When Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013, it pounded the island of Leyte with winds near 315 kilometers (195 miles) per hour and a tremendous storm surge. In Tacloban City, winds blew a wall of water ashore that may have been as much as 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) high.
Zosima A. Cordaño, the city treasurer, remembers November 8, 2013 and the days that followed like they were yesterday. Here, she tells her story.
“In the days before November 7, the Mayor Romualdez provided instructions to inform all the barangay officials to go to safe ground, secure their things, and secure their families. In fact, during our last Department Heads meeting, the Mayor was already giving directions to the Chief of Police to force people to evacuate. If the people did not want to go to safer grounds, the barangay officials would ask them to sign a waiver – that was the instruction. As a Department Head, I was part of these preparation meetings that were being held by the Mayor.
Right after November 8, after the super typhoon… It seems that an atomic bomb had been dropped upon us. That was my first impression. All the trees in our neighborhood, all of the houses, I cannot imagine how to describe it.
Together with my son, we went to the office to secure the documents there. As we walked, we came across others… They were telling me that so many people had died, that there were dead bodies lying in the streets.
I began to cry. Everyone was in a mess. People did not know where to go. It seemed that all of us, we were walking, with no sound at all… I looked into their eyes, and they were lifeless: just walking, carrying their remaining things, with blank stares on their faces.
We are already prone to typhoons as a tropical country, but we are not expecting this – Yolanda, to be as great, as big as it was.
In the office, everything here was broken all over – all our things, blown away – there was water everywhere. All the windows, all the doors, were all broken. Part of the roof was blown away. Fortunately I had already instructed the city engineer to cover this window (in her office) with the plywood because the vaults were kept here.
The good thing that happened after Yolanda, was that all of us tried to care for each other. We tried to help each other, in our own way. There were many selfless acts of giving. People gave anything they had, for those among us. That’s probably why, sooner than expected, we were able to stand. We all shared something during the experience that cannot be easily understood by those who were not there. We are now resilient, and we share everything we have: even if it is small. Because you care. Because we are all survivors. We are vigilant among us.
Then, the RAY DILG fund came which have helped us in the reconstruction and recovery program of the city.
At the local public market, vendor Jaime Macawile remembers:
“Yolanda brought almost total destruction to the market building. It took about 4 more months before we were able to go back and sell here.
I became aware that the market would be rehabilitated when we saw the repair works starting… The rehabilitation was a big help since now we can go back to our old stalls. We are very excited to go back and move away from where we are currently located now, which is a bit smelly and dirty. Things would be easier when we have our stalls back.
Business is also better in the market since people do not have to go out of their way to buy from us, since we are all inside the market area. The only concern is parking, as it is quite a challenge to find parking space near the market.
I am very thankful for the rehabilitation done to the market. It is well built. Right now, the makeshift stall that we have is also where I stay, so that I can keep an eye on my wares. We are very thankful for the help from the government so that we can go back to our lives before Yolanda. And also, because of Yolanda, people learned their lesson to prepare and cooperate.”
City Convention Center
Rudolph M. Mate, General Services Ofﬁcer of Tacloban City Convention Center narrates his Yolanda experience.
“Everybody was normal during that day. No-one believed that Yolanda would cause big trouble for the city. We are used to big typhoons but our forefathers had never told us stories about storm surges. So when we heard about Yolanda and that it was going to have a storm surge, it was ordinary for us. We never knew that it would be such a strong typhoon, and that all of us would be affected.
I was recovering from prostate cancer at the time of Yolanda because i had been operated on that September. The very day before Yolanda, I was discharged from the hospital. It was fortunate, otherwise the next day there would have been no hospital, no doctors, no nurses. I was very lucky, as I was well taken care of.
During the coming of Yolanda, we safeguarded the house. Then after that, we stayed at my grandfather’s house in downtown area. We never knew that during November 8, that house would be submerged with seawater also around 12-15 feet. It’s not even ordinary sea water, it was mud water. We could not return to our house after two days, because of the debris. There were dead bodies, all around the downtown area. Most of the water damage we experienced was downtown. In fact, the whole area of downtown Tacloban was submerged.
We never knew that we would be able to go back to regain what we have lost, because without international and local groups… I think Tacloban would not be as you see now. We ourselves, we cannot do it, even to clean up Tacloban, we cannot do it. But because everyone was helping, around the world, (we were able to do it).
It’s already two years. We are so happy, that people are still here, still helping. It makes us feel very glad.
These buildings are bringing lives back to normal. All that help coming from the national government, and from NGOs, make us feel like normal again: because these are the facilities that we can use”.
Provincial Civic Center
Local engr. Rosalie Canuda remembers:
“The storm surge reached our office (at the provincial civic center). It was high, up to the window panels. All the garbage was here. We wrapped everything in garbage bags: computers, documents, equipment, but it was not enough.
We have two civic center facilities. One is being rented by a business processing outsourcing (BPO) company. Because of the typhoon, the whole roofing were destroyed which damaged most of their computers. The second building is the gymnasium in which all the provincial activities are being done. It was also destroyed, especially the roofing.
When the gymnasium was repaired, we used it as stockroom for all the supplies and relief goods we received. From the province, we distribute it to other municipalities. Other INGOs would also use the facilities to safe keep their supplies.
The gymnasium can accommodate 2,000 people. We really plan to convert the gymnasium into an assembly area for conventions, seminars and sports activities. We are still planning and designing on how we can install centralized air-conditioning so that it will be more convenient to the users.”
DILG Region VIII Office
Before the landfall of Yolanda, Regional Director Pedro A. Noval, Jr. Ceso III joined the meeting called by the former DILG Secretary, Mar Roxas.
“Secretary Roxas came and gathered us, all the local government units in Eastern Visayas. We had a meeting and discussed the preparations we made for the coming of Yolanda. The meeting ended at around 9:00 pm, that’s when we started to feel the strong wind.
I returned back in the DILG regional office to prepare for the impact of Yolanda. We had evacuees who came in the office, more particularly from our regional staff and some of them were neighbors and relatives.
At around 11 pm to 12 midnight, Yolanda started to batter us. It lasted until 5:00 am. Because of the strong wind, we heard a blast at the second floor. It was like an atomic bomb. All of us stayed in my office. Everyone was crying even myself but I have to control my emotions and stay strong for them so that they would not be discouraged.
Exactly 6:25 am, the wind was weak already so I went outside. Then, I saw Secretary Roxas roaming around. So, I approached him and reported that “I’m alive”. Then, he replied: “good, we have survived”.
Post Yolanda, we reported immediately all the damaged facilities in the local government units. I also reported to him the damage in our regional office and within our compound: our office, dormitory, guard house, evacuation center and other facilities. We are happy because the Secretary immediately responded to our request.
As we implement the RAY DILG projects, we ensured that all the repairs and construction that we are doing in the office and in the LGU include and observe the “build back better” policy as instructed by our President.
The effect of our project is to normalize the operations in the LGU, so that the people will feel that the national government is really helping and supporting the LGUs, to bring back what has been lost due of Yolanda,“ he said.