Back together, time to vacation a bit


I wrote and wrote about the devastation and confusion of typhoon Haiyan, but I never got around to the vacation time we had after Praxy and I were reunited.  Here we go.

Praxy came back with a serious cough and chest infection.  She had been given antibiotics by a doctor at the evacuation center, but the medication did little or no good.  It was viral, a nasty and tenacious cold bug.  It was two weeks before should could shake it off.  It held on to me for 10 days.

We waited at the Mactan house for a few days after Praxy’s return.  I wasn’t sure at first what she had contracted.  Diseases can spread easily during a natural disaster.  Pneumonia?  Cold?  Flu?  Also, there cold be some other nasty thing incubating (typhoid, dengue fever, etc.) and I wanted her close to Cebu and Cebu’s outstanding medical facilities.  It soon became obvious she had a common cold that had taken a good hold in her chest.  The best cure?  A sunny beach and warm sand.

I search around the internet a bit and come up with Moalboal.  It looked a bit expensive, but there are beaches and excellent snorkeling.   It is a very popular destination for foreigners, especially foreigners from Europe.

Off to the south Ceres terminal for a Ceres Liner bus to Moalboal.  It is about a 3 hour bus ride from Cebu, via the town of Carcar, over the mountainous spine of Cebu island, then down the east coast to Moalboal.

It turned out to be a big disappointment.

I booked five nights, then come down with Praxy’s bug on the first afternoon while eating lunch.   I hung on for a couple more nights, but to no avail.  I won’t go snorkeling with a cold.

Lesson learned while on vacation in the Caribbean.   I dove to about 10 feet with a head cold and ended up with a horrible sinus infection that night!  Lucky for me, I had my usual antibiotics and stopped the infection the next day.  However, I had a terrible headache and missed exploring Georgetown Grand Cayman because of my foolishness.   We walked around downtown, or rather, I crept around downtown.  Walk for a couple of minutes, then sit for 20 minutes.   What a waste.   I missed the famous “stringray city”.

Rooms were very expensive, the resorts in Moalboal run towards the exclusive end if you are near the beach.   The place I chose was full of people from Germany.   They were certainly nice people, but we didn’t fit in.

Moalboal is a long ocean-side cluster of resorts, expensive ones on the shore and cheaper one across the little access road.  The access road turns into a sidewalk in places as it winds through resorts, restaurants, sari sari stores, and dive shops.  Many different cuisines are offered at the restaurants.  The Mexican restaurant was good, there was also Italian and German.

The room was large and beautiful.  TV, sun porch, clean bathroom; everything a foreign tourist could want.  And a thing I didn’t want.  Cockroaches.

I learned a little trick about those nasty critters at this resort.   I’m not mentioning the name of the place, though.  To pick on the resort would be unfair, because…I never even complained or told them about the problem.  I probably should send them an email.  Yeah, I’ll do that now……………………….OK, done. (They never contacted me back)  Continuing on…

Roaches are thick in the Philippines and very annoying.  I see them everywhere.  During the first night, I noticed a hoard of the blasted things in the bathroom when I got up to visit the restroom.  The room was well sealed and squeaky clean.  How were they getting in there?

Praxy told me the next morning.  She had gotten up to go to the bathroom and found roaches crawling in and out of the sink overflow drain!  It was a fancy, tall, floor mounted fixture, and there were no gaps in the wall.  But the overflow drain was about 2 inches across.  She was disgusted.  So was I, but… AHA!  I’ve struggled with roaches in bathrooms every single trip to the Philippines and couldn’t figure out how they got into the bathroom at night in many very nice and well sealed motel bathrooms.   I searched through our luggage and came up with a small plastic bag.  Wadded it up, stuffed it into the hole, and PRESTO!  No more nighttime roaches.

Of course this trick won’t work in any place that isn’t well sealed around the sink, toilet, window, or door.  Just have to deal with the little SOB’s in that instance.  Which I do.  I tolerate them.  Begrudgingly.

I will now keep plastic bags of various sizes on any trip to the tropics or Mexico.

Time to leave.  Nothing much to do when you have a head cold.  Rooms were $85 usd per night, a little higher than I care to pay considering there was nothing for us to do.  So, the third morning, we left.

We walked out and caught the first tricycle to Moalboal proper.  And lucked out.  The driver, a nice man, was full of advice.  We talked for the full 15 minute ride to town, I learned a lot about the area.  Pulled up to the bus stop and…his cousin was waiting for a bus to Dumaguette!

IMG_1408She was a pretty young college girl, going back to school after the Christmas holiday.  She knew every shortcut and every way to save money on the trip.  The driver asked her to accompany us to Dumaguette and she was happy to oblige.  We bought her bus and ferry fares, she more than paid her way.  We went to three different terminals by tricycle after leaving the bus.  Finally, she located a ferry that took us within a 5 minute ride of brother Presco’s house.

First things first.  We needed a place to stay.   The place we had stayed in two years ago, Lita and Presco’s house, was now occupied with Paul and his family, Janet, Gabriel, and Zach.  No room at the store, Presco and Lita have a small house behind the store.  So, we decided to stay in a nearby motel.  Praxy and her kids had stayed at a nearby resort and she liked it.  She thought I would like it as well.  I did.  I loved it!

IMG_1415 IMG_1417We opted for the deluxe “air conditioned ocean view” room at a whopping $25 per night.  For $15, you get a pool view and no air con.  Queen bed, nice clean bathroom with hot water, and a little porch that gave us a great view of the islands of Cebu and Siquijor.  It was a wonderful treat every morning.  We would sit outside and watch the sun rise over Siquijor while drinking coffee, nibbling on sweet rolls, and eating fresh fruit.   Afterwards, down to the restaurant for our breakfast; toast, eggs, and green salad with vinegar dressing.  Odd, but, the salad tasted good.  It was a dollar extra for bacon or sausage.

IMG_1527Here is Cebu, a few miles away.  You can pay a lot more for a room and get a view like this in Boracay, Alona, or Cebu.  Me?  I’m a cheapskate.  I’ll take this ANY TIME.

The restaurant was good, breakfast was included with the deluxe room.  We had a couple of lunches and dinners, the food was good.  The water park was great.  Only rub against the place;  location.  The Sea Forest Resort is a long ways from anywhere interesting for a tourist.  Downtown Dumaguette is 25 minutes away by jeepney.  Other tourist attractions to the northwest are even farther.  But for us, Gab and Zach store was a 2 minute ride away by jeepney or tricycle.  Perfect.

I believe the nicest thing about the resort was the birds.  Cage after cage of well kept parrots and other avian critters.

IMG_1419A Rufous Hornbill.  It was fed a variety of fruits and nuts.  I got a kick out of watching it handle the food with that ungainly looking bill.

