The Survival and Getting Out of Tacloban City, Saturday
We still had foods left for dinner on Friday, but won’t suffice anymore for the next 2 days. So we decided to go out of the city as soon as possible, and find foods along the way. Saturday morning, there was no certainty yet on what means we’re able to get out from Tacloban City. I was already thinking about hitching up with the Philippine Air Force’s chopper or C130, but there was no way you’d be able to know if helps are already on the way. Tacloban City is completely ground zero that time, so we’re unable to know any information what’s happening from the outside world.
Between 7-8AM, I heard choppers roaming around. I could easily confirm they were the Air Force. But I was unsure if they’re from Mactan airbase in Cebu or from Villamor airbase in Manila. I told my wife we could expect the C130 next. We just hope it’s able to land in the runway as we could justify it was spared while the other airport facilities were ruined. Few minutes later, a C130 was also roaming around. I went into the 2nd floor of our ruined apartment, and followed the plane until it descended into the airport area.
I just found hope. A hope of getting out of the city. A hope for survival.
I then asked my wife to pack Sirri’s stuffs, our food supplements left, and water. Then we started heading to the airport, by foot. The shortest walking we could do was just about 8km.
Unfortunately, not all areas are passable and we also need to get into the military’s command center first to request accommodation.
Clueless where the command center is, we followed where the choppers are landing in the downtown area. We were able to figure out the command center’s location at the city’s main Police Station, near the City Hall.
Walking through the downtown area, we also searched for food, but we found almost nothing. The only thing I could get for my family’s breakfast are few slices of watermelon, sold along Maharlika highway.
Each slice was sold at P70 each, 7 times more than its normal price. Heading to Paterno St., we passed through Leyte Normal University, Hotel Alejandro, and we headed through the Gaisano Central mall. There we saw people looting every establishment they could get foods, meds, or even jewelries, electronics stuffs, etc.
As we were approaching near the city hall and city’s police station, choppers were just above us, dropping some relief goods in RTR Plaza.
I talked to one soldier there whom I asked from which camp the first batch of Air Force came from. I was told from Mactan, Cebu and the C130 will probably had its last flight back to Mactan Airbase at 6PM that day, he said.
Without hesitation, I went to the city’s police station. It was just in time when the DILG Secretary Mar Roxas also arrived in the area. I also saw few international media men, which I believed probably from the CNN.
Because there was no certainty yet if we could make it to the airport before the last flight of C130 back to Cebu, I asked one member of the Air Force if it’s possible to make a phone call, so I could at least let my family know we’re spared from the wrath of super typhoon Haiyan, and they had to find us at the airport. Unfortunately, the military was still yet to establish communication through Satellite Comm, and they had to prioritize communication to Malacañang and its other command centers outside Tacloban City.
My brother-in-law works for the Air Force as well, particularly for the Tactical Wing unit, so I was also expecting to see him in one of the choppers deployed there. Good thing, someone there was his colleague and advised us to just walk to the airport and make sure to get there before 5:30PM.
Without hesitation, we rushed to the airport, still by foot. We need to walk another 8.5km, with only less than a bottle of water left. Thankfully, I met this guy from the Department of Agriculture, who shared a pair of SkyFlakes cracker, despite him being a survivor as well.
As we headed to the airport, we passed through the devastated Real St., with dead bodies just everywhere. We also passed through the Astrodome and its perimeter, this time though, just a wreckage.
Heading to San Jose area where the airport is located, the situation was just worst. The storm surge just washed out everything.
The mud was also a challenge for us making it difficult to walk.
Because we also run out of water, we had to let my daughter Sirri drink a can of Coke, which we just picked across the Coca-Cola plant, devastated as well.
Despite of everything, we didn’t give up and we finally made it to the airport. We missed the 5:30PM C130 flight off to Cebu, but the good thing was, another C130 arrived minutes later, which accommodated us all.
We’re probably lucky enough we’ve been spared by Haiyan, but this worst experience in our lives doesn’t end here. Together with my wife and 1-year-old daughter, we’re now back in Cebu City, dry and safe, but we still have families in the worst affected areas of Samar and Leyte — particularly in Balangkayan Eastern Samar, Tacloban City, Biliran Leyte, and Albuera Leyte. My mother’s hometown, Balangkayan Eastern Samar, was completely devastated and destroyed, but thankfully, no casualties were reported. It may take months or years to rebuild homes, and so with rebuilding courage and strength of all locales. Haiyan washed out everything there, but it could never destroy all the memories we have to look back.
I just hope all the best for everyone.