This post is a little late. This is the first time that Presco and I have been able to sit down and talk since they boarded the ferry in Cebu. They did not stop back in Cebu on the return. And here in Dumaguette, we have all been busy doing one thing or another. This is still fresh in his and Paul’s mind. I don’t think they will ever be able to forget the destruction from such a devastating typhoon.
Two days after the storm, a mayor from a barrio north of Salcedo made the trip to Tacloban to report on damages and his report was frightening. The normal length of that trip was 2 1/2 hours by jeepney, but his motorcycle ride was 10 hours due to the horrible condition of the road and fallen trees. He talked about the dead, the injured, the homeless. His plea was for assistance. The assistance was on it’s way, but had been delayed by the total destruction of infrastructure.
A week had passed before Presco and Paul were going to attempt the trip. In that time, the roads had been cleared, but vital services were still not available. As mentioned previously, gasoline was priced anywhere from 120 peso to 250 pesos per liter, or $12-25 USD. Thus they went in with a lot of money, some food to sustain them, and a water purifier just in case.
The ferry terminal was jammed with people catching ferries throughout the area. In other words, business as normal. They could not take the fast catamaran because of the motorcycle.
Boarding was at 9pm, but there seemed to be an extra large number of people waiting for the Ormoc ferry. Normal departure was 10pm, but they ended up being delayed until 10:30pm. Paul found a piece of cardboard, laid it on the deck, and caught a few hours sleep. Presco could not sleep, it was too uncomfortable in the chair. He described tossing and turning in discomfort. I have trouble sleeping upright as well, I understand.
Presco thinks it was very fortunate the weather was good, bad weather may have been disastrous for the ferry. It was quite overloaded, standing room only. They arrived safely in Ormoc at 4am, but there were no lights to help get everyone off the ship.
They arrived at low tide and this also caused some difficulties. Heavy trucks could not unload. It took an extra hour to get the cargo unloaded, including the motorcycle. They ended up leaving the pier at 5am. They searched around and found a van for Presco and the precious cargo for Dr. Donna. The fare was outrageous, 250 pesos for Presco, and another 250 for the luggage. It was pay or stay, so Presco got on board and forked over the cash. Paul followed behind on the motorcycle and they took off across Leyte.
Presco says there was terrible damage to houses and trees on both sides of the road, all the way from Ormoc to Tacloban. Many people were trying to rebuild their houses and many people were still searching for their belongings over one week later. Some concrete houses were still standing without roofs. All wooden houses were destroyed. Some houses had fallen trees on top, anyone inside during the typhoon would have been killed. ALL the houses that he remembers were severely damaged or destroyed.
I couldn’t figure out why Paul had taken this picture at first. Then it hit me. Look at that flagpole! It looks like 2/1/2 inch pipe. Now THAT is strong winds.
Approaching Tacloban, there was much traffic to negotiate. The government and utility companies were busy repairing electrical lines and there was much construction equipment still working to clear the roads. There were large front loaders filling trucks with random debris to be hauled off. But, everywhere, there was a horrible odoriferous pall of death. Presco does not know if the odor was from animals, food, or people, I think he is glad he didn’t know which it was. Paul spotted bodies here and there along the side of the road as they motored by. Finally, they were into Tacloban at about 10am with their precious cargo.
Presco unloaded the luggage and waited for Paul to search out Donna’s hospital, which was Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center.
While they were searching, they photographed one of the local municipal buildings and the surrounding area.
They looked for Donna and finally found her attending patients, both sick and injured. Most of the injured patients had stepped on nails while searching the debris. Others were injured by flying pieces of roofs, tin and also pieces of roof supports. Vicious wounds on all parts of their bodies. While Presco was there, a lady came up and requested a tetanus injection after stepping on a nail. The lady was lucky, there was serum available.
Here is Dr. Donna Pelicano in Tacloban, taking a brief rest to pose with her cousin and uncle. Bless her for her hard work attending to the sick and injured.
They delivered bag, then soon left. Donna was far too busy working with people to talk for very long. She had been at the hospital since the typhoon, there were rumors of bandits and escaped prisoners breaking into houses and stealing or raping in her home barrio. It was much safer to stay and work. Besides, her car had been submerged in floodwaters and will need a complete check out and perhaps an overhaul. She had been there for close to two weeks.
Paul HAD to get pictures, it was his very first time of going to his father’s home town of Asgad. These were shot on the San Jacinto bridge looking back toward Tacloban, for those of you unfamiliar with the area. (Writer’s note, I can’t blame Paul for wanting these pictures. The San Jacinto bridge is quite spectacular and very elegant looking. It is also very strong. Haiyan passed nearby and there was NO damage to the bridge’s structure whatsoever!)
After leaving Tacloban, they were riding double on the motorcycle. There were many, many towns along the road near the ocean. I say WERE, because they were all gone. Palo, Leyte, all the small barangays along the way, wiped out. There were many people living with makeshift housing, waiting for aid. But, some good news. Relief goods were being distributed to the locals as Paul and Presco rode.