IMG_1421My favorite.  Amigo.  This little fellow was charming.  The sign said that “Palawan Hill Myna birds” are the best mimics in the world.  I believe it.  This little guy even mimicked people in the shower room right behind him.  It was hilarious, somehow he managed to catch the sound of echoes in a concrete room.  I mentioned on Facebook that Amigo “caught” our colds from Praxy’s adventures in Eastern Samar.  He “coughed” real well.  He wasn’t too bad at “sneezing”, either.  I taught him to “wolf whistle” as well.  Took him a few days to get it, then he wouldn’t stop.

IMG_1524Talking parrots.  These two were good, but not up to Amigo’s standards.

IMG_1525A cage of red parrots with a nearby cabana.  The cabanas are rented to people that want a little privacy for lunch while swimming.  Maybe $5.00 per day.

IMG_1420 The animals here are fed only the very best of foods.  I saw their dishes going out almost every morning.  It was definitely food fit for humans, let alone birds.  Each one was given it’s own special diet, some with vitamins spread on top.   It was a bit annoying, though.  I would have liked fruit for breakfast, but the resort refused to sell us any.  We brought it in.

IMG_1461The spotted leopard cat was given fresh chicken breast for breakfast.  Other than being raw, it was certainly fit for human consumption.  This cat was beautiful.  From what I understand, they make decent pets.

IMG_1517The main pool with it’s water slide.  The resort is owned by a Japanese man and his wife.  The grounds are kept scrupulously clean by a small army of people.  Every morning.  The first week we were there, the local day cares were given a “deal” to bring the children.  It was mayhem!IMG_1428 IMG_1430 IMG_1431Hoards of local kids with their families.  They had a blast.  The noise and turmoil didn’t bother me.  I enjoyed watching them having fun; going to a resort that most likely FEW families could afford normally.  They all left by five pm and we were visiting our relatives during the day anyway.   And then…clean up.  By dusk it was hard to tell that anyone had been there during the day.

As I mentioned, there isn’t much going on nearby.  There was a large statue of the Virgin Mary looking over the ocean nearby.  Both times we went to visit, the park was closed.  Looked very inviting, lush greenery ascending the hill across the highway, with some sort of shrine at the top.  Across the street, one of the best eateries I have found in the Philippines.  Jo’s Chicken Anato.  Chicken anato is basically skewered chicken cooked over a charcoal fire.  But, everything we ate there was outstanding, including the humble skewered chicken.  There is also a small playground for children.  Prices are very reasonable, people come in from miles around for lunch and dinner.

Aside from going to another chicken fight, we attended the local December fiesta.  These photos will look familiar to followers of my blog.  We went to the same houses as we did in 2011.

IMG_1462The family at Lita’s brother’s house in nearby San Jose.

IMG_1468Up in the balcony sipping San Miguel beer and watching people drive by.  Again.  It’s a blast.  Dinnertime!

IMG_1472Rice, fish, chicken, and something I’d never seen before.  White beans with pork.   All very tasty.

IMG_1477Kind of warm up there.  But it doesn’t seem to matter.  I’m warm everywhere in the Philippines.

We also visited Rudy again.  We were so stuffed, we could only eat token bites of food.  It was just as well.  Rudy had a lot of visitors and the food was pretty well cleaned up by the time we arrived.  Rudy was a chef for the bigwigs in Manila for the Philippine army when he retired.

A few days later, it was time to treat the family.  An afternoon and evening at the Sea Forest resort.  They were a little hesitant at first, it’s a bit above their normal price range.  But I wanted to treat everyone, and the cost wasn’t that bad.  Admission for everyone ran around $10 usd.  No problem.  Here they come!

IMG_1486Down the ramp to the entrance.  Ulp, raft couldn’t go into the pool.  Too large.  The young boys in front Zach and Gabriel, were all over this one.  They had a ball.

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So did I!

 

 

 

 

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IMG_1498 IMG_1506IMG_1508You can see it is getting dark, and Gabby is still going strong.   He simply loves water and wouldn’t get out until he was starving.  We ordered up a big dinner and everyone ate their fill.  Gabby would have gone back in, but everyone was ready to go home.  Work and school the next day.  For us two tourists?  Sleep in and chat with people on the free WIFI.

IMG_1513I set up a little corner with a fan pointed towards me.  After I was done, Praxy would take her turn.  Nice.  The birds put up quite a fuss early on.  Until their food arrives.  After that, peace and quiet as they preen and digest.  I loved it.

We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing week in Dumaguette.  We visited the downtown area a couple of times.  Mainly, to get money from ATMs, but also for hamburgers and halo halos at Chow King.  A large open air market was set up near the bank so we bought our breakfast there and toted it back to the Sea Forest.  There was an ATM near the local ferry terminal, but it was out of commission most of the time.  The Sea Forest, Jo’s, and everyone else takes cash only.

Next, off to Cebu and preparations for the flight home.

Posted in 2011 Idaho chinook tagging | Leave a comment

Leftovers


Things I missed.  I started this thinking it would be the last post.  But, I now realize there is another two weeks.  That post will follow one of these days.  Until then…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis pitiful little piece of concrete is the only thing near where our little beach house used to stand.  The storm surge left it behind.

Speaking of storm surge, no one in Asgad truly understood what a “storm surge” really was.   Until now.  Praxy has told me many times over the last few days that…If someone, anyone had explained a storm surge as a “tidal wave” or “tsunami”, no one would have stayed in Asgad.   They would have fled inland immediately, saving 10 lives.

I spent a lot of time explaining to Praxy how a storm surge works.  I believe it is something like this.  The strong wind creates a large divot or depression in the sea in front of the storm as it pushes the seawater in front of it.  The water rushes away from the storm at a high rate of speed, to be replace by water upwelling near the front of the storm.  This is no REAL danger until the storm approaches land.  Then, the water in front of the storm has no place to go but out onto the land.  This effect acerbated by the water becoming shallow near the shore.   The water piles up, then…One surviving evacuee described it to me; “The winds picked up the sea, higher and higher.  I could see it rising over the beach.  Then dropped it on us from high above!  We had no place to run.  People were dying all around me.”  Sounds almost like a normal wave breaking on the shore, only much bigger.

The larger the storm, the bigger the surge.  The storms don’t get bigger than Haiyan.

IMG_1377 Here is a Philippine domestic cat (felis catus) patiently waiting for food outside the door of the Mactan house.   She is full grown, maybe weighs 4-5lbs.   I showed the shoes in this shot to give people back in the US a sense of perspective.  Cats are much smaller in the Philippines, I would have guessed this to be a half grown kitten.  But nope…

IMG_1381She has two kittens of her own in a box nearby protected from wind and rain.   These were about 3 weeks.  Much as I wanted to, I never touched them.  Mom wasn’t used to me.

