Typhoon Hagupit: From Being Afraid to Being Prepared


CARE Philippines staff Rona Casil shares her experience with Typhoon Hagupit. 

“Not another Haiyan, please!”, was my first thought when I learned about a potential super typhoon hitting our region again and including our dear Tacloban in its path.

The Haiyan nightmare is something I could not imagine my family, the people in Tacloban or the rest of the Philippines experiencing again, only a year after one of the strongest storms on record devastated us.

Even its name – Hagupit (a Filipino term which means ‘lash’)- evokes fear in us, as if it signifies danger.

It didn’t help that initially there were a lot of wild reports going around in Tacloban that Hagupit will be stronger than Haiyan; that deadly storm surge would smash us again. It brought back painful memories of the trauma Haiyan left us.

My mother was beside herself with worries, restless for us to evacuate to another place before Hagupit slams Tacloban. To my utmost relief, the misinformation about Hagupit was soon corrected. Through more accurate and reliable news, we learned that Hagupit’s strength will not be similar to Haiyan and also quite reassuringly, that there would be no storm surge in Tacloban.

After we became afraid, we decided to be prepared. Two days before its expected landfall, our small family of four (with one 11 year old kid!) worked like a team with a good game plan and ready for battle.

My mother meticulously packed our things and clothes in plastic bags, I even have to remind her two days before the storm in amusement “Mama, I’m still going to the office! What am I gonna wear?!”

We anticipated electricity being cut off, so my brother prepared emergency light by preparing a bulb which he will connect to a car battery for emergency when the typhoon strikes.

My nephew, who was so traumatized by our Haiyan experience asked for the rosary which he held during last year’s catastrophe and wished to clasp again in time of Hagupit. Our family is big on prayers so it was heart-warming for us to see our youngest member turning to prayers as well for protection from potential danger.

Report of ‘panic-buying’ hurt me

And then there were the essential and practical things to think of. Last year, our supply of rice was swept away by the floods. Then, we just placed our staple in plastic bags. This time, we put rice in bottles for better protection. In time of possible disaster - and characteristically Filipino - our family can’t survive without rice so we made sure to secure supplies of it!

Then we stocked up on food items. Two days before Hagupit, we bought enough supplies, same as almost everyone else in Tacloban.

Noodles and canned goods were running out of supplies so fast days before the typhoon. Some reports call it “panic buying” which hurt me as a survivor of Haiyan. It was not panic that drove us to buy enough provision for the just-in-case-this-becomes-an-emergency days ahead, but the good sense to prepare. During Haiyan, food became a problem and we wouldn’t want to suffer the threat of hunger again this time.

During Haiyan, clean and safe water became scarce. So this time we put water in bottles and placed them inside the comfort room/toilet- the safest place in the house they say in time of disasters- and locked the room so in case of floods, our drinking water would be safe.

We tied our roofs. We secured our important documents. We made sure to just stay in the house during the storm. We did both small and big adjustments this time all to be better prepared for Hagupit.

‘Proud of my hometown’

Then Hagupit came. We felt it from Saturday night to Sunday early morning. The winds were strong but not comparable with the ferocity of Haiyan. There were rains but not anywhere near as heavy as last year’s biggest storm. There were some small floods in Tacloban, but to our greatest relief, as correctly advised by concerned government agencies, there were no storm surges.

As predicted, power shut down. But our emergency light worked, and gave us a good measure of ease. During Hagupit, I brought out the comfort food I prepared for my family: the local special bread and Filipino favorite, hopia, and lots of chocolates. And such food calmed us as we waited for the typhoon to pass.

Tacloban appeared like a deserted city days before, during and right after Hagupit. There were hardly any people on the streets. Most establishments were closed. Families preferred to stay home or in evacuation centers.

Tacloban was prepared. I am so happy and proud of my hometown. I was supposed to be on leave on the first work week after Hagupit, but I decided to report for work to contribute to our efforts to monitor, collect information and respond to the most affected areas in our neighbouring region in Samar.

As a survivor of Haiyan and recipient of fellow Filipinos and the world’s generosity during the aftermath of our worst disaster, and having survived yet another typhoon but thankfully unscathed this time, I feel it’s high time I pay it forward and return the same care and solidarity shown to us last year. In fact, I had a friend based in Tacloban but whose family reside in Dolores, Eastern Samar, where Hagupit made its first landfall. After the storm, she could not contact her family. Mobile connection went off. I could perfectly relate to her anxieties as many of our relatives and friends felt the same way last year when communication lines with us were cut off after Haiyan’s devastation.

So I searched for helpful government numbers she can reach to seek assistance, and because of this small act, my friend was able to reach her family and took away her worries.

We suffered so much from Haiyan. But we also learned so much from it, especially the value of preparedness and unity.

CARE is working with the government and local partners to deploy emergency response teams to affected areas to collect information and be ready to distribute relief supplies such as food to communities in need of assistance. CARE and its partners has about 150 staff, and are operational in Manila, Leyte, Samar, Panay and Bicol.