A Survivor’s Story

Lieutenant Colonel Fermin Carangan is the Commanding Officer of TOG 8, the Air Force unit tasked to provide air support for the islands of Samar and Leyte. On the morning of Friday, November 8, he and his troops were in their office near the Tacloban Airport on red alert, having been informed of an incoming Super-Storm named Haiyan (local name: Yolanda). Here’s how he narrated his ordeal to Lt Col Allan Taguba, as Haiyan unleashed her fury on the city of Tacloban on that fateful Friday morning.

We were out of the office at 6 am Friday observing. Winds brought by Yolanda were already strong around that time. We (the Air Force troops in Tacloban) were prepared for the possibility of rescue missions days before the expected landfall of Yolanda. Just before 7 am, the rains started to pour, so we took shelter.

2h28

Around the same time, we noticed that water was slowly entering our office, so we went out again. Then suddenly, we saw that the water was getting higher and higher, until we were forced to get up the ceilings of the building. We had to bore holes on the ceiling just to get up there, and I was the last one up.

Suddenly the building collapsed and I saw my men falling into the surging water and very strong winds. There was also no more roof on top of the building. I was able to hold on to a piece of wood – a truss which I forcibly removed just before I was taken by waves and the strong current.

More damage in Tacloban

I didn’t notice that my two junior officers were now gone. Both were fresh graduates from the PMA, and they were beside me before we were swallowed by the water. Then I saw one of my soldiers trying to hold on to an uncollapsed wall of another destroyed building. I tried to reach for him but the current was too strong and there was confusion and hysteria.

I was going farther and farther out into the sea and all I saw were tips of coconut trees starting to disappear into the swelling water. Suddenly, I saw a child hugging tightly to a floating coconut tree. By a stroke of luck, the current led me to the child, and I was able to pluck him from his very unfortunate situation. He then held on to the piece of wood I was myself holding on to. Then we floated until we were out there in the middle of nowhere.

This photo was taken as the storm neared Leyte.

At sea, we went through another hell. We were slapped by waves, great big waves from all directions. We were also toyed by swirling winds. And we couldn’t help but drink a lot of salt water. I was now getting so tired. And so was Miguel (the boy’s name). He was just 7 years old. Too young to die, I thought. I thought of my family. I prayed to God to take care of my wife and kids. I thought I’ve done to them what every father could – that is, to take good care of them.

I also thought of my men. Days before, I had told them to ensure the safety of their families, especially those in Tacloban since the city could be hit hard and everyone of us would be busy in the rescue missions after Yolanda. They might not have time to check on their families during the rescue. Then I thought of the two new graduates of PMA 2013. I thought that if something happened to me, at least I had been able to give professional and honorable service for a time. And that I’ve done enough since graduation. These two young guys were just starting and still have a very bright future ahead.

2h13

Then I looked at Miguel. He was trembling hard due to the cold. His very young body could not just cope up with the elements. He said, “Kuya, I will sleep now. I’m so tired already.” Then I thought, maybe I survived because of this child. Without him I could have given up. Maybe he’s the reason I’m still alive because God wants me to make sure this child will live. I shouted at Miguel’s ears: “Don’t sleep! You can do it. Look, we are near land already.” Then I pointed at what I thought was another wall of swell, just to lift the spirit of Miguel. And then I realized that it was indeed the shoreline!! I thought there really is a Powerful Being!

The two survived Storm Haiyan and the rough seas between Leyte and Samar during the onslaught of the typhoon. They floated around the bay near Tacloban airport and were eventually rescued along the shorelines of Basey, Samar at around 1pm the same day. They had been floating for around 6 hours before they were rescued. Basey and Tacloban are separated by the San Pablo and San Pedro Bay. The devastation they saw along the Basey shoreline is another story worth telling. Some of Lt Col Carangan’s men are still missing. These men were supposed to take part in the relief and rescue operations for Leyte and Samar. Alas, it turned out that they too would be the very victims to Haiyan’s wrath.

For more stories on Super-Typhoon Yolanda, pls visit:

(Photos courtesy of AFP, Reuters)

640 comments

  1. Your story Col. Caringan pierced my heart. God is so kind. May your tribe multiply a million times.God bless u always n your family.

