Inside Super Typhoon Haiyan: Part II

*Check of Part I of the story here*

We made our way back to the Lazy Dog in a daze. We had nowhere else to go, and no one else we could imagine asking for help. The Lazy Dog had been our accommodation for the past week, making it our only conceivable resource on the whole island.

I stumbled over the sandbags stacked at the B&B’s entrance, mumbling “we didn’t make it” to no one in particular. The owner, Djila, swiftly sat Brent and I down with some San Miguel beers and promised to take care of us. It was the most comforting thing anyone could have done for me at that moment. I had felt powerless against the mob at the dock, and now I felt powerless against the impending typhoon. I needed to stop fighting; I needed someone else to take control for a little while.

Gradually, more guests returned to the B&B and sank down beside us at the patio table. By the time the Lazy Dog turned on its golden outdoor lights for the night, there were 8 of us sitting around the table, clutching bottles of beer and sharing whatever news we had. We were all around the same age, but from different corners of the world: There were two Estonian girls who had just finished a working holiday in Australia; a Swedish couple on a 4-month trip; a Finnish man living in China; and a guy with such a mixed background he couldn’t even pin-point one specific country as his home.

Instantly, almost unspokenly, we became a team.

The typhoon wasn’t anticipated to strike until the morning, so we agreed to stay at the Lazy Dog for the night and settled on a rough plan for the following day. Then we were free to drink as though it might be our last day to live.

stories from super typhoon haiyan survivors

Besides the uncertainty of the next day, we also needed to bond – the 8 of us had been strangers only a few hours earlier, and now we were together, preparing to face what would probably be one of the worst days of our lives. So we toasted round after round of drinks, made up nicknames for our group, and talked about how we would celebrate when we survived, until we felt like friends.

In the morning, I was sobered by the latest news that the storm was now reported to be even bigger, faster and stronger. We gathered our bags and, along with 4 of our new friends, trudged down the road towards the hostel where we had resolved to take refuge. The streets were lined with sandbags; some people were buying canned foods and dried noodles, while others shrugged: it’s just another typhoon.

As we approached the entrance to the hostel, it occurred to me that I might not step outside again for many hours, maybe even days. We had thrown around the names of a few possible storm shelters the night before, and discussed the pros and cons of each. As I surveyed the interior of the hostel, I decided that we had chosen well. The large, open-concept common area reminded me of a prison with its hard, dark concrete walls and small windows. It was wide enough that we would be safe from shattered windows and debris if we sat in the center of the room. If flooding overtook the common area, we could move up to the rooms on the second floor.

typhoon

For the first few hours, we sat around the TV with the other hostel-refugees. Gathering information made me feel more empowered and even slightly detached. The more news programs I watched, the more I could imagine I was tucked safely at home 1000s of miles away, watching this disaster unfold on TV. We watched a meteorologist, whose face was as red as the satellite image of the storm, as he blustered “This is the biggest storm in history! It’s literally beginning to defy the laws of physics!”

“Where are we on that map?” someone asked. One of the hostel workers stepped in front of the TV and stuck her finger directly in the center of the angry-looking storm swirl’s projection: “Right there.”

Towards the end of the morning, the palm trees began to bow in the wind and the power went out. Our group of 6 opened a bottle of rum and played any game we could think of: “Never Have I Ever”, “20 Questions,“Who Am I?”

typhoon3

We laughed so hard that I stopped being afraid for the first time in over a day. It was at that moment that we heard a window smash down the hall – almost as if the neglected typhoon was demanding our attention. We didn’t say it, but we all wondered if this was the beginning – if now, one window would smash after another, and the storm would pour into our once-strong shelter.

