With haunting winds screaming like a banshee, Super Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) barged into the country and wreaked havoc over a large swath of territory covering the Visayas and Mindanao on that fateful Thursday, December 16. The 15th storm to hit the Philippines this year, it was the strongest storm by far, and the deadliest. No one was fully prepared to meet the wrath of this lady gone berserk. At that time, people were already celebrating the Christmas season, and everyone was looking forward to a more productive, pandemic-free New Year. There was positivity in the air, as more and more people slowly left the comforts of their homes to explore the world that was forced to slow down drastically in the early months of 2020.
In Bohol, there was excitement all over as hotels and other establishments prepared for business to open up once again for the coming year. Tourism is a prime income generator for the province, hence there was that fervent prayer for the pandemic and its corresponding protocols to ease up. Tourists had started to trickle in. The beaches in Panglao and Anda were slowly coming alive. Shops were opening up. More jobs and more opportunities would follow soon.
Or so, everyone thought.
That early afternoon of December 16, the rains started pouring in. To many, there was no cause to worry as the usual preparations for additional food supplies, candles and batteries had been ticked off. People have been taught to make their own pre-typhoon checklists. Most have been lulled to complacency as the past storms had done little or no damage to the land.
And then the winds came. At first, they sounded no different from the rest. But the oldtimers started to get alarmed. This was no ordinary on-again-off-again blast of wind; but a steady, unrelenting force with a unique shriek, like screaming jets from a plane ready to take off. Slowly but surely, huge waves came crashing on the coasts; heavy roofs started rattling like crazy, as if crying to be released; electric poles were cut down or felled; and age-old trees simply decided to hug the ground. People cowered as big motherly trees providing shade to their land turned unfriendly, this time threatening to flatten their very homes. Others hid under beds and behind cabinets as roofs groaned mightily, crying to fly off; and glass windows splintered. For many, it was not just the ceilings that were being stripped off, but the walls came peeling off ominously as well.
By early evening, the situation in Loboc changed when the river started swelling. This would complicate matters as people now had to keep an eye above for flying debris, and below for the rising waters. This was unlike previous storms when you either worried about the rising water from below alone, or the deadly flying objects from the strong winds above.
And then there was the impending darkness. One by one, the towns would lose power as electric poles were toppled, and lines lost.
For many, it was important to reach the designated evacuation centers before the dark set in. But then, would it be safe to leave their homes, considering the floods, the flying debris and the roads left unpassable due to felled trees and electric poles? Were the designated evacuation centers safe, considering they were mostly built in elevated areas; immune to floods, but now at the mercy of the strong, unforgiving winds? What would happen to their homes if they left them? For those who elected to stay home, it was time to bring out the flashlights and the candles. And perhaps – now they started thinking – any flotation device. This as they busied themselves trying to haul their valued items up to the second floor. For those without a second deck, it was survival time. The threat of the rising waters meant they would have to abandon hopes of salvaging their possessions, make a hole through the ceiling and find a way to reach the roof.
From dusk till dawn, terror struck. For the coastal towns, it was the storm surge, the violent winds and the strong waves that flattened homes. For the inland towns, there were the landslides, the flooding, the flying debris and the falling trees to reckon with. For everyone, they had the power outage, the communication lack, the road closures. For hours, people shook in fear, drenched to the bone, and shivering in the cold. No matter, lots of people showed kindness and true heroism, helping one another, some even leaving their own families and homes behind to help their neighbors and their immediate communities.
Finally, by the light of dawn, the winds started to fade. Terrified people came out from their respective homes to assess the damage. The worst was over.
But the story doesn’t end there.
In Bohol, a total of 94 casualties were already recorded, the largest among the provinces hit by Odette. This could still rise with 3 towns still unable to make a report (as of Dec 21) due to the communication breakdown caused by the storm. Damage to property has been estimated at more than P5B. For many, the damages have been quite substantial. It has been close to a week, and electricity has not been restored yet. Bohol has been dependent on the Leyte grid for its power requirements, hence the slow recovery as Leyte also has to contend with its own damage priorities as well. Water has now been partially restored. There are reports of rising gas prices, as cars and motorbikes form long queues in anticipation of a shortage in petrol products. Only a few ATMs are operational. Other supplies are slow in coming as many inter-island vessels have also been damaged. Some reports of theft have also been recorded. News dissemination is spotty, with only one radio station – DYRD – up and running.
But by and large, Bohol has been ‘rolling with the punches’ and moving right along. Roads are being cleared for supplies and government support to follow. Efforts to restore power and communications are moving. The Bayanihan spirit remains strong in Bohol. Food supplies may be scarce, but Boholanos will find ways to create food from the ravaged gardens, the fallen trees and the debris. Creativity, they say, is the father of survival. And certainly, there is an abundance of that in the province.
There is also the outpouring of support that is quite heartwarming. Boholanos all over the world are silently moving to show support for their families and the province. The provincial government, along with the national government’s DSWD, are scrambling to provide support to the thousands of displaced families. Apart from the efforts made by many philanthropic groups, there is an abundance of election-related forays by the different candidate-politicians, many of whom may be well-intentioned, but may be seen differently by opposing parties.
Bohol has been through many similar disasters in the recent past, the latest of which were the floods in Loboc in 2015 (Pls read: Loboc Needs Our Help) and the killer quake of 2013 (Pls read: Updates on the Bohol Earthquake.). Each time, we have seen a resilience that demonstrated Bohol’s capacity to bounce back. Truly, with the inspiration coming from supporters the world over, we shall make sure that Bohol will rise again.
Let’s work together to help Bohol. Let’s help Build Back Bohol.
For a closer look, just click on the pics. Cover pic courtesy of Project Lupad. Other photos courtesy of: Danaj Segovia of the Bohol Chronicle, CNN Philippines, Inquirer.net, the Philippine News Agency, the New York Post, and KFindTech News.