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  2. Miguel…San Miguel. He might be your angel. A very heartwarming story and thank you for sharing. GOD bless you, Miguel and the men in uniform. GOD Bless the Philippines!

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  3. true heroes,”a superman” i quote u both!! this is a heartbreaking, inspiring story. God led you to each other to save each other’s lives, and so you can save more in the future ..teary eyed as i was reading the story. you touch my heart and inspire me. i hope that by this true-to-life story we learn a lot, a lesson in life: PRAY, DON’T GIVE UP WHATEVER IT TAKES; BE STRONG AND HAVE A LOT OF COURAGE TO FACE EVERY TEST THAT COMES IN OUR WAY. I hope also that by this story you will touch others to do the same unselfishly. GOD BLESS U BOTH. My heartfelt prayers and love to all who suffered from this tragedy in our country.

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  4. You just have earned the respect and admiration of your colleagues and your country, me included for your courage and determination. In advanced countries it would easily earn you a recognition. But I seriously doubt your heroism will be considered let alone recognized. In your president brief comments after he landed at the Tacloban airport, he was aiming to lay blame on first responders. My suggestion is to submit your story complete with images and request for techniques and equipments -if he has on his disposal- how to perform rescue operations in the middle of the onslaught of a super typhoon’s strong winds and devastating storm surge.

    Just a little advice, do not stain the admiration and respect you gained by greed, power, abuse and stupidity. Instead, hold it high, take care of it and be good model. You earned it in the hearts of many even if you don’t get any decoration. Thank you.

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  5. To God be the Glory ,your story is touching, He want you to survive coz, he got a plan for you to save more souls, not only physical but he called you to be his servant spiritually. More power unto you and to the people affected of Yolanda. God have mercy to all.

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  6. Colonel, your story is very inspiring, we in Tolosa, Leyte has a very pious regards on the name ‘Miguel’, San Michael the Archangel is our town patron Saint. There are many stories of miracles done by St Miguel, particularly on protecting/saving lives. Tolosa as of this writing has the lowest casualty among the towns in Leyte, and praying it will be same and stop at that, while our town was the second landfall of Yolanda after Guian, Samar. Something in your story tells that you have a connection with St Michael a.k.a. SAN MIGUEL. Would it be the other way around, ‘Miguel’ saved you?

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    1. boysie’s testimony tells us that the boy’s presence gave him an extra reason for staying alive, because he felt responsible for the child. indeed, the child helped immensely to keep him alive as well.

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  7. Mabuhay po kayo Sir, you are so brave and selfless, I salute you, unlike other high ranking officials who were just stayinging in their airconditioned rooms at the expense of our peoples money and very corrupt.God bless u and ur family.

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  8. Your are really a true hero and a gentleman Lt Col Fermin Carangan. Your real character and personality as shone in this experience can only prove that you have more higher calling. Somebody to emulate and hope to see more people like you. You are extraordinary person. I salute you.

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  9. Your story is truly an inspiration. A reminder to us all to have faith in God and there’s hope for everyone. Prayers to all my kababayans.

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  10. I was moved by the story. All hail this true hero. Bring back fame and respect to the institution and inpire those who are disheartened by the devastating Yolanda and all past like calamities. Applause to you, sir!

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  11. I was moved by the story. All hail this true hero. Bring back fame and respect to the institution and inspire those who are disheartened by the devastating Yolanda and all past like calamities. Applause to you, sir!

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  12. It is very touching . I cant describe my feelings. That is why I feel angry that the President and his men trying to blame the local government and probably the government troops there for what seems to be being useless or inutil…He was not there during the catastrophe !! It was a delubyo!!!

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    1. i share your sentiments… victims din ang mga tao working in LGUs there. hope mr. president will understand that…. my husband is an LGU emnployee, too, and during the two successive typhoons, yolanda and zoraida, my husband was out monitoring and busy in the evacuation center, leaving us his family, at home… I thank God for sparing us and keeping us safe…..

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  13. with your act of bravery and selflessness, you accomplished your mission very well.
    may your tribe increase.
    i salute you, sir!