We pressed a mattress against the small window in our dorm room. We talked about the hostel’s one weak element: a partially-finished section roof near the upstairs bathroom. What would we do if the roof flew off? I tried to stay away from the windows, but I also just had to know – had to see it. I’d waited for this monster – this thing that was supposedly defying the laws of physics with its speed and strength. I’d feared it for so long that to not see it, to have its true face continue to remain a fearful specter in my mind, was far more terrifying than anything that could possibly happen at those windows.

stories from super typhoon haiyan survivors

With no electricity on the island, when night came, it seemed to swallow us whole. We sat around a candle in the center of the common room as if it was a campfire. We opened cans of tuna, and heated pork and beans over a single gas burner. More liquor appeared, and anyone who hadn’t been drinking throughout the afternoon, now began taking big gulps from their bottles. One of the hostel staff had an iPod and a small speaker, and we blasted it to drown out the howl of the wind.

We had no way of knowing when the storm had passed, but when debris stopped pummeling the windows, and the wailing winds gave way to powerful rains, we just knew. We exploded out of the hostel, and ran bare-foot into the wet streets. We stood among the palm leaves and rubble, and wrapped our arms into a group hug. We hollered at the sky, at the storm. We lived.  

Read Part III

 

13 Responses to Inside Super Typhoon Haiyan: Part II

  1. Marina November 20, 2013 at 12:28 am #

    I couldn’t imagine being there in the middle of that storm! So scary. I just started reading your blog, but I’m glad you and your friends are okay. My heart goes out to all of the people who lost someone or their home in the storm. It’s unimaginable.

    • waysofwanderers November 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

      Thanks, Marina. I feel the same way. I really can't get over how lucky we were compared to so many other people.

  2. TammyOnTheMove November 20, 2013 at 1:49 am #

    Wow, you guys are so lucky. I am so happy that you are ok. What a scary experience that must have been. ARe you still in the Philippines now or have you left since?
    My recent post The day I ate a tarantula

    • waysofwanderers November 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

      We're back in Japan, now. We were stuck there for a lot longer than expected because the combination of no phones/no wifi/thousands of people trying to leave at once made it really difficult. More about that in Part III!

  3. cubiclethrowdown November 20, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    So scary!! I'm so glad you guys found somewhere safe to ride it out.
    My recent post Organization Addicts Unite (GIVEAWAY…WOOHOO!)

  4. foreignsanctuary November 20, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Typhoons are scary and being stuck in the middle of a super typhoon must have been very scary!! I am so happy to hear all is well
    My recent post Afternoon Oasis: Roaming Around CKS Memorial Hall in Taipei

  5. agnesstramp November 20, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    I'm glad you are ok. I've heard of this massive typhoon on Chinese news and I was worried about you as I knew you were travelling there at that time. Then I read the message on FB that you are all great :). Great experience by the way :-D.
    My recent post Dim Sum: Culinary Vertigo in Hong Kong

  6. Heather November 20, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    You will probably be friends with that group of people for the rest of your life. It's amazing how much you can bond over a traumatic experience like that. So glad you guys are okay!!
    My recent post Apple Picking, Apple Cake and Apple Cider Donuts

    • waysofwanderers November 20, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

      I think so! We planned to try to have a reunion of the 1-year anniversary of the typhoon :).

  7. francaangloitalian November 22, 2013 at 4:04 am #

    Such a terrifying experience, I'm glad you are well. I'm very impressed about how you managed to deal with the situation!!
    My recent post Trying Not To Freeze in Munich

  8. Steph (@20YH) November 22, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    OMG. Just finished reading the account (thus far!) and I cannot believe you two were in the Philippines for this; it must have been so terrifying. In the face of how horrible this storm was, I'm so glad you were well taken care of and that no one in your group was hurt. If only the same could be said for so many others!
    My recent post Chewing the Fat with Landing Standing!

  9. Jessica Wray November 28, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Seriously, each part of this story is so emotional! I can´t IMAGINE how it must have felt, just wondering if you were going to make it through! I´m so glad to read you guys seemed to find such a safe shelter for the time being!! Wow.
    My recent post Finally Being Honest: The Story of How I Really Feel About Korea

  10. Colleen Brynn November 28, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    What a crazy story! I'm literally shivering right now!!!
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