MANILA, Philippines – It’s been 4 years since one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded struck the Philippines.
As survivors mark the 4th anniversary of the tragedy, they remember what they went through and how it changed them.
Below are some of their stories.
Gerard Lee, convenience store owner
It was 7 am and we were helplessly stuck on our rooftop because we were surrounded by 8-foot floodwaters. I thought we were going to die so I told my mother to pray the rosary. As soon as we finished praying, two workers of Roger Lo, the owner of RL Appliance Incorporated, came to rescue us.
God works in mysterious ways, and truly, “the family that prays together, stays together.”
Four years after Haiyan, we have completely recovered and rebuilt our home, Tacloban City, with the help of people around the world. We became more resilient, practical, and more appreciative of what we have. Each day is another chance to correct our mistakes so always try to be better. Life is short.
Aaron JP Almadro, editor-in-chief of 8 Magazine and marketing manager of Nissan/BAIC/Chevrolet Tacloban
The whole experience was hard to forget: the howling winds, the destruction of our house, the torment of thinking if you would survive. But what almost pushed me to the brink was finding my parents dead – my mom on the street with her face covered with a rubber tire interior, and my dad on the floor of their hotel room with blood coming out of his mouth.
There were two phases in my life after Yolanda. In 2014, I was angry, hateful, vengeful, skeptical, selfish, and doubtful. But after I met the Pope and I had a heart attack in 2015, my life took a 180-degree turn. I realized the beauty of life. Now, I’m stronger, fearless, and optimistic.
Winfred, former overseas Filipino worker
I went around the city on a borrowed mountain bike the day after the typhoon hit. The destruction was everywhere. The streets in some of the hardest-hit areas had numerous bodies left on the side of the road, unclaimed. The feeling of shock and hopelessness was all too pervasive – one only needed to look at the faces of the survivors walking on the road to see this.
An experience like Yolanda makes you realize a lot of things: the importance of family and friends, the lengths people will go to keep their loved ones safe, the kindness of strangers.
An experience like this will also make you see the ugly side of human nature. However, it can also show you the nobility, compassion, and decency of the human spirit. There were people who chose to stand strong for the community and for the city, people who volunteered, people who chose to help relatives, friends, and even strangers despite their own losses.
I hope that most people can look back and say that despite the tragedy that visited their lives they did something that they can be proud of. If not, then I hope that one learns from the examples shown by those who did.
Maria Angela, businesswoman
My most vivid memory of the typhoon that still reminds me of how catastrophic it was: I was walking from my hotel going to Anibong, near the coastal area that was hit badly, where our building was located. I felt it was the longest walk I had ever taken. My heart was racing with every step I took towards the building. I saw a few corpses on the way. At that time, I didn’t know what I would see inside our building. I was fearing for the lives of people who stayed there during the typhoon.
The devastation made an impact on my life that words alone can’t describe. The experience did not just make me resilient and brave, but also awakened a feeling in me that deepened my sense of appreciation of life.
Every day is precious, and because I’m lucky that I survived, I won’t take this chance for granted. I’m making the most out of life.
Probably, if you’re a Yolanda survivor like me, you could say that you can overcome anything!
Liezl, lawyer and entrepreneur
I remember enduring the feeling of being inside a giant washing machine for 5 hours and listening to “Still” by Hillsong Worship. I remember seeing people walking like zombies, looking for their lost families after the catastrophe.
Life on earth is really just temporary and we are just passers-by. No matter how much we cling to life, we will eventually lose it. We should focus on things eternal, which we alone can find in Christ Jesus.