To Palo, Leyte, Super Typhoon Yolanda brought gale-force winds, tsunami-like storm surges and heavy rains. This wreaked havoc on local homes and infrastructure. Hundreds were killed while many more remained missing.

Remedios L. Petilla serves the municipal mayor of Palo. Of the disaster, she says:

Palo Mayor Remedios L. Petilla
Palo Mayor Remedios L. Petilla

“People here became aware of ‘storm surges’ after Typhoon Yolanda. Prior to then there was never a typhoon here that was that strong. One hundred ago perhaps, but not in my living memory.

No-one really explained to us the nature of a ‘storm surge’. They should not have been technical about it and just told the people that it was a tsunami – then the people would have been more informed. If you say the words ‘a tsunami is coming’ rather than ‘storm surge’, everyone will cooperate.

The night before Yolanda was very calm. The weather was so nice that you would not even think something like that could happen, the very next morning.

I sent some of my men to the communities to prepare and help evacuate the people. Some were mocking. “Are you insane? Can’t you see that there is no hint of a typhoon here, and yet you’re asking us to evacuate?” Later we literally thought that it was the “calm before the storm”…

“During the evacuation, I sent policemen with trucks to force people out of their homes. I also communicated via the radio that we were going to face strong winds, so everyone should evacuate. Yet some still remained at their homes. They did not expect the magnitude of the storm, even I. I knew there was a storm surge, I knew the strong winds, but when I saw the destruction and almost no houses left standing…” Mayor Remedios trailed off.

Palo lay in ruins after the arrival of Super Typhoon Yolanda. November 9, 2015
Palo lay in ruins after the arrival of Super Typhoon Yolanda. November 9, 2015. Courtesy:

Tacloban was more badly hit because it is surrounded by water: there, even the inner portions of the city was affected by floods. It was the water that really brought heavy damage.

Here in Palo we mostly experienced the winds, so there was less destruction here compared to the other seaside areas. Since it was the first time that we experienced a storm surge, we were not especially prepared for it.

A lot of groups were coming here to help a few days after Yolanda, and there were asking me where they could help.  A lot of them were medical teams, so I told them to put up a hospital at the plaza. There were also foreigners who I told to put up a hospital in San Jose, since it was badly hit… I told them all to help the coastal areas.

Former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas with Palo Mayor Remedios L. Petilla and staff in the immediate post-Yolanda recovery
Former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas with Palo Mayor Remedios L. Petilla and staff in the immediate post-Yolanda recovery.

The, the RAY DILG fund was given to us for the repair of our civic center which was badly damaged also. Currently, the project is still on-going: it’s at the final stages of completion. It serves as temporary office to other government agencies and as a stockroom. New installations were built, including a new roof, insulator, wall partition, doors and windows and a fire protection system for the whole building.  Painting and plumbing works were also done in the facility.

I had a visitor who was an environmentalist, and she said that the last storm of that magnitude was experienced here last 1912 in this same area, so that was 100 years ago. Their prediction before was that it could happen again within the next 300 years.

Of course, we hope it will not. But Yolanda taught us that we should really prepare for things like these because it can happen again.”


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