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  14. Well done true servant of God! Well done. I hope Miguel’s family is safe. If not I’m sure millions around the world would want to adopt him. I certainly would.

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  15. Mabuhay Lt. Col. Fermin Carangan, alam ko na napakarami nyong bayani sa serbisyo. If I am not mistaken, Lt. Col. Carangan is from Lipa City.
    He was in his “Cow yYear” when they visited Bacolod in their Southern Cruise. Maraming salamat sa inyong Kabayanihan. God Bless you and all soldiers that are sacrificing their lives for the native land.

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  16. tears in my eyes while reading your story. thank you for saving the little boy. thank you for showing selfishless no matter how afraid you might have felt on those hours.Thank you for sharing this. I am still looking for my relatives who are living in leyte, praying a person like you have also cross their path and helped them.

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  17. It’s a great honor and a snappy salute to you Sir Carangan. I do hope your men were also survive! and to Miguel I know God has still plans for you. My prayer to all victims of Yolanda typhoon, hope you can surpass and God will give more courage to face all those trials.. God Bless you more!

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    1. We face all challenges beyond all problems cause we believe that the more pain we overcome the more stronger we become. Just hold on. God is there…..

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  18. Congrats Sir. I want to tell the whole world that I know you personally (Bluebirds Family) and with that I’ve no doubt you have the capability of doing it. You’re a great man and a hero to all of us. Keep it up and God Bless you Sir, Get well soon.

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  19. From Australia…I extend to all the suffering people of Panay my thoughts & prayers. Seven years ago I enjoyed the hospitality of Iloilo when I attended my son’s wedding to a beautiful lady called Aileen Valguna at the church of St Joseph the Worker. Today I feel everyone of you is family.

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  20. Reblogged this on Free But Fun! and commented:
    The news is heart breaking! If you want to give the survivors an opportunity to live and maybe in the future have some fun too, you can pitch in even from Finland, and even from your home, too: Unicef offers one option http://oma.unicef.fi/taifuuni/aloita-keraeys.aspx?col=2-2971. Further, the fundraisers of SPR (Finnish Red Cross) are now in many malls as well as in the opening event of Kallio Kipinöi, which is now repurposed to support the victims of Haiyan: http://www.helsinginuutiset.fi/kumppanit/kallion-kulttuuriverkosto/265238-kallio-kipinoi-tukee-haiyanin-uhreja-filippiineilla. Please feel free to add other ways of support in the comment field. I was led to the story by Bronwyn: http://journeysofthefabulist.wordpress.com/

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  21. Reblogged this on Love~K and commented:
    I lived in the Philippines when I was a kid and went through a typhoon and category 2 Bertha back in 96 here in NC which was scary enough. I can’t imagine how frightening this terrible storm must have been. This account gives some idea. Heartbreaking to think of all the suffering going on. I hope the world can get help to them soon.

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  22. God sent His son, Miguel to get you going- that’s to survive- for you may have a higher calling in the future and that, may be, as an example to the Filipinos and more to the rest of the world. MAY THIS HEROIC STORY ECHO AROUND THE VASTNESS OF THE WORLD THROUGH CENTURIES! Pugay kamay sayo Sir, Lt. Col. Fermin Carangan!

    Miguel, may Lt. Col. Fermin Carangan be your inspiration as you move on to manhood and God be your guide as you face life’s struggles. Sometimes we have to do things even if we know it may mean losing our own lives for somebody else’s…that’s how a man defines himself.

    God bless us the Philippines! God bless us all!

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  23. Dear Sir,
    Just like many, I am inspired and deeply moved by this story. Both somehow buoyed each other’s spirits in the midst of trial. I am however inclined to know the whereabouts of this boy, Miguel, like his address/residence these days? Please reply to my email for any information. With warm regards, I remain

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  24. God Bless you sir. I hope you are doing well & Miguel too. I’m praying his family is alive as well as yours & we hope & pray there are no more casualties. Our family is in Tacloban, Gen. MacArthur, Marabut & Pinimit., still awaiting news on a few, but the rest have survived; thanks to our dear Lord. We are sending $$$$$ & packages; hold on, as help is on it’s way. God Bless The Philippines.

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