Off I go onto the next chapter of my life volunteering as a Peace Corps Coastal Resource Management Extension Worker

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Super Typhoon Yolanda and the Amazing Strength of the Filipino Spirit

We knew it, Typhoon Yolanda, was coming. The community was prepared. People who needed to be evacuated to safer areas were moved there. Massive cutting of trees happened to mitigate the damage they could do.

My favorite trees in town, a row of gigantic acacias were severely pruned to half their size, filling the street with piles of growth to be chopped up and hauled off. Amazingly, Yolanda blew them apart even more, filling the street again.
Pruning the acacias before Yolanda

After Yolanda the acacias are a quarter the size they were
  Our group of five PCVs in my area made the decision to NOT consolidate in Baybay but stay where we were. Going to Baybay only put me closer to the center of the typhoon.
Villarubins' evacuation center

Our house became a mini evacuation center. We expected it to hit about 10AM and pass in two hours. The wind woke me up at 3AM. We had no power, no cell phone service and of course no internet. Three windows were broken and half of the tree in the back broke off. About 9:00 I realized I had a problem in my room. I’d closed the two windows that would close but the third set of windows couldn't close because of the air con unit. We hadn't thought about the upper two thirds of the window opening having only cardboard in them. The cardboard had been blown out and the typhoon was entering my room. I wish I could have videotaped this most exciting and somewhat comical operation. It took Alex, Anita and I twenty minutes to get the air con unit out and those windows shut. I did take video out windows during the storm. The Firm gas station roof almost took off like a magic carpet but after tipping back and forth ended up standing vertical.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I'm Back

  A lot has happened since my last blog; the earthquake, Typhoon Yolanda, evacuation and being sent home on Administrative Hold, being allowed to return to Inopacan, and then Typhoon Basyong hit doing more damage than Yolanda.
The epicentre of the 7.2 earthquake in Bohol on October 15, 2013 was 60 miles from here. It was a holiday so at 8:00 AM I was sitting in my room at my computer.  When the roof started shaking and I thought what the heck are the painters (painting the inside of the house) doing up on the roof?  When I looked out my window and saw the water tower rocking and rolling I knew it was an earthquake. What should I do, stand in my bedroom door frame, right? That’s what I did for a few seconds. No one else was around but I could see the two painters outside the front door.  The Chinese urn outside my door was tipping back and forth and the living room chandelier was swinging. I decided I should get outside as quickly as possible. We sat outside waiting for the rocking and rolling to stop for a couple minutes.  I was pretty shaken up. People have jokingly called me ‘Valley Girl’ but this Valli girl is used to terra firma being firma. The strong aftershocks continued in the mornings and afternoons every day. These were as disorienting and scary as the earthquake.  I started feeling the movement non-stop. On the fourth day it was time to fly to Manila for our week long Mid-Service Training (MST).

We were put up in our usual Navidad Pension House the first night.  I couldn't sleep because of the earth shaking I felt all night. I was really scared, feeling panicked, thinking another big earthquake was coming and being in Manila was a very bad place to be and the last place I wanted to be. At first light I was the first and only one up, showering, packing and being prepared for whatever happened. I was sure we needed to be evacuated to a safer place. I sat in the dining area drinking coffee as others showed up for breakfast. I started asking “Do you feel that? Do you feel the earth moving?” Soon I realised I was the only one feeling it. That day we left for the conference venue, a resort on the outskirts of Manila. I wasn’t feeling great. I was going on a week of feeling the movement which made me feel disoriented and dizzy.  I didn’t feel much like participating or interacting. This was really a bummer as the conference was a time for reconnecting with everyone and having fun. I did my best and thank goodness for my roommate and friend Kathy Gavit. She was great.

Part of MST is getting checked out with doctor and dental appointments. While with the doctor I was almost falling off the chair asking her “can’t you feel that?” I’ll never forget the look she gave me and immediately started making arrangements with counsellor. It helped. I came back to site and gradually the earth stopped moving under my feet. Then Typhoon Yolanda hit on November 8th.
I'm glad I visited Bohol and Cebu before the earthquake and was able to see things before so much damage.
Basilica of Saint Nino in Cebu taken 3-16-2013
Inside the church of Santa Nino (baby Jesus) where the original doll like Baby Jesus is gifted by Magellan to the queen of Cebu so long ago.

At the Chocolate Hills in Bohol  6-2-2013 

and after the quake

I visited the oldest church in Bohol on that same trip

Before and after the quake. It's very sad so many old churches sustained extensive damage.