Typhoon Sendong | My Personal Experience

Orchid Homes Subdivision, Iligan City, Philippines

Friday, December 16, 2011. It was around 10 in the evening when I got home from the vesper Sabbath worship in the Church. The wind blows very hard from all circuits, considering that there’s a typhoon during that time. It was 11:30 PM when I finished typing the daily devotional journal requirement for our master guide class. Just before I sleep, I’ve noticed that there is a leak above my bedroom’s ceiling, so I’ve put a bucket below it to prevent the water from spreading into the floor, and then I’ve slept. 1 hour later, when I try to roll from the other side of the bed to the other, I’ve felt that my bed was already wet. By the unusual scene I’ve leap out of my bedroom jumping into the living room with the water level of one and a half foot high inside the house, while the water outside is at waist level. I did not panic, I’ve collected things that are essential for me to use and are realistic for me to carry around and put those inside my bag. I never looked back to those things which are left behind, I “remember Lot’s wife”-Luke 17:32.

Uncle Chris, our neighbor who owned a two-floored house about 25-foot high in its roof top, searching from house to house looking for trapped neighbors to transfer them into his house. He then suddenly popped out in front of our house to offer help –“Dong2x, haman imung papa, Dong? Ikaw ra isa dra? Dli ma abri ang pirtahan ninyu?”. As I’ve about to open the main door, shocked as i could be, the pressure of the water outside prevents it to open! Then suddenly, the water burst inside our house destroying the steel lock in the door! After that, when I’m about to cross the street with uncle Chris, the water from the overflowed river suddenly amplified its force into the subdivision houses. So uncle Chris suggested that he’d return to his house to get some thick rope for me to hold so that I can cross the street from the surging waters. By the time he gets back, I never stayed at low level, I used our gate as a support so that I can climb above the roof for safety, upon doing so I did not imagine the difficulty of climbing the high roof. It was that determination prevailed over impossibility (read Mark 10:27).

Here came a greater challenge, and probably the greatest challenged that ever happened in my life…

Another rescued neighbor (uncle Elde ), now standing at the roof top of Uncle Chris’ house. He is guiding survivors, by the use of his huge flashlight, resting in the roofs of their individual houses into uncle Chris house to join them in the area for safety. Rescued men are in cooperation to extend all possible help to any survivor present in the area. Now, uncle Chris refocused his attention to me who left alone above the roof in the other side of the set of houses. Uncle Elde then guided me to a more safer and close place by the use of his flashlight into the huge satellite of Uncle Bando’s house. For me to feel a little comfort, they’ve managed to locate a low level area, which is covered by a little roof a house away from Uncle Bando’s. There, I’ve stayed, I’m secured, for a while.

About 10 minutes later, while they’re busy supporting stranded survivors, I heard someone calling behind me. Her voice shows that she’s in an old age. Slowly her silhouette showed.

I noticed it was “nanay”, as what everyone called her, she’s a well known neighbor because of her kindness to every one of us there. Now, disregarding Uncle Elde’s advice to stay in the same place while the storm continues to surge, I acted and slowly crawled from roof to roof until I’ve arrived in nanay’s location. Just when I noticed, she’s not alone! With her, a boy of about 12 years old, or even younger. He looked like he’s terrified by the happenings around us. Just before I’ve able to utter words of instructions for us to relocate ourselves into the same place which I’ve stayed earlier, nanay said with a soft voice: “dong, tabangi si Bobby”. Then, she pointed below the roof. There, her son, Bobby (40+ years old) struggling to climb up into the top of the roof because of his inability to use the strength of his left disabled hand which he acquired from a car accident a few years ago. He’s the one who supported Nanay and the boy to climb up into the roof. So, I extend my hands for him to grasp, and there he managed to reach the top. With the four of us now above, I begun to give instructions of where to go next to reach a more safer place. Slowly but surely we trailed the roof of submerged houses and leaning into solid firewalls. Then we arrived in the same place where I’ve stayed for shelter in the previous 20 minutes of struggle. We’re safe, for now.

Uncle Bobby is a School principal in Barangay Lapayan’s Elementary School, while the boy named Carmelito is his student who visited for the first time in the subdivision. His visit turned out to be a trial yet to overcome.

