Monday, December 30, 2013

When typhoon Haiyan spared our ancestral home

Napo Beach Resort in Maripipi Island, Biliran province.
Every time the spirit of Christmas hovers around the corner, I feel the surge of excitement rushes through my spine.

And the anxiety is more felt as I look back at the years I was with my loved ones during the Yuletide Season. I'm used to being away so many times before because I knew right from the start that I'd be able to withstand the pains and the rigors of the long detachment. I felt a little of remorse that I wans't one of those
whose families were devastated by Supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that transformed the areas of Eastern and Western Visayas in the Philippines into vast carpet of wastelands. Consequently, more than 6,000 people, including children, died. Alone, Tacloban City, once a bastion of commercial business in Eastern Visayas, being its booming capital, is now a ghost town and so with other areas in the suburbs of Leyte province.

I was raised in one of the paradise islands close to Biliran province, once the sub-province of Leyte. When I heard over The Filipino Channel (TFC) that typhoon Haiyan made its first landfall in Guian, Eastern Samar, and then Tacloban City on its way to Western Visayas, I felt ecstatic and fear had swarmed all over my body. With the magnitude of the typhoon at more than 300 kph, everything on its path would be destroyed, I thought to myself.  True to reports, the wrath that typhoon Haiyan brought to the Philippines was so far the strongest and the most destructive the world has ever known.

With that in mind, how could our ancestral home in that island paradise withstand the blows of the super typhoon? This was the question that played in my mind as I contemplated on what to do next. Although I left the island many years ago, I still have a lot of relatives over there who consider it their home. And why
would I worry when I'm far apart? As a matter of fact, that ancestral home served as my abode for so many years. It was in this wooden structure that gave me sanctuary for most of my young life, and so with my younger siblings. I was worried, too, what our neighbors would say when it's toppled down, and nobody in
the family circle would even lift a finger to chip in something to rebuild it when it's down to the ground.

If I'm not mistaken, the house was built before the onset of the Second World War. It's architectural design alone would tell that it was built, perhaps, during the last decade of the Spanish occupation in the Philippines. Except for the foundation, everything was made of first class wooden materials like narra, among others. But as it aged through the years, even the metals would be no match to the negative effects of rusting. How much more for the wooden materials used for the structure?

Surprisingly, I got a text message from my younger brother who is now a barangay official in the island to convey the message that the house remained standing despite the onslaughts. I asked my brother how and why? It was only after he explained to me one of the reasons why our ancestral home survived the
super typhoon.

"What?" I asked.

According to him, typhoon Haiyan veered away after it completely washed out Tacloban City through the storm surges that rose to at least 10 meters high as the eye of the storm headed straigth towards the direction of Iloilo and Negros provinces. When I was a small kid, my late grandma would tell me a story many
centuries ago that the island was spared from a super typhoon that brought with it huge waves after an Angel suddenly appeared from the sky to pacify the storm with his sword. The Angel stood where the Catholic Church now stands. That's why the annual fiesta celebration was named in honor of Angel Archangel.

Until now, I couldn't believe to myself if the story is true or not. But what I sinscerely believed right now is that sometimes "luck" and "prayers" play a vital role in miracles. That's how I perceived things as they when I learned that our ancestral home was spared from going down. Otherwise, my bitter and sweet
memories in that ancestral home would be buried to the ground forever. Thanked God, it didn't happen.

Happy New Year to all the survivors of Super typhoon Haiyan and may 2014 brings you all good tidings!

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