Most Philippine families do not have much by way of pets.  But this family has a tender heart.  Mother and kittens are fed daily, and Wesley brought an abandon kitten home from school to be bottle fed and raised.  Assii is his name, and he struts around the yard and house much like any cat back in the states.  Other cats hang around, and they get whatever the two pet cats can’t eat.  No Purina’s or Frisky’s in the Philippines.  The animals are fed table scraps.

Three weeks later, the kittens were running around the front porch like a couple of furry streaks.  Both are calico females.  The bigger of the two is aggressive and kind of ornery.  She could get mean.  She has a short tail, I called her Hiayan.  The smaller of the two is a sweet little kitten with a mild disposition, I named her Yolanda.  I don’t know if the names will stick.  She was inquisitive and friendly.  I told everyone in the house, “If you decide to keep one of these kittens, keep the little one.  She will make a decent pet.  The other? Well…you are taking your chances!”

They have endless energy, playing all day long in the heat and humidity.  I devised a few little toys for them and they had a great time.   The slippery tile porch makes for a lot of traction problems for busy little kittens.  They were always sliding into each other, the wall, or a piece of furniture.  Hilarious!

One evening, this little beastie showed up at the door where momma cat was waiting for her dinner!

IMG_1549Lyndon escorted it off the porch with a couple pieces of folded newspaper.  It was lucky not to end up on the dinner table!  Praxy told me it was a caroler looking for a few pesos…

IMG_1400My command post while I was searching for my wife.   The internet cafe was obviously set up for smaller clients, I’m all hunched over typing on my netbook.  For 50 cents an hour, USD, the youngsters in the area can play video games on line.  This place simply FILLS with young boys about 10-13 to play an online fantasy game involving ogres, fairies, monsters, and such.  Usually there are two teams against each other, four to a side.  Get killed, and you have to wait 60 seconds to rejoin the game.  They can get so excited, it can become deafening.  Gina, the owner, admonished the boys about their noise several times while I was searching for Praxy.

Gina gave me run of the place.  I could knock on the door any time, and she would let me in.  One Sunday morning, I had the place to myself for 1 1/2 hours.  Gina is now a good friend of Praxy and myself.  I jokingly said I’d like to rent the whole place to stream games of my favorite basketball team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.  She said “Sure, but you will have to pay for all 12 stations.  That would be 240PHP per hour” (or about $5.50 USD).   The feed seemed choppy and I would have to purchase another $10 for the overseas bandwidth.  Not happening!

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IMG_1402Jean, Lyndon’s wife from Mactan, is making “ice candy”.  The ingredients are ube potato, sugar, canned milk, starch, flour, coconut, ube flavoring, and water.  See those tiny plastic bags?  Each bag gets a ladle full, then they are tied off and stacked.   Then into the freezer overnight to be turned into “Popsicles”.  230 or so are made from one huge pot.  The price?  3 pesos each or about 7 cents.

People stream by the gate all day long.  But, many stop and buy one or more of these little bags filled with purple goodness.  I’ve already mentioned that Jean and Lyndon are good cooks.  This is no exception.  Cold and delicious!

I found it endlessly amusing to deliver the little bags from the freezer to the front gate.  Some of the shocked reactions were priceless; a balding, sweating, kano delivering the treat was a bit much for them.  The very young girls about 4-6 years old sometimes would have classic double-take reactions.   The pedicab drivers find it amusing as well, they always smile, wave, and take off on their pedaling of the locals to and from the main road.

I did end up learning a few words of Cebuano.  “Dua” means “two”.   “Humok pa” means “it is soft” and not ready for sale.  “Mayu” means “hello” or “good day”.

Sometimes, Jean has to make this daily.  That’s a lot of little bags of candy!   They also sell water ice in larger plastic bags.

Praxy bought all the makings for a batch of “ice candy” and she is going to make a it this summer for one of the potluck gatherings.  I’ll be first in line!

I mentioned on a previous trip that everyone is living off of each other.  Very little money exchanges hands.  I bought little bags of 3-in-1 coffee (Nescafe, creamer, and sugar) for 5 pesos at Guisano Island mall.  The little sari sari stores around the are selling the same thing for 6 pesos, a 1 peso profit per bag.  That is 2 1/2 cents profit in USD.  I think most items in the store are priced at the same profit margin.  A peso here, a peso there; a family makes enough money to buy food for the day.  8 pesos for the 20 minute jeepney ride from Radar, Babag Dos to Guisano Island mall.  Buy your store’s supplies, box ‘em up, and ride back.  These little stores are 50 feet apart, all selling about the same thing.  I tried to buy from everyone for the sake of good will.  You can usually find about anything.  If you hit four or five stores!

The sari sari stores in Guiuan have a unique problem, both humorous and sad.  The winds and rain from Haiyan/Yolanda were so strong, that the labels were blown off of every single can of canned foods.  So, the store owner would put things out to sell, then shrug his or her shoulders when you asked what was in the can.  Some, like sardines, were obvious.  Others, there was no way to know if you got a good deal or a bad deal until you got home.   One good thing about the canned food.  Unless the can was crushed, the food was still edible.

I made one last visit to see Martin before I left.

IMG_1561At his house in Mambaling.

IMG_1572He gave me another Japanese occupation note from the second world war.  It is beat up, but I will treasure it.  With his frail health, I’m doubting I will see him again.  He was ecstatic that we took the time to visit him the day before we left.  I think he knows as well…

IMG_1574He is being cared for by Desire’s daughter and her family.  Lyndon, Praxy, and I posed for a picture with them.

This is not the end of my writing from the 2013 trip to the Philippines.  After I finished our story about the typhoon, I decided to take a while off from writing.  Writing had become a little depressing, thinking about friends and loved ones struggling to put their lives back together.  Friends and relatives from Tacloban, Salcedo, and Guiuan are finally starting to appear on Facebook, meaning that life is being restored to their towns.  I have gotten over my lethargy and there is still a few more stories about the remaining 2 weeks of our vacation.

 

Posted in 2013, back to the Philppines | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Wow, Where to Begin…


I’ll start with what is happening at the moment.  There.  A beginning of trying to describe the most tortuous two weeks of my entire life.

People are gathering outside the gate, parking is limited.  There will soon be a funeral service for the father of my (sometimes) driver Christopher.  His father passed away about the same day I got here.  From the description, I’d say either emphysema or congestive heart failure.    He was a heavy smoker and drinker, I think the family was expecting his passing.   Chris, while upset, did not seem to distressed as he drove me around Cebu the other day.  The little chapel is less than 100 feet from where I’m sitting.