As the memories of the pioneer Christians way back into Nero’s time circling in my mind, I’ve remembered their actions to look for support in the time of their troubles. A support far greater from physical salvation, but a support, which can move mountains: Faithful prayer. I’ve requested Nanay to lead it, while she’s praying I’ve also started my individual prayer. A few more minutes later, Uncle Bobby exclaimed: “nitaas ang tubig dong!, niabot na sa atop!”. Hearing what he said, I’ve ended my prayer claiming God’s promise in the 9th chapter of Genesis, “The Covenant of the Rainbow”. Then looking below us, the water slowly rising while the winds grew stronger. We instantly looked for a higher area to stay, Carmelito handed an extra falsh light to me. While Uncle Bobby said: “ilang attorney nalang ta nga extension sa taas sa ilang roof”. He then guided us all into the much higher shelter, which he said. While venturing into that place, Nanay slipped for a several time due to her weakened physical attributes. But, persistently as we have been, we’ve managed to arrived there safe.

As we arrived just in time when the water reached our previous area of partial evacuation. Still, dark clouds are present in a wide area above us, wider and farther than a naked eye can sight. While staying there, we’ve managed to formulate ideas in case the water would again rise at a more higher level.

And so we’ve continued praying and I’ve started singing. Scripture songs, specifically:

  • Joshua 1:9
  • 1 John 5:14
  • 1 John 5:4
  • Colossians 3:1-3

I’ve also sung hymns that could uplift my companion’s courage.

  • Blessed Assurance
  • Jesus is coming soon
  • Jesus Saves
  • Saving Grace

and many other songs that I don’t know what was the Title.

Momentarily, my attention was drawn into a house that was mounted by about 10 persons. I never expected what would happened next, suddenly a huge tree that might had been uprooted from river sides up in the forest, directly floating into the said house with an extreme speed together with that strong current of dangerous waters. There it goes, wrecked the house, sliced it in a half, and bringing its roof together with the people above riding it down into the mud filled water. With much fear, the rescued people in Uncle Chris’ house shouted because of the scene that they’ve just seen!

There is only a slight chance for that group of people to survive after the collision with the huge tree and other smaller coconut trees that dives and floats destroying all that it might come in contact with. 30 meters away from the area where the debris hit, Chris Von Banawa and his parents (Sir Banawa a P.E. teacher in MSU-IIT, and ma’am Banawa a Filipino Teacher in the same university) with other survivors from the crash managed to climb up into the houses along the street. He used the wires from the fallen electrical posts as a medium to support his body from draining with the waters into the ballistic river. Then they’ve successfully placed themselves into a high-elevated house near our spot. Their effort worked out well. But in our part, fear suddenly revived. We cannot make any advancement into a higher place from where are we now and the waters continued to rise with no signs of slowing down. But, again we turned our mindset that God is an omnipotent God, and we continued to pray. I started to trust God into a much higher level than before, I’ve said into my self: “thy will be done, if this will be our fate, so be it.” I asked for repentance and accepted the possibility of dying. I remembered the beatitudes written in the Bible in the 5th chapter of the book of Matthew. I thought that my unusual perceptions is not because I’ve a lacked of confidence in Him from saving us, instead I’ve considered it as a point where I trust God through divine intervention rather than my feeble efforts as a human.

3AM, the Shepherd’s plan of saving His sheep has just been felt. The dark clouds started to recede and after 3 hours, around 6AM the rain stopped. After then the destruction was clear to us. Homes were destroyed and with a sudden shock, dead bodies are recovered in and around the subdivision while some remained missing! Sorrowful cries were heard everywhere. Deep misery had been felt. But we cannot do anything now to restore those precious lives that has been lost. God has the perfect reason to let the specific things happen in His perfect time.

Around 7AM when I was rescued from the roof with my parents and my relatives. They’ve arrived just on time after hearing the news and confirming my present location by calling my cellphone around 4AM.

This was the first time to occur in Iligan City and almost all were not ready to face such destruction. To God be the glory! I’am saved, and indeed it was a wake up call for me that life on earth is just passing away. All depend on the actions of men, whether it is fit for heaven or for hell. This is not our home; we must live it only for the Lord! Let’s start to change our filthy nature so that we’ll be able to face the Lord Jesus Christ in His second coming and be able to live with Him forever.

This is not our home, “For our Citizenship is in Heaven”-Philippians 3:21