How Our Family Prepared for Yolanda (Part 1)

house wrecked by Yolanda

As I’m writing this, news just came in about the new death toll estimate of the recent Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan). Authorities now fear that there may be no less than 10,000 fatalities. You can read about the article here. Staggering. This is especially unnerving as the typhoon came so close to where we live.
I live in Dumaguete City which is a coastal city of Negros Oriental, one of the islands in the Visayas region which lies directly on the path of Yolanda, the super typhoon which came howling at 300 kph and had the ginormic diameter of 600 km.  A simple glance at the map would tell that we were hairline close to that diameter. Experts say a storm could veer off its track during landfall and hit whatever it may. If the storm veers even slightly southwestward, we would be hit.


We first heard of the typhoon on Monday. Local weather stations began telling us of the approaching typhoon. Well, what could be different? We get 20 typhoons year in and year out. I made a mental note to prepare an emergency preparedness kit.


Tuesday news said the typhoon is inevitable. It would enter the Visayas region on Thursday to Friday. The husband bought 3 days’ worth of food and water, just in case.


On Wednesday, meteorologists, both local and foreign, spoke of an unusually strong typhoon. Super typhoon, category 5, winds of up to 300 kph. CNN, Time, and all said that the typhoon was one of the world’s fiercest cyclones in recent memory and that devastation is inevitable.
By afternoon, my Facebook news feed filled up with links to foremost weather stations which warned of devastation, of a typhoon capable of damaging houses of various constructions. warned of a typhoon capable of leveling whole towns.
By Wednesday, the barrage of information from local and international weather forecasters have already plunged us into deep thoughts as to what course of action we should take. We began considering the idea of evacuating.


By Thursday morning—the day before the first landfall, I copied down the DOH storm advisory and obeyed it to the letter. I prepared emergency kits which contained clothes, ready-to-eat food, water and basic toiletries which would be enough for 3 days. I prepared ropes in case of floods. My husband brought a rechargeable radio cum flashlight. We made the best effort to get through the day as normally as we could. But at the back of my mind, the super typhoon loomed like a dark cloud.
I placed all the important family documents in a large plastic box and placed the box on our bed. Will I still see our wedding pictures? Thank God for Picasa and cloud storage. I kept my kids’ notebooks and textbooks in another big plastic box. The husband moved all appliances to a higher ground. We did not talk much about it, but both of us were preparing for the worst.
All the while we were preparing, we were praying. We were still undecided as to the issue of evacuating, though. Evacuation kept cropping up in our family conversations. We sent text messages to all our family, friends and church members. We asked for every prayer we can get and we breathed prayer for all the members we knew.
At noon on Thursday, my parents called us from Mindanao. That did it. They asked us to evacuate to a hotel, specifying that we should choose the second or third floor. They said we should not put our children to risk.
We holed up in a room on the 3rd floor of a cheap hotel the night Yolanda was set to hit. Does that make us persons of lesser faith? We simply read the news and prayerfully decided to err on the side of safety—for the sake of our kids. Had we stayed in our frail one-storey house which is close to the sea in front and to a river on the left—and had the storm veered off its track even slightly southwestward… we know we could not forgive ourselves. We lost some money for the hotel rent and we risked appearing panicky and cowardly, but at least we could look our kids in the eye and say, “We have done what we could for you.”

Photo by Franz Lopez/

Up next: Part 2

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