Egad, I’ve been readjusting my Teva sandals.  They got rather odoriferous.   That is a kind word.  They were beginning to smell like sweat and rotting meat.  I caught them early, I know better than to wait.  I was going to clean them first thing in the morning, but Linden was washing them as I emerged from my room at 5:30am.  He and Jean are SURE taking good care of me.  To the point I can’t do any work around the house at all.  Now on to that second sandal……….grrrr……..Ok, got it.  Now I’ll walk out and take a picture of the crowd that is starting to gather…

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And there they go, with a bus available for the people that are unable to walk.  My mistake, they are going to walk to the church for the service, about 1/2 mile away.  Then on to the cemetery.  The little chapel is more of a shrine that a working church.  Some services are held there, though.   I decide not to take a picture of the grieving family out of respect for their loss.

It could have been me with my hands on the hearse.

The assortment of jeepneys and tricycles about choked me with fumes as they left.  But now, it is peaceful.  Again.

Words are coming very slowly.  My emotional strength is nearly spent.  My writing will reflect that.  I hope the reflection is positive.

Four days of agony and finally one of joy.  A typical one follows.

I’d wake up and 4 in the morning after perhaps 4 hours of sleep.  Lay in bed until I couldn’t stand it, maybe 5:30.  Get up.  Write the daily update you saw on Facebook.  Force myself to eat breakfast.  The food was tasty but it always seemed like an effort to eat.  Afterwards, off to the internet.  For the first two days I went to the Gaisano mall.  It was a long and expensive trip by cab, so I had Linden find me a local internet café.  The owner of that café, Jeanna, has adopted me.  We talked and she was so shocked and concerned about my plight that she allows me access any time I wish.  All I have to do is knock on the door.  Bless her.   For instance.  On Sunday morning I was in over an hour earlier than her other customers.

After two-three hours of fruitless searching, I’d go back to the house for lunch.   Then came the worst.  Long afternoons of exchanging texts and phone calls with friends and relatives as we pooled our resources.  Looking.  Searching.  Praying.   At four O’clock, back to the internet café for one more hour of checking leads and stories.  Much of this work was done by my step-son, Scott.  He is an expert at searching for things on the web.  With my limited access, I couldn’t be very thorough.

Last of all dinner.  After dinner I would buy a tall Red Horse beer and sit outside drinking, waiting for the pain to subside.  Into bed at 7:30.  Asleep maybe by 8:30.  Wake up at 10:30.  Maybe fall back to sleep around 2 or so and back up at 4.  To start it all over again.

Ughh.

Fortunately for me, two of the days  involved time helping Presco and Paul prepare for their trip to Tacloban and Salcedo/Asgad.   More on this later, I promise.  For their protection, perhaps unwarranted, I will stay mum at this time.  We’ll talk about it after they get back.

(Break here.  I got tired of writing and started playing video games to relax.  I awoke at 4am and laid in bed waiting for 5:30.  Suddenly, it hit me.  It is cool and quiet right now.  Time to get up and enjoy the early morning at 4:30.  Sleep during the hot evening hours.  I am exhausted by the heat by dinner time.  I will now plan my sleep time from 8-4 or so.  Most of the time)

The first day I did the usual.  Getting money.  Getting my bearings.   We stopped in Lapu-Lapu to exchange dollars, then to Gaisano and the internet café.  From there, to the Philippine Red Cross to register my search for Praxy.  Amazingly enough, Martin’s hospital was a short three block walk from the Red Cross.  So we walked over there and I got to chat with my old friend, lolo-Martin (“Lolo” means grandfather, I believe.  Chona, Mimi, and Maravic’s father for people in my home area).   It was such a pleasure and honor  to “bless” him, shake his hand, and chat with him.  While his body is starting to fail after 80 years, his mind is still quite sharp.   The only sign of mental aging I could detect was a slight tendency to repeat himself.  That could be from the language barrier.  He is fluent in English, but has an accent I find a little difficult sometimes.  I have to repeat myself as well Smile.

Martin told me he is having trouble breathing, it hurts.  They checked his heart, it seems to be fine.  May be his lungs are wearing out.  There is a lot of dust and smoke in this city, and we all know that those contaminants are not good for you.  I find myself coughing more frequently here.  At any rate, he is now out of the hospital and home.  I will go see him again, soon.  Besides, I want to check out the progress of the new SM (Shoe Mart) mall going up nearby.  Martin’s house will be very close to the edge of the parking lot when the mall is completed.  I can’t even imagine how bad the traffic will be in front of the house!

Afterwards, we returned to Gaisano to check in.  Check in on any word from Praxy.  By this time 6 days had passed without a word from her or anyone in Guiuan.  It would be six more days before I knew she was alive.

The second day I hired Chris to take me around town.  $12 dollars for him to drive me.  $12 dollars to rent a small, yellow flatbed jeepney.  Plus $10 for gas.  The jeepney was old and worn out, but reliable.  The fenders had rusted out to the point that…whenever we went through a puddle I would get showered with dirty water through the floorboards and under the door.  Some people would be miffed, but I found it novel and amusing.  Chris was aware of the problem and I only got wet once.  If it had been raining, we would have had to stop and get some sort of cover to keep the water out.  Linden rode in the back on a small stool. We went to Gaisano for internet.  Then off to a charity site at Osema Fuente to drop off donations.  Donations of money from Connie and medicines and tarps from me.  Also, I donated the first aid kit that we had laying around the house.  I figured a doctor could really use it and I will start on another when I get back.  Items in it were getting close to expiration, they needed to be used.  I wished now I’d put my name in it to see where it went.  Some doctor is probably ecstatic to own it.

Back to Gaisano for an update.  Nothing of course.  But Chona called and suggested, since I wanted to volunteer, why not go to the airbase?  OK, off we went.  A sympathetic guard let me in after close inspection of my passport, but he never checked Linden and Chris.  I find that odd.  But, anyway…After a few false turns and many questions, we found ourselves at the evacuation center next to the runway.  Linden and I were the ONLY non-volunteers there other than a lone TV cameraman.   How I stumble into places like this is beyond me.  Must be from my ability to think outside the box.  With a little kick in the butt from Chona on this one.

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This is TRULY Visiting a Place You Will Never be Likely to See.  I carefully kept the pictures generic out of respect for the evacuees.

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The sign in table.  All evacuees sign in here so messages can be relayed to friends and loved ones.  Behind was a table with free cell service and simms from SMART.  A kind gesture from a large corporation to the people that had lost their phones or loads.  At first they thought I was an evacuee and rushed me over, but I explained to them I wanted to volunteer.  When pressed for a “why?”, I told them my wife had been in Guiuan during the typhoon and I had no idea if she was alive.  They were sympathetic and very concerned.  So they set me down to scan the evac sheets from both Cebu and Manila; that is how I found out that the “Williams” and “Ogatias” from Salcedo that had been evacuated to Manila.  Which started the search by Byrd and Norhs to see if this was Praxy and Catharine or someone they might know.   False lead, but a great one.  Just HOW many people with a last name “Williams” and “Ogatia” can there possibly be in the Guiuan/Salcedo area chumming around together?