Everywhere, there were small fishing boats thrown across the highway. Those boats had been plucked from the ocean by waves, taken through the streets of the barrio, washed across the highway, and left stranded in the woods (or at least what used to be the woods) on the far side of the road. A distance of over 70 meters.
There have been pictures on the TV of a red van on top of a building. Presco and Paul recognized it as they drove by. Almost an eerie deja vu.
After three hours through almost total destruction, they arrived in Salcedo at about 4pm. They went to a cousin’s house and confirmed that Praxy had been in Salcedo. Sot they checked around the town and found that Praxy had been at Dolor’s house. The cousin went and fetched Praxy from Dolor, and brother and sister were finally reunited at Ronie’s house!
Presco bought some fish and they had a nice reunion dinner together. After dinner, Praxy, Paul, and Presco rode together back to Dolor’s house. Praxy introduced everyone, but no one could see each other’s faces in the darkness. I doubt if they would recognize each other! Paul and Presco returned to Ronie’s house for the night.
The next morning, Paul and Presco took off for Guiuan for some of Presco’s wife Lita’s relatives.. They also tried to get the “cell service” at the Guiuan airport. No service, but Presco decided to check if Praxy was in line for the evacuation to Cebu. She was!
She told Presco that she had contacted me that morning. However, Presco had no luck getting a message out. The signal was “for emergency use only”. Praxy had got lucky, they shut off the signal shortly after she had made her successful call to me (Ken) in Mactan.
The looked for Fredo, Lita’s relative, and found out through the Guiuan mayor that he and his family were alive and well. While in Guiuan, they suddenly got a text from Lita. Everything had been accomplished and it was time to go home. (Writer’s note. Both Globe and Smart now had vehicles at the airport. I think that both companies had a satellite uplink for cell service for the local people.)
They returned to Salcedo for lunch, then continued on to Asgad. At the barrio before Asgad, Jagnaya, most of the houses were also destroyed. Presco mentioned that there were many foreigners that had nice houses there. Not now! Then, they drove the additional few kilometers to Asgad and found Asgad was in poor shape as well.
The Catholic church in Asgad. It’s a goner.
This is the house Praxy and I stayed at in Asgad. I recognize the house, but not the surroundings.
Jeepneys are tough, but this one has probably seen it’s last trip. Unless the engine can be rebuilt. Salt water is tough on vehicles.
When they arrived, they had found people sitting in the ruined Catholic church, staring at the ocean. Presco thinks they were still in shock. Looking through the invisible church wall to the Pacific.
At 6am the following morning, Paul and Presco hopped back on the cycle for the return home.
First to Tacloban, then on the Baybay, Leyte.
Looks like the bus terminal had to be moved to the highway for the time being.
These all look like government buildings or churches. All were badly damaged except for the church.
Time for the late afternoon drive to Ormoc for a ferry. Guess what? All the ferries were full, but a security guard mentioned that there was place to buy a ticket. The man wasn’t there, but someone else mentioned to go to Illongos and there might be passage from there. It took a lot of searching and they found out to ask only the older people, not the younger people. Presco’s lower back was in agony, they had to stop every hour to help Presco. They drove on for 30-40 minutes and found two ferries there in Illongos! They were able to get on one, but there was no light. Boarding with a motorcycle was a bit of a chore! The 10pm ferry to Cebu, finally safely headed home. They arrived in Cebu at 4am.
Presco was just about unable to ride any more on the motorcycle after several tortuous days, so he caught the 4:30am Ceres liner to Dumaguette. 9am, home at last.
6 days of hard traveling and/or hard planning.
Fortunately, they were able to find plenty of water and did not have to use the filter I had provided. They were able to buy gasoline everywhere along the road. However, it was very, very expensive. They purchased more at every chance along the roadside at whatever the going rate happened to be. Presco left Dumaguette with 10,000 pesos, about $240 USD. I gave him another 10,000 pesos before they left Mactan. And…they returned with only 2,000 pesos. A six day trip by motorcycle to/from Guiuan shortly after the typhoon cost an astounding $450 usd for fuel, ferries, and food! They were a bit shocked at the prices, I wasn’t overly surprised. These were (and to some extent, still are) desperate times.
Same trip, normal circumstances with some the best offered. This amount can easily be cut 50% or more by taking cheaper vehicles and rooms! $7 each for bus from Dumaguette to Cebu. $50-75 each for the flight from Cebu to Tacloban. $30 room in Tacloban overnight. $12 each for an air conditioned van from Tacloban to Guiuan. $20 each for vans back to Ormoc. Fare of less than $15 each from Ormoc to Cebu on the Fast cat. Fare of about $12 each for the Fast cat from Cebu to Dumaguette. $312 for Praxy and I in 2011.
At least they got through and back safely. I am in their debt.