Tacloban City, Philippines: Memories Of Childhood Marred By A Typhoon

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Tacloban City, Philippines: Memories Of Childhood Marred By A Typhoon

The rain is falling down hard, knocking on the window pane. It’s the new typhoon making its presence felt. The weather bureau, PAGASA, says the typhoon is expected to land up north in Luzon in 24 hours or so. I’m glad it’s going to miss my hometown, Tacloban City. At the same time, I feel bad for my countrymen up north. I hope the storm doesn’t hit land.

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Tacloban in 2009 long before super typhoon Yolanda
Photo Credit (for above and featured images): Gerry Ruiz

Typhoons always make me think of my family in Tacloban City, the city where I grew up and the place where my parents and my sister and her family live. I haven’t lived in Tacloban City in more than eight years, but it’s home and I always make it a point to visit a few times each year.

Tacloban City sits on the eastern seaboard of the country. It is the capital and biggest city in Region 8. It also faces the mighty Pacific Ocean, which is where most of the world’s storms, typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes occur. The city’s location means that more often than not, it will be hit by typhoons, directly or indirectly.

Super Typhoon Yolanda, or Haiyan as it’s known internationally, was the biggest storm on record to make landfall. It destroyed thousands of lives, houses and trees as well as practically everything in its path. Unfortunately, my city lay in its path. I will never forget the date my city was destroyed by 300 km/hr winds and a 4 meter storm surge: November 8, 2013.

I remember how peaceful the city was when I was growing up. It was so beautiful. Taclobanons are a generally happy lot. I remember there were so many trees and the air always smelled fresh, like sea breeze. There weren’t many vehicles on the road and so there was little traffic and no pollution. It was the perfect place to raise kids. I actually loved going to school and I did indeed have a very happy childhood.

Those were the memories that played through my mind when my husband and I boarded the commercial flight to Tacloban City five days after the disaster struck. It took a few days for the airport to resume a skeleton operation, having been 95% destroyed.

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What’s left of the airport after 4m waves hit Tacloban City. PIC: AA

We were on a rescue mission. I had spoken with a survivor-friend who personally saw my mom out in the streets looking for food. Everyone in my family had survived, thank God. I finally managed to stop crying after that wonderful news.

Aboard the small plane, people were crying. The cries got louder when we finally got our first look at the island below and saw the scope of the disaster.

My city was gone. From above, the whole island looked brown. The trees looked brown and naked. The branches were pointing westward, the direction of the 300km/hr winds. It was an eerie sight.

But the eeriest sight came when we landed. The sight of dead bodies everywhere – adults, babies, animals. The stench of death was in the air. It permeated our nose masks, our hair, our clothes, everything.

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Taken just outside the Tacloban City airport. My husband looking worried, making sure I was following him. We are eight kilometers from home. PIC: AA

Having been born and raised in this once-beautiful city-by-the-bay, I was devastated. I was shocked. It wasn’t the city I remembered. It wasn’t the city of my childhood. I was in denial. But as we walked towards the city center, towards home eight kilometers away, I saw all the familiar landmarks. I saw fallen houses and roofless and window-less buildings. The storm surge had swept everything inland, in some places up to two kilometers inland. When I saw our church chapel still standing, I couldn’t help but be thankful that we had made it this far.

When we arrived home, I felt once again like I’d been punched in the stomach. It was painful to see the house I grew up in so badly destroyed. The whole first floor was washed out, my father said his car was floating in the garage. The upper floor survived the onslaught and it’s where my family took shelter. But I knew my pain was nothing compared to what other people lost – family, friends, neighbors. Entire families were lost, some never to be seen again.

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Debris from washed-out houses covering our street. I was told they recovered some bodies underneath