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Some of these people hadn’t eaten for two days.   You can see from the relaxed posture that they are grateful to be here.

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There was another flight from Guiuan coming in, so I wandered around and talked with people.  It soon became clear I had no business being here.  There was a ton of physical labor there and I couldn’t speak but three words of tagalog.  Had this been an evac center with a lot of foreigners, say Boracay or Panglao, that would have been different.  Those tourists would have been comforted by the presence of a concerned American asking for their names, handing out food, and helping them connect with the outside world.  I would have gladly come every day to help.  Still would, even after knowing Praxy is safe.  I would drop my writing and go somewhere instantly if I thought I could help.

But I was (am) smart enough to know that, even though I was desperate to find my wife, I would find her quicker if I let people do their jobs and keep myself out of the way.   The flight from Guiuan, no Praxy.  Sigh.  Chris had to turn in the jeepney at 5pm, so it was time to leave anyway.

It was the next day that Scott and I teamed up for the search.  Scott did most of the internet work.  I helped here.  But this is for a later post.  Toodles, for now.

11/18/13  6:30am

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Praxy and Haiyan I –The Storm Gathers


Praxy knew of the storm the day she left Pomeroy.  I noticed the storm on Wunderground’s tropical update when I checked the flying weather from Spokane to Seattle.   I alerted her that the forecast was serious but, foolishly as it turned out, both of us brushed it off.  After all, how bad could be possibly be?  “Just another typhoon”, she said, and I trusted her judgment.  She had been through many typhoons as a child and young adult.

Praxy always regarded the typhoons as a happy time.  No one was scared, but there was anxiety for safety and the livelihood of the people.   That livelihood was fishing and coconuts, with some subsistence gardening and farming.  The goats were penned in their shed.  Extra food and boiled drinking water was prepared and belongings were buried in the ground a long ways from the beach.  Evacuation was to the larger and better constructed houses.  Larger typhoons had people fleeing over the low mountain to nearby Salcedo over the trail between the barrios to seek shelter there.  The trail had (and still has to this day) concrete steps, many of them.  The steps were put in during the mid ‘60s.

Praxy smiles thinking about the good old days of her childhood.  Of gathering with her playmates during the typhoons.  Playing games and talking.  Sharing foods and companionship.  Chasing each other around the house as the adults patiently waited for the winds to abate.

After the typhoon passed, everyone would gather.   No one ever died, few were injured.  As a group, the village of Asgad would work together rebuilding damaged houses and businesses.  The houses were made of sticks and palm fronds.  Plenty of building material was always available.  The children always joined in a scavenger hunt, picking through debris to help their friends and families find lost possessions, and coconuts that were knocked from the trees.  All items stashed in the forest were recovered and restored to the “new” houses.   After a week or so things were back to normal.

At the airport in Spokane, I had an uneasy feeling about it.  So as we parted and she went through security screening I advised her to stay far from the water and take shelter in the safest possible place.  I mentioned that she had mentioned the Eastern Samar University campus was quite safe and on high ground.  I told her to strongly consider that as shelter if the storm grew large and dangerous.

Arriving in Cebu, the first warning.  All school classes were cancelled throughout the area.  Praxy spent one night is Cebu with relatives and their children.  All OK.

Due to aircraft schedules, she had to spend the next night in Tacloban at the fancy Leyte Park motel and suites.  We had looked at the place on our previous trip.  It needed a little TLC, but the view of the ocean and surrounding area made it a very attractive place to spend the night.

Second warning in Tacloban.  All schools were closed and now there were warnings of a super typhoon now called Yolanda in the Philippines, but Haiyan elsewhere in the world.  It was approaching and all people were being advised to prepare.

Praxy never thought much about it.  “I’ve seen typhoons before, it can’t be THAT bad”.   She calmly caught a Vans Vans microbus to Guiuan to drop off her luggage.  She drove to Baras to get the key and rented the house we had chosen in Guiuan.  It was near the airport.

It was like a little closed compound with no way to see out.  The house was quite warm because of the poor air circulation.  She had to run around with few clothes on, but that didn’t matter.  No one could see in, and she couldn’t see out.  Nothing seemed out of the ordinary with the weather.

Next morning, Praxy made contact with Catharine.  Praxy bought a new cell phone and while waiting for it to charge, she made what would be our last contact for two weeks.  I can remember it well.  She had forgotten her Facebook password and and so had signed on to Catharine’s account.  I smiled as I supplied the requested information.  Then the last thing…”The house as many ants in it.  Can you please bring plenty of ant bait?”  We never talked, just exchanged messages.

By now, people were starting to become concerned.  Businesses were selling many supplies as people stocked up for what could be a serious situation.  Since the house was SO hot, Praxy looked into buying an air conditioner for us.  But, she decided it was time to leave for Salcedo and decided to install the air con after she returned from the college reunion.  She secured permission to install that air conditioner before I arrived.  Bless her!

She caught a tricycle (motorcycle with a covered sidecar) for the 25 minute ride to nearby Salcedo.  The organizer of the alumni reunion for Saturday November 9th had decided to postpone due to the approaching typhoon.  Praxy’s close friend from college is Dolor.  Her house was just across the street, so Praxy decided to spend the night there.  Due to lack of sleep, jet lag, and travel, she had one of her migraine headaches.  So Praxy asked Dolor for pain pills and a place to sleep.  Five minutes later, she was out.  Noon the day before Haiyan hit.

First big time warning…At two o’clock pm, Praxy woke up to Dolor screaming at people.  She is in charge of the welfare of the local people, a counselor of the barangay 13.  She was yelling, telling everyone to get the children and old people to the nearby church or shelter.  No one seemed upset but her.  The sun was shining, no wind, clear bright skies.  But Dolor was door to door throughout the neighborhood, nagging, cajoling, anything, to try to get her friends, family, and neighbors to safety.

No one believed her.  Well almost no one.  Someone was pushing an old person in a pedicab (bicycle with a covered sidecar) to the shelter.  It was hard work, going up a fairly steep road.  Then, Dolor returned to Praxy and begged her not to return to Guiuan.  Reason? “There is a big typhoon coming and I am in this house alone.  There is plenty of room”.

Since here house was built of concrete, Praxy decided to stay.  Two best friends gathering for comfort.

(This next part is amazing to me, Ken.  I can hardly believe my ears as I type this.  I could plainly see the size of the storm as I watched it bear down on Guiuan.  I was watching in horror from my job at the dam.  Real time satellite images.  At the time, I believed Praxy was going to ride the storm out in Guiuan.  Outer cloud bands were far past Manila, 400 miles away!)

