BANTAYAN, Cebu—It was around seven in the morning of November 8, 2013 when my mom woke me up. She was rambling stuff I could not comprehend as I was still wiping the sleep away from my eyes. A couple of seconds later, it finally registered to me that she was asking me to do last minute preparations before the super typhoon gives us a taste of her wrath. I immediately got out of the bed and head to our living room. As soon as I opened my bedroom door, a very audible whistling sound brought about by the strong wind welcomed me as if to greet me “Good morning!” But right then I knew it won't be a good day at all.
An hour later and the wind got even stronger. The power already went out so the only way we could get updates was through our battery-operated radio. We were all tuned in to a local AM station and that is where we knew that it was only a matter of time before Yolanda begins to strike. True enough by around 9AM, a wind of unimaginable strength and velocity started to do some damage in our little town. I took a peek at the window and saw things that I thought I would only see in movies. There were flying debris everywhere from the metal roofing of peoples homes to tree branches. Some of the structures, both commercial and residential, nearby our house that were made of light materials were piece by piece torn apart by Yolanda. This very frightening sight went on for almost two hours.
At around 11, Bantayan went weirdly calm. The rain and the strong wind just stopped. It was as if nothing happened. We went out to check the wreckage only to be reprimanded by my uncle. He urged us to come back inside the house because he said there was going to be a second blow. So, we did. Just minutes after we got settled back inside, an even fiercer and stronger wind started to rattle the whole island again. The first blow was nothing compared to the fury of this one. I took a peek again but I could not see anything—just mist and fog. That was the moment that I fully understood what zero visibility meant. The sound of the wind, however, was frighteningly load. It sounded like a woman weeping which made the whole thing even scarier.
Being locked inside the house with such a catastrophe happening outside was just plain torture. I was both scared and angry at the same time. I was scared because I honestly thought that we would all perish in Yolanda's wrath. I was angry because I felt so helpless and there wasn't anything I could do to stop the onslaught. I did all sorts of stuff to calm my nerves from counting from 1 to 100 to singing happy songs but to no avail. The next couple of hours went by very slowly! It was the longest two hours of my life.
And then just like that, it was over. The radio announcer reported that Yolanda had already exited Bantayan and was well on its way to some other place in the Visayas I can no longer recall. I wanted to jump because I was so happy that we all survived but upon seeing the aftermath, I couldn't even move a muscle. Our house had no serious damage but I couldn't say the same for the rest of the place. The other houses and structures around us were completely wiped out. It was heartbreaking to see the town that I grew up in like that.
What used to be a beautiful, peaceful town had become a total wreck in just a matter of hours. The trees and plants that adorned the place, if not uprooted, had been balded. Most of the ancestral houses that we were once so proud of had become just piles of wood. Our half-a-millennium-year-old church was not even spared. No adjectives will ever suffice to fully describe the devastation Yolanda has left in Bantayan, and other areas of the Visayas.
But I have to say that albeit the calamity that struck this beautiful island, the Bantayanons' disposition has remained sunny and pleasant. They were still able to share their horrible storm stories with smiles painted on their faces. Heck, they even made jokes out of their experiences. Can you imagine the strength and will it took them to do so? Trees may have fallen and structures may have been destroyed but their spirits are unscathed. Many have pointed out and admired the resilience of the Filipinos and I concur.
It's been more than a week since that terrible storm destroyed most parts of Bantayan. The people are now inch by inch piecing their lives back together. Despite having such remarkable strength, they still need your help to bring their lives back to normal. Here are some ways that you can help them as well as the other victims from other affected areas: