Post author Maggie is a former resident of MRH who has graduated college and passed her board exam for social work. Her writing has been edited for clarity.
Early in the morning of Dec 16, 2021, Typhoon Odette made landfall. That morning had been sunny, so I thought the typhoon would be like other typhoons that hit Cebu – nothing serious. In the afternoon it got windier and the clouds grew darker. There were less people on the streets as rain started slowly. By 6pm the power was cut off and rain poured even harder.
I lived in a three-story apartment building, and was laying in my small rental room with my two cats (Kiyo and Tirzah). I was trying to sleep but the sounds frightened me - wind whistled loudly and my neighbors’ roof rustled, about to rip off. I lay in my bed praying that God would stop the typhoon early, and wishing I had someone with me aside from my cats.
I heard a knocking on my door and as I opened the door my neighbors were lined up with their kids at their sides. They could no longer stay in their rooms because the strong wind had already broken their windows. At that time, the wind was not strong in my room, so I offered to have them stay with me until the typhoon stopped.
There were fifteen people inside my tiny room; 4 mothers, 2 fathers, 8 kids, and me. We all curled up in the room, with the kids in bed and the moms sitting on the floors. We talked about the typhoon and when it would stop. One mother told us the story about the first time she encountered a strong typhoon that hit the Philippines - Typhoon Yolanda. We talked a lot about our different experiences and prayed for the typhoon to stop.
Around 8pm, a strong wind blew my whole window out. We were all shocked and everyone shouted because we were so afraid. We tried going down to the 2nd floor, but as we opened the door, strong winds again forced us away.
We stayed in my room and put my bedframe up to cover the broken window. My things were wet, so we curled up together, hiding under the kitchen sink. The kids got to sleep when the wind was getting weaker and I wondered at how the 3-month-old baby slept the whole time.
At around 10pm we decided to go check the second floor again. Most of the renters there did not have any damage so we split up into different rooms and stayed through the night.
At night, a friend of mine visited as a favor for my boyfriend, who was not able to contact me from Manila. Fortunately he had borrowed money for me from my friend since he couldn’t send money through a cell phone signal. I had a hard time coping with everything, and all I thought about was how to contact my loved ones.
Most of us were not prepared for this emergency to happen. We did not stock food or water. Everyone started to panic buy and hoard almost everything they could to survive. Everyone was in line for food, water, and other essentials. I couldn’t even use my money to buy water because there was none available since all the refilling stations did not have power. All I could afford to buy was the stuff I needed for a day or two and I would just be wasting my time standing in line all day at the supermarket. Once, I stood in line from morning until afternoon, skipping lunch to keep my spot. Around 2pm the guard told us that only 20 people were allowed to enter since they would have to cut us off at 3pm, so I went home and got nothing. I wasted my entire day and I was so mad. I could have used that day to wash my laundry or clean my room. I might as well sleep there at night to be the first one to get inside the grocery store in the morning. Even at ATM machines and gasoline stations we still had to wait hours or a whole day.
My family also does not have enough money to sustain their daily needs. They struggle a lot since my sister and I are the only ones supporting them and my sister was not able to work after the typhoon. They depended on the relief goods and financial assistance that the government and NGO provided in the meantime - mostly canned goods, noodles, milk, biscuits, and rice. The relief operations are still ongoing but sadly most of the people were not able to receive them. I visited them once after work and it made me so sad that they were not able to cook dinner since there was no food. I bought rice and viand for them that night but my budget for fare going back to work was sacrificed.
My sister was able to return to work after 2 weeks providing more food, though still not enough. We are happy and relieved that my sister is working again. I still visit them every weekend to check that they are still doing okay. spending time with my siblings and nieces, and talking to my mom is like therapy for me.
Around a month after the typhoon, the power is mostly restored in our community, but everything is still overpriced, even the water. Life is easier because we do not need to go to charging stations,and we can do more things that need to be done with electricity. It is livelier since we can turn on music to cope with all the negative feelings and thoughts about the typhoon.
Recently, my dad got sick. His left foot has a big wound that started with a scratch from mosquitos. They got it checked with a doctor since it wasn’t healing, and he was prescribed antibiotics for 10 days. They went for a follow up and the doctor said he did not need a check up, but gave him more expensive prescriptions. I was so frustrated, worried, and sad because I couldn’t give financial support as I am also struggling now. He is still on medication which is not helping him much. The doctor most recently advised him to be admitted to the hospital. I am full of emotions right now but I am hoping for the best.
I am currently working as a program assistant in an NGO and I’m trying to find a new job that pays well so I can provide for myself and for my family. I am also waiting for an update from an NGO that I also applied to as a Social Worker. They said that they would contact me in February, but they were also affected by the typhoon, so I will have to wait until they are settled down.
I always cling to the Lord when times are tough. I know that God has a purpose for everything and he will do great things for me and my family. Whenever I am sad and worried I always remember my favorite bible verse which is Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Even though we are struggling right now, I am grateful that my family and I were safe during the typhoon. I will always try to see the positive side and the things that I can control; the rest is up to God.