The weather was normal for this time of year.  An occasionally short, heavy downpour followed by clear skies.  A family showed up in the afternoon to seek refuge with Dolor and Praxy.  Parents, daughter, son, two neighboring children, one 4 years, another 13 months. Two nieces of Dolor.  So we have 10 people with Dolor’s daughter arriving about 5pm.  11 people spending a night that wasn’t considered too far out of the ordinary.

Soon, the short downpours starting coming closer together.  Finally, at 8pm, the winds started.  Gentle winds.  These winds remained gentle until midnight with the rain becoming more frequent.

At midnight, the storm struck…

11/20/13 6:00 pm

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Praxy and Haiyan II —The fury of the Typhoon


Praxy knew that Dolor’s house was very very strong.

Dolor built this house with monies received from the government after her police officer husband was gunned down and killed by a madman in the line of duty.  She was extremely particular about the construction, demanding a deep, thick, heavy foundation and reinforced concrete walls.  The roof support was double beamed, extremely strong and well constructed with cross ties.  She was on the job site daily and no corners were cut.   In fact, the construction people were forced to correct any item that was not up to specification.  She was, in short, a nag.

Unusual for a house to be built so strongly in the Philippines.  It may have saved their lives.

At midnight came a steady heavy downpour.  Praxy stayed in her bedroom because of the migraine headache, everyone else lined up in the living room to sleep.  Except Dolor.  She nervously paced through the house, checking everything.  Checking Praxy frequently,  peeking in her room.   Every time Dolor opened the curtain, Praxy would close her eyes and pretend to be asleep.  Praxy could not sleep and laid in bed until…

2am, the winds hit suddenly and steadily.  It sounded like a jet, hurting your ears.  There were no breaks, no gusts.  Gradually, stronger.  Stronger.  Stronger.  Even though there were strong rains throughout, you could see outside.  Everything was bathed in a strange, dim, white light.  (I can not explain this.  My best guess?  The rain clouds were low to the ground and the moonlight was illuminating everything.)  In two minutes, debris was flying.  The window flew out of Praxy’s room and she could hear neighbors trying to hammer their houses back together.  Coconuts were falling all around.    Looking outside, Praxy watched as Dolor’s brother Lando and his sons tried to save their house across the street.  It was futile.  In moments, two coconuts trees fell on their two story house and they were forced to flee across to Dolor’s.

They ran to the front door, but it was nearly choked by debris.  They took shelter as a tin roof came flying by, then darted for the back door.  The wind was so strong, Dolor was scarcely able to open the front one and there was confusion and panic as she thought the tree had hit them.  Praxy watched this drama through her broken window.  Soon, all three were inside and safe.

We are now 5 minutes in.  14 people.  No more people through the night.

Praxy’s room was on the lee side, so she stayed in her room.  The winds continued to increase.  Dolor watched as a neighbor’s roof flew into the air approached in the moonlight.  It spun and twisted crazily, then crashed on her kitchen roof and Praxy’s bedroom roof with a terrible bang.  And…It punched a 10 inch hole in the roof above Praxy.   The only damage to Dolor’s house in that horrible night.

Praxy decided to get up and join the rest of the refugees in the living room.

30 minutes in.  One of the children had a flashlight and everyone watched the nearby coconut trees sway violently, get stripped of fronds, then break or fall.  Roof tins clanged, trees crashed, the winds were now like a nearby jet.  Everyone complained of earaches.  Not surprising.  As a typhoon approaches, the barometric pressure falls rapidly.

Aside from the steady blast of wind, and crashing of debris, things stabilized (for lack of a better word).  3 1/2 more hours in a maelstrom.

6am, it was gone.  Haiyan had passed.  7am, it struck Tacloban.  Everyone knows what happened there.

I now know I have another great debt of gratitude.  Dolor.  For building the house that saved my wife’s life and the lives of others.  It was stronger than most of the storm shelters.  Many people in the area were killed when the shelters were compromised by the terrible fury of Haiyan.

They stepped outside to world totally and perhaps forever changed.  Out of seventy three houses, 5 small houses had survived.

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This is looking towards Salcedo.  The road used to traverse the countryside through a tunnel of trees.  Now you can see for miles.   All the coconut trees are dead.  There may be a survivor or two, but it will be 8 years for new ones to grow and produce fruit.  A lucky survivor will produce fruit in three years.  There will be a few.  I hope.

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All dead here.  Every last one of them.  As far as the eye can see.  One of the main livelihoods are gone, gone, gone.

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This is pitiful.  Someone’s house.

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This blurry picture shows the beginning of the relief.  Rice cached at the town hall being divided up and given to people that had lost almost everything.

The first thing everyone does is…pick up the pieces.  The men get together and building shelters.  The women wash clothes and get them out to dry.  The children look for anything useable.  Most everyone tries to get items back to the proper owners, no matter how far away it is.  Except for the tin roofs.  Those are one of the most valuable items and no one knows just which roof it came from.   So, up they go!

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There is a story here.  Coming up in the next blog.  Asgad, my wife’s home town.  Or what’s left of it…

11/21/13 8:20am

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Praxy and Haiyan III–Asgad


Every one stayed put the next day.  Sometimes a second typhoon can hit.  This would probably be outer shower bands from the original and it is common lore among the locals.  The second after Haiyan, Praxy and Lando drove part way to Guiuan.  They only got a third of the way there before they had to abandon the motorcycle and walk.  Too many trees on the road.  Praxy had an idea that there might be cell service in Guiuan.  However, those hopes were dashed.  Guiuan was nearly destroyed.  She walked to the house we had rented and discovered the roof was gone and the house was flooded.  No need to stay there.  There was a dead person on the road, and injured people making their way to Guiuan looking for medicine and help.

They returned to Salcedo.  having walked 32 kilometers that day.  You notice that there are no pictures.  The camera had gotten wet (imagine that!) and was unreliable.  But, by the next day, it had dried enough to get some pictures.

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These are third cousins of Praxy’ father, their names are Peles and Pansang.  They were sitting by their farm because they were bored from sitting in their house.  They came to inspect their camotes (sweet potatoes), pineapples, bananas, casavas, and coconuts etc.   What survived?  The potatoes may have to start new leaves, but they were freshly planted and will probably be OK.  The tree crops, bananas, coconuts, are destroyed.  The casava and pineapples were also freshly planted and seemed to have survived with a few pineapple plants uprooted.  Not bad considering.  They had never seen anything like this in their 86 years of life, they’d been farming the land for 43 years.

There was a little nipa house for resting near the fields.  It was flattened by several coconut trees.   Praxy didn’t know it was even a hut until she asked.

