On the morning of November 8, 2013, Arthur C. Arcuino, who then worked at the local city assessors office, left work early to prepare for the arrival of Super Typhoon Yolanda. This is his story.
“In 1991, Ormoc had experienced flash flooding during Typhoon Uring. Back then, we heard thunder, but had no idea that a cyclone was ravaging some of our mountain barangays. The devastation was massive, with huge numbers of casualties: even more than Yolanda.
On November 5, 2013, we held our annual commemoration of the Ormoc flash floods, and visited the cemetery to remember those lost. Some of us were chatting about Yolanda, based on what we had heard from the news.
While many of us already had a bad feeling about it, sadly, we really did not prepare as much as we should have. We thought, ‘well, we survived so many typhoons, and we’re still here’ – why worry? We were really not expecting Yolanda to be that strong.”
“As Yolanda struck, I was at home with my family. We didn’t care about damage to our home or our car: instead, we prayed that God would spare our lives.
The rain was so torrential that it was impossible to see. The sound of the wind was like that of a jumbo-jet engine during take-off, it was that strong and, unlike other storms, it was not blown in short gusts, but continued on and on…
We went outside when the first wave of rains stopped. We quickly realized that it may just be the eye of the storm. The second wave was even stronger: debris flew around (everywhere).
By 2:00 pm, the storm passed. As I left my house to survey the damage, I saw that everything had been flattened, as though Ormoc had been hit by an atomic bomb. Trees were uprooted and those still standing had been stripped of their leaves and branches. I’d seen pictures of Ormoc after World War II, and it looked just the same: as though over the course of a few hours, a world war had taken place.
Soon after, I left for my in-laws house, staying in case there were looters. On the way, I saw those affected: they didn’t know what to do, and without shelter, they could only roam around. As night fell, many built fires and ate dinner together. It was difficult, but we appreciated the help and presence of our fellow survivors.
At the local market, you could see the devastation: what was left of the roofing seemed like tattered ropes. What were once straight bars were now twisted. Yet it was the only place where we could buy what we needed. We were able to stockpile supplies, but it was only good for about 2 to 3 days.
Yet the vendors returned to their stalls almost immediately. They have to make do, because they have to earn money in order to eat. All improvised as best they could: the fish vendors, for example, used canvas and tarpaulins as makeshift shelter. Some set up roadside stalls. Others arrived from nearby towns, as their markets were even more devastated. You would see them in the early mornings, buying up the basic necessities, as families were in need where they come from.”
RAY DILG funding: ‘a big help’
“The RAY funding was a big help, because the public market would not have recovered as fast without the funding… This significantly helped in the speedy recovery of Ormoc.
The tenants of the market are really satisfied with the work done here. Even before Yolanda, their stalls were easily affected by rains, so when the roofing was fixed, it was a really big help. The market was also made more resilient – we saw this, when Typhoon Ruby hit.
Our civic center is also more durable now. It’s the biggest structure we have in Region VIII – bigger, even, than the coliseum in Tacloban, with a capacity of around 7,000. It was badly damaged during the storm. Since water was able to get into the center, the ground floor was totally damaged. There was a time that it could not be used, except as a storage area for relief goods. The civic center is one of the larger income generators for the city, because it is where we hold big events like concerts, proms, and other events. Even the visit of (former) DILG Secretary Mar Roxas was held there.”
A powerful celebration
“I can still remember how on December 31, 2013, at 4:00 pm, the electricity came back on. Because of this, we were able to enjoy the coming of the new year. It was quite symbolic for us – new year, new life, after Yolanda. With power, water and shelter, we could prepare a small celebration for a life that we had once feared that we would never have again.”