Nov 13, 2013

    How one family weathered the typhoon

    I AM a survivor.

    In Cebu, the Philippines, the superstorm that was Yolanda (known internationally as Haiyan) took us on a journey from the 21st century to the 13th century in a matter of moments.

    I live in Guangzhou, China, and married my true love, the former Cris Evert Lato, last year. We have twins, Nicholas and Antoinette, who are four months old.

    I am an American and Cris a Filipina, so in order to ensure that the twins are entitled to their United States citizenships, Cris and I have had to make 14 trips between the Philippines and China with documents to prove to the US government that our relationship is true.

    These were presented to the US consulate in Cebu, after which, I had a chance to spend a few extra days with Cris and the kids.

    Fast forward to last Wednesday. Cris and I were in Alaya Mall in Cebu when news flashed that a major storm was heading for the city.

    Rushing home, we called Cris' mother in Leyte and she headed out to catch a ride on of the last ferries for the day down to Cebu.

    All schools in Cebu were closed and its three major grocery stores were overwhelmed with panicking customers.

    I jumped into a taxi and zoomed over to the SM Grocery Store, but you could forget about any bread, eggs or other perishables.

    I saw dozens of families dumping everything they could find into shopping carts, only to realise that they had no money to pay for it at the checkout point. I was fortunate to have bought the last cooked chicken the store offered.

    When Yolanda pounced at 9am on Friday morning, it instantly caused every power transformer in Cebu to explode.

    We all made a one-way journey into the 13th century. There was no power, no Internet service and, for most people in the city, no running water.

    Cris had wisely bought enough candles, so we didn't have to grope our way in the darkness. The house has a standby water tank and we had an inventory of canned goods and other food products ready to be consumed.

    The full power of Yolanda then came onto us like an unwanted guest at 3pm. It was the most terrifying experience you could imagine.

    Everything made by man was picked up and tossed away. When it was over, I could hear the zombies of Cebu rising from what was left of their tin-roofed homes. Remnants of broken trees were dispersed all around.

    We lived another day.