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The ruins of the church, destroyed by wind and storm surge.  The town’s icon, the buoy…

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…has been washed 200 meters inland and is now next to the school grounds.  It’s been around for almost 100 years and didn’t leave it’s adopted home even after being tossed and abused by Haiyan.  Everyone in Asgad is amazed and laughing about it.  Our house (behind the buoy) was totally destroyed and the floor is now 300 meters north (left) on someone else’s property.  I’ve jokingly mentioned that that it might make someone a porch or sundeck if they cut off the support columns.

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Well, we don’t have to worry about repairing the foundation now!

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Ruins.

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Looks like the school survived pretty well.  Only one building lost it’s roof.  The buoy is just off screen to the right.  Notice all of the laundry.  Most of the people of Asgad are now living in the school.  One the first things to do after a typhoon is –wash your clothes-.  Everything is muddy and filthy, and clean clothes gives the people a sense of pride.

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Looking at this, I spotted live coconut trees.  I thought there might be a few survivors, and I wasn’t disappointed!

But, I just heard bad news.  The husband and wife caretakers of the family’s coconut farm were both killed.  They were found still embraced after death.   Sad smile  Sigh.  I knew them.

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Life goes on amid the rubble.

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I’m running out of words.  I have walked this street many times and now I don’t recognized it.

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Last shot of Asgad.  Our little house used to stand right here.  See the pieces of rebar sticking up out of the sand?  We now have beachfront property.  I guess.

Readers, you may think the is despair and anguish in Asgad.  No.  Far from it.  The only people that are crying are those that lost loved ones.  What really hurts most is that there cannot be a proper funeral, memorial, and burial.  The bodies MUST be buried quickly.  There will be memorials later.

Everyone else seemed cheerful; they have food, shelter, and each other.  The rebuilding has already started, everyone is working together.  I’m sure there will soon be a Sari Sari store and fuel won’t be too far away.  For now, cooking is being done on open fires, there is plenty of firewood to be had.  Literally, at arms length away.

Praxy and I have decided to help them in any way we can.  As soon as gasoline is available, we are going to buy a chainsaw and other tools.  One of the locals makes regular trips to Manila, and we will help supply him with whatever he needs.  He asked for the saw right away and Praxy declined.  When the gas is there, though, he’s got it.

And for Asgad?  Unbroken bricks will be salvaged.  Roof tin straitened.  Nails pulled from broken lumber, straitened, and pounded back into good pieces.   Small rubble used as fill.  Houses and businesses will emerge from the ruins.  The tennis and basketball courts will be uncovered.  The streets will be cleared.  Electricity will be restored.    A new church will be built.  Anything and everything usable will be put back into use.

The buoy will soon have a rebuilt barrio to watch over.

It is a loyal mascot.

11/22/13   7:00am

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Praxy and Haiyan IV–The Search for Praxy Begins


(If ignorance was truly bliss, I’d be in heaven by now!  I’m always making mistakes (who doesn’t) and I’ve been misspelling Lyndon’s name forever.  My apologies, my friend!)

Turns out that Praxy’s greatest fear throughout the aftermath wasn’t for herself.  It was me, Ken.  She was to spend a week trying to get word to me.  “Don’t come to Salcedo!”  It dominated her thoughts.  She had no idea what I was doing, same as I had no idea what she was doing.  She kept telling herself, “Ken is intelligent, he will know not to come here”.  But, the fear is always in your head when you lose control of a situation as severe as Haiyan.

She need not have worried.  Shortly after the storm and while still in the US, I’d asked Presco if he would accompany me on a search for Praxy.  As the drama unfolded in Tacloban, I came to know that a rescue attempt be me would be nearly impossible.  Because…I stand out.  An Americano going into the area would be recognized as having money and food.  And, even though the Philippine people are some of the nicest in the world, desperation brings lawlessness.  I understand this.  You have a starving family and a “wealthy” kano goes by on a motorcycle or a car.  Which is more important to you, the kano or your hungry family?

And more, the imprisoned criminals in Tacloban and Ormoc had escaped and were murdering, looting, and raping.   Adding misery wherever they went.

There were also another lawless element coming out of the mountains, NPA’s or New People’s Army.  NPA’s are separatists hiding from the police and the Philippine army.  They have been marginalized over the years by the army, but bands still exist.  They were coming out and killing locals and stealing the first supplies coming to the stricken area at gun point.  I know of several instances.  One, for example, was four Red Cross vehicles with medicine and food being hijacked in northern Leyte.

I HAD to stay in Mactan.  No sense in me getting injured or killed if Praxy was to survive.  Actually, I would have been lucky to end up just “injured” if the wrong people found me.

So, Presco and his son Paul decided to go in.  This is their story.

I’ve kept quiet about this for a good reason.  Facebook.  Everyone is connected to someone and word gets out.  Sharing a share.  Which can be shared again.  It was certainly possible in my mind that bad people could get wind of the mission, secure a picture, get news to the disaster area, then waylay them on the road for what they had with them.  Much too important to take even a tiny chance.

The second day I was here in Mactan, I got news from Pam (Presco’s daughter) that Presco and Paul would be here at Mactan on the third day.  They were bringing a motorcycle and carrying food and medical supplies to Dr. Donna Pelicano, a niece in Tacloban.  She was working constantly helping the injured and wounded, but she got word out that there was no food and little medicine.  Her cry was heard, we responded.

When they arrived here, it was clear that they were serious about this.  Both are retired from the Philippine army.  Presco fought for many years early in his career.  After 35 years he had advanced from combat to budgeting and supply before taking a well earned retirement.  Paul was on the front line fighting Muslim insurgents in Mindanao for 10 years.  Paul looks like someone you’d never want to get into a fight with.  Tall, handsome, self assured, and strong.  His current job is security at the Bethel Guest House in Dumguette.  He’s not armed like most other guards.  I don’t think he needs to be.  He is dressed formal in a barong and works discreetly among the guests.  You’d never know his past.

They had four bags.  Two were small with personal clothing.  One was huge and weighed close to 40 kilos.  Food for Donna.  The other was lighter, filled with medical supplies.  It was a bit comical watching them drive up the road by the house.  You could hardly imagine a more loaded motorcycle.  Presco was in agony.  The heavy bag had to sit on his lap and after an hour his legs were killing him.  Just getting from the ferry terminal to the Mactan house was almost more than he could take.

But, we planned anyway.  Failure or giving up were not options.  All the ferries from Cebu to Ormoc were full.  No possible transport until the following day.  So, Pam, Presco, Paul, Lyndon, and I; we racked our brains.  Anything to get the medicine to Donna that day, then Paul and Presco to Salcedo to search for Praxy.

-The northern ferry terminal on Cebu island was probably not an option, wiped out by Haiyan when the typhoon made a direct hit.

