No one was ready for ‘Yolanda’ | Inquirer Opinion

No one was ready for ‘Yolanda’

I was 13 years old when Supertyphoon “Yolanda” struck, causing massive destruction in most parts of Eastern Visayas.

I still remember the joy I felt when my eighth-grade adviser announced the suspension of classes from Nov. 6 to 8, 2013. Indeed, a long weekend!

Who would have thought it might be one’s last encounter with classmates, friends, and loved ones? Who would have imagined that life would seem to have no direction after the typhoon? Didn’t they say that after the storm comes the glory? Why didn’t I see it? Who would have assumed that people would cry in anguish overnight because they lost their homes, clothes, food, and, most heartbreakingly, their loved ones? No one expected that thousands of people would perish, and that hope would turn to despair.

Everything happened as if I were reading or watching a movie about the end of the world.


What happened during the typhoon remains very vivid in my memory. The fact that people were complacent, despite warnings from local and national authorities, contributed to the lack of preparation. My mother didn’t even think of evacuating, and she did not even forbid me to stay in the convent.

Indeed, the sun is not an assurance of a good and bright tomorrow. We can’t be sure of what lies ahead. We should not be complacent. We should always be ready because life is full of uncertainties.

The next morning, on the day Yolanda hit, we had breakfast at 5 a.m. in the convent. I was with the parish priest, Fr. Kelvin Apurillo, three other sacristans, and a family of four who evacuated there. Minutes later, the wind and the rain became even stronger. I saw how the roof of the parish’s social hall got destroyed and blown away by the winds. At that moment, I worried for my family. I was blind to what was happening to them. I had no idea whether they evacuated or not. Our house was not Yolanda-ready. I attempted to go home by opening the door, but even with all the strength I had, the pressure holding the door was too strong. Father Apurillo saw my desperation and warned me against going out. So I stayed, but I felt uneasy.

Just when I thought the worst had passed, the flood water came gushing in and filled the convent a few seconds later. It was filthy, and there were snakes too. One of the evacuees, who happened to be a seaman, shouted, “Saka ha igbaw! (Go upstairs!)” Seconds after reaching the second floor, the wall collapsed.


But God is awesome. A few seconds matter. If I forced my way outside and walked home, I would not know where the flood would lead me. If we had just stayed on the ground floor, I would not know if we would still be alive.

I was petrified. The only thing that was on my mind was, “This must be the end of the world; I think I’m going to die.” I also thought we were the only people alive because we couldn’t see anything or anyone. But we surrendered everything to God. We prayed almost all the prayers. Even though it wasn’t three o’clock in the afternoon yet, we did the Divine Mercy Chaplet. We sang the hymns of our patron saint and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In my mind, we cannot fight this calamity alone; we can only lean on God. In sorrow and in happiness, He was and will always be there.


Still, I kept worrying about the state of my family. I didn’t know what I would do if I lost them. It’s not easy if you don’t have your family with you during these challenging life events.

When the storm subsided, the first person I saw on the road running fast toward me was my mother. And the look on her face showed obvious concern for her son. She told us how many people died in our barangay, including my aunt, cousin, and nephew. She tearfully relayed to us the condition of the people she saw while on her way to the convent.

After the typhoon, people seemed to treat each other better. The wealthy lined up for relief; everyone was equal, and helped each other. Even the church was always full. People’s faith in God was strong.


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Frt. Randolph Pardiñas Lagrama, 22, is a first-year theology student at St. John the Evangelist School of Theology in San Joaquin Palo, Leyte.

TAGS: Yolanda

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