Being the head of a family, Herme did what was he could possibly do to prepare for what he heard the strongest typhoon that will land on earth. All he has in mind was to keep his wife who just gave birth to his youngest, a year old eldest who just came out from the hospital and 2 weeks old newborn baby away from harm. There was nothing else and nothing more.
Tuesday November 3, Herme was switching channels from his television to find something that will keep his 1-year-old boy busy. That time he recently quit his day job to take care of his kid who has a complicated asthma condition. This is the same kid who just spent 8 days in ICU trying to win his life over the disease. He agreed to his wife that he would stay home and take care of him until he fully recovered.
After skipping from one channel to another for sometime, he suddenly was unable to move the dial from CNN. The broadcast immediately took his attention when he heard the word “Philippine”, “Strong” Visayas and lastly “Tacloban City,” was mentioned by the anchor. On the report, people were urged to get out from the danger zone as early as possible. He also wondered that the information came from the US military.
Despite that, he thought that it would be another typhoon that Waraynun commonly experience every now and then. So he just moved on. However, he can’t deny that it gave him an uneasy feeling already.
Thursday - Not being superstitious, he came to realize the signs that they are to face something so serious and big when he decided to go out of the house to play basketball in the neighborhood. A good friend of him “Rami” suddenly said that, “I will not let you substitute, this might be the last time I will be able to play here.” His friend’s words brought him to a trance and he felt a sudden pang of worry, alarm and anxiousness.
He hurriedly went home and asked his wife to pack the food, candle, flashlight, and batteries and urged her to vacate the place and go to a safe place across the street. His wife, who just gave birth to their youngest, was apprehensive of the idea. Aside from being cranky, she reasoned that the place was so cramped up and they will not be able to have a comfortable space anymore.
So they decided to stay home. On that evening, he had this gut feeling that did not allow him to close his eyes to sleep. So he decided to pack the important things (money, documents, gadgets, meds, milk, and baby clothes) on a medium size luggage and hope for the better.
Herme spent a sleepless night worried about what was to come. His house was located 60 meters from the shoreline. He has all the reason to be bothered.
At 5am Friday morning, he started to hear the strong winds blowing off his roof, rumbling noises from outside, and neighbors' screams and crying. From then on, he doubted that his house could hold up to the wind that seemed to tear his house down. After a beat, he heard a relative from the back of his house yelling “Adi na it tubig” (the water is here). Minutes after, he was wide eyed at the water that was pouring inside his doorstep.
On an instinct, he grabbed his eldest son who was wearing only his pajamas and asked his wife with his 14 day old baby to stay as they will start to move out. He promised to come back the soonest as he tried to get them out one at a time.
From the thick rain and crushing wind, he covered his eldest son with both arms while crossing the barely there street to the 4 story concrete Chinese Temple. Without hesitation, he asked a random man to hold his eldest, Justin, as he needs to go back to get his wife and youngest son.
As the water started to reach the most elevated area of the place, the people getting inside the temple were also trying to get to the highest area possible. The amount of people rushing in stalled him to go out. When he saw the street covered with water and debris, the realization of the end dawned on him. Together with the raindrops that hit him like bullets from all direction, he started to fold and cry. His knees began to shake and hope almost snapped out of him. He did not even notice that a big chunk of wood that landed on the back of his head and cut his skin.
But with adrenalin and pure determination to see his wife and baby alive, he swam the chest-high water on the street that seemed like a river of garbage. As he arrived at this home, the scene punched him hard; his house was no longer there where he left it. The place was submerged in water….together with his family. The sting of extreme worry hit him again; he could here his voice break as he was yelling to see if he can get a response to what was left of the house.
Then, he heard people from the house beside his, calling out to him that his wife and kid was there. Without hesitation, he hurdled over the roof that fell on the pathway and looked for them.
With his baby on the left, he hugged his crying wife and urged everybody in the house to go out and follow him to the temple. Together, they held each other and marched to cross the street going towards what was the safest at that time.
Minutes after they got in the building, it was a hideous site to see the 3 pieces of 40ft x 15ft steel container boxes crushing the 12 ft. tall wall of the temple and everything along its way. They could hear some people trying to get in asking for help. But he was left with no choice. He needed to secure his wife and kids for a possible stampede.
After what seemed like forever, the rain stopped and the water subsided. Due to his eldest son's condition, the agony about the typhoon was replaced of the fear that his son having an asthma attack. This was coupled with his wife bleeding since it was just a few weeks after she delivered.
So he hurriedly came back to what was left of his house to locate the luggage he kept all the stuff he prepared. After hours of turning over each and every thing that covered his place, he was unable to retrieve it.
Despite his family’s condition in the temple, all soaked in wet and cold, he decided to go out. He told himself he could not feel helpless and run out of options.
He headed to downtown to look for food and medicine. He went around the city checking all pharmacies, hospitals and stores to look for his son’s medicine (inhaler), but to no avail. Instead, he tried to collect everything he can make use of that was lying on the street. Jug of water, canned goods scattered and even a backpack. He heard a big warehouse of milk supplement opened 11 kilometers from the city (Palo, Leyte – next town south). Without hesitation, he tried his luck to bring something back for his sons.
On his way home, 5 men stopped him and pointed a knife trying to confiscate what he was able to gather from his trip to the warehouse. He was defenseless, so he lost kilos of rice, powdered milk, canned goods and water to the robbers.He told himself, he was able to get them out alive from the storm, that challenged all his will and might, but staying longer in the city that not far from ground zero, would eventually kill them all. So he decided to go to the airport in the hope of getting on the next plane ride off of the island that was eventually named a Ghost town.