-I knew there was ferry from Danao to the Poro Town on the Camotes Islands, then connecting to another ferry company from Poro Town to Ormoc, Leyte.  I’d seen the schedule posted when I visited the Camotes in 2005.  I had no idea if this was an option and had severe doubts.  Ferry schedules plus the Camotes had been near the path of Haiyan and took a sideswipe by the typhoon.  But we decided to check it out anyway.

-There is another ferry from northern Bohol to southern Leyte.  This was a small boat.  Praxy and I considered this option when we decided to go from Asgad to Bohol and rejected it in favor of the fast catamarans.  We all again rejected the idea because of the unknown quality of the ferry and a long trip through lands occupied by bandits.  But, when you are desperate…

-There is yet another ferry from Cebu to Catbalogan in Western Samar.  This was available, but the dates were wrong.  Next one was Thursday.  Besides, this option offered carrying the heavy bag for 5 extra hours and the ferry itself was a freighter and had a low speed.  A last resort.

-I suggested to Paul that he check with his connections in the military and see if he could get the bag hand delivered by the Philippine Air Force.  He thought about it for a while, then, BINGO!  He knew someone that might help.  A bigwig here in Cebu.

-Meanwhile, Paul’s wife Janet was working on yet another “outside the box” idea.  She had a good friend whose husband was president of a shipping line that was going to make a run to Ormoc with (if I remember correctly, yes I did remember correctly!) fuel.

Pam relayed information to and from Dumaguette as we struggled with the options.  Poring over maps.  Weighing the possibilities.

Finally, nothing to do but check.  Lyndon and Paul set out on the motorcycle after an early lunch.  Lyndon, with his intimate knowledge of Cebu and Mactan would be the guide.  Presco and I could only sit and wait.

We spent a pleasant afternoon on the porch renewing our friendship and talking about family matters.  I found that he was fighting some of his chickens in December and I decided I wanted to go with him.   He told me amusing stories, I shared amusing stories with him.   Between calls and texts as everyone around us continued with their efforts.

At 4, Lyndon and Paul returned.  Paul was exhausted and discouraged, he had nothing but bad news.

-Northern ferry terminal was indeed destroyed.

-Paul and Lyndon rode an hour each way to Danao to find…The ferry to Poro Town was full and the other ferry was questionable if it was operating.  Not an option.

-We again decided that the Bohol-Leyte ferry was not an option, either.

-The ferry to Catbologan had space OK, but it was a 1 1/2 day trip.

-The high ranking friend was not in his office and was unavailable.

-The fuel supply ship to Ormoc was not going for two days.  It had to get to Cebu, then load.

Failure.  At least for now.

Sometime on this hectic day, I had made a simple speech.  The gist of it was…Sometimes to get something done the quickest and the best, you have to wait and be patient.  This is one of those instances.

It was possible to buy tickets in advance for the Cebu to Tacloban ferry at 8:30pm the following day.  This is our best option, let’s do it.  Time for Presco and Paul to rest up and prepare for the journey.  It was going to be arduous, stressful, and perhaps dangerous.  All agreed.

Then, finally, great news!  There would be a military truck and a jeepney going direct over the mountain from Ormoc to Tacloban the morning after the ferry arrived.  Not only would there be military protection, Presco would not have to carry that awful heavy bag on his legs.  And, this route cuts 2 hours from the safer, round about costal route.  Drop Donna’s bag, and continue on to Eastern Samar to look for Praxy.

It had now been 12 days since we had heard from her and we were all on edge with concern.  She was a huge priority after we had found out Donna was OK.

The rescue mission was now planned and ready to be executed.

Paul was exhausted from driving took an afternoon nap and rest of us relaxed as best we could.  Lyndon and Jean cooked up a wonderful meal and we sat around and drank beer afterwards.  Four friends enjoying a quiet evening.  Trying to forget our worries.

The next morning, Paul and Lyndon left at 6:30am for the ferry terminal to purchase tickets.  They were back by noon and they were successful.  Yay!

Details, details, details.  We now had the final plan.  Get everything together.  Paul lined everything up on a bench seat, again becoming the leader of a squad entering harms way.  He checked everything, ID, license, paperwork, money, then, I watched him freeze and his face go white.  He had set the ferry tickets down on the table next to me and now he thought he had lost them on the road while riding back from the terminal.  I realized almost instantly what he was looking for and called it to his attention, those tickets were still on the table 5 feet away.  His relief was comical; we all FINALLY had good laugh.  Finally, something to truly laugh about after all the stress, to relieve some of the tension.  We swapped humorous stories about doing that EXACT same thing.  This had a happy ending.

I offered everything I had to help them.  They had doubts about my water filter until I brought it out.  They had never seen a miniature filter the size of a large hotdog bun that could filter 750 liters of water if you were careful with it.  Both microbes and chemicals.  They were mightily impressed.  In spite of the heavy load, it went right in.  I gave them 10,000 pesos (now you see why I wasn’t going to write about this until they were safely home), my super antibiotics for Praxy is she was sick or injured, and 20 pictures of Praxy for (ulp!) identification.

Gasoline would be frightfully expensive, I knew the going rate was around 120 peso per liter, about $12 USD.  I was concerned about their clothes, but they laughed.  They were ex-military and knew they would have to blend in.  Old, patched clothes and flip-flops were going to be donned while they were on the ferry to replace the nice pants and tennis shoes.  I mentioned the motorcycle.  It was nondescript, but the license was from Negros, not Leyte.  Come to find out, the plates are identical color throughout the Philippines.   We bought extra gas.  Did everything we could think of.  I went to the internet and came back with the news.

PRAXY WAS ALIVE AND OK.  We were ecstatic.  Scott (Praxy’s son) and I had discussed it and decided that it was OK with both of us if Paul and Presco returned after going to Tacloban.  Paul and Presco discussed it briefly, but their minds were set.  Presco was going to find his baby sister.  PERIOD!  Paul was adamant as well, Praxy had babysat him when he was four years old and he loves Praxy dearly.  I understood, but both Scott and I wanted them to know that we figured that Praxy would find her way out just fine.  No pressure from either of us.  She was, and always has been, a survivor.

I hired a cab to take Presco, Lyndon, the luggage, and myself to the ferry terminal. There was the usual confusion trying to get to the correct terminal. Infrastructure is crazy in this country! And, the extra fuel was refused. I wasn’t surprised, but it allowed us to top off the motorcycle at the dock. Lyndon and I brought back less than a liter.

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We sent them off with our hopes and prayers.  Two brave men launching into the (at this time) unknown.   They were not as concerned as I was.  They figured they could pull it off.  I believed them but still…

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I got a message from them in Tacloban saying they were OK and had delivered the items safely to Donna.  They then disappeared into the carnage.

I waited, prayed, and paced…

8:00am  11/23/13

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