story of a friend who happen to be a DOUBLE AMPUTEE, a person who had lost both feet due to a vehicular accident. His name is Rinbert Emmanuel Martinez , and this is a story of fortitude and hope;
Surviving Haiyan.

Day 1: As usual, Tatay and I woke up around 4am and had coffee. Heavy rain was already coming along with the strong winds. I woke up my wife and 2 children who were with us so we could pray the rosary together after we secured our windows and doors. But the ceiling was already leaking water that I told Tatay to go inside our room because it was the safest area in the house. Without turning his back he muttered: Don’t go inside the water is here already. I did not realize then that flood had came in as I was on my wheelchair.

I looked at our jalousie windows and saw the water level outside was already half of our house. Tatay didn’t seem to know what to do at this point and may have been shocked to see what was happening. So I took charge and asked Tatay to try opening the main sliding door, but it didn’t budge. I asked my 14 year old eldest son to quickly open the kitchen door so we could escape outside, it was also stuck. At that moment I was already thinking that this is it, we will all perish as the water level was now waist deep and I was already swimming leaving my wheelchair behind. The water was swirling around like the inside of a washing machine. As I looked and thought for ways to save all of us I looked up our ceiling and saw the manhole with its cover flown away. I pointed it to Tatay and told them to catch a table that was floating around and put a chair on it so we could escape through the ceiling.

I told my 8 year old daughter to go up first then my wife, my eldest son went up after his mother. Tatay didn’t want to go up as he was concerned knowing I won’t be able climb with them. I convinced him, that between us two he was more likely to survive and take care of my family after this. And besides, I told him, I can swim and I’ll just join them when the water reaches the ceiling.

And I did just that. We were up there from 7am up to 10am when the water subsided. I asked everybody to jumped down while the water was still waist level to cushion their impact. But when it was my turn to come down, I have to rappel down using the electric wire in the ceiling. Mud was knee-deep and everything inside our home were in shambles.

We didn’t know what to do, where to start cleaning and how. We were in danger of being cut from the debris inside as we didn’t have footwear, pun intended. We managed to open our main door but couldn’t get out since by now our surroundings were full of debris. So we just collected and salvaged food and drinkable water inside the house to help survive the uncertainty ahead. I managed to get out of home around noon time and saw for the first time the devastation brought by Haiyan.

I stayed outside for quite a while wondering if things really happened or was this just a dream, I even managed to slap myself to be sure that I was wide awake and sane enough to understand what just happened to us.

While outside I saw a lot of ‘zombies’ who didn’t know where to go, many were crying looking for loved ones some I know asked me if we all survived and I asked the same of them. Around 1pm I saw our mayor going down the debris coming from their residence near the airport, with him was his wife, their 2 daughters and a bodyguard with a canine tagging along.

I shouted to him and asked him how he was, he muttered tearily “Pareho pareho tayo”. As he went down the debris there was a military truck on stand by and he asked the soldiers if he can bring them to city hall, a soldier refused telling only that their orders was to proceed to the airport. The mayor told him, with all these debris no vehicle can go through to the airport. So the mayor and company continued walking in disbelief( I learned later that Roxas and Gazmin were just ahead in the highway island fronting Coca-Cola plant).

Sometime in the afternoon I saw in the distance my dear friends Ruel & Divina Latoja, in tattered clothes and mismatched footwear, coming out of San Jose district. They were with their children Aine & Dindin but minus the youngest baby Raphael. I learned that they lost their only boy as they cling for their lives to the only wall that was left standing in their home a mere 50 meters away from the seashore.

After a quick conversation the family moved along heading to the nearest relative to seek shelter and help. We decided to stay put for the day and spend another night at home because we didn’t know the condition of the rest of Tacloban City. Many neighbors shared our home, one of the few houses left standing in ground-zero, for the night and most of them were mothers nursing babies and little children.

Two beds in our room were dry as it probably floated during the flood, these became the sleeping beds for Tatay and my own family. Me, I stayed in the sala with the people who took shelter with us and slept on an old ‘baol’. Around midnight there was chaos outside and people were shouting: tsunami.
(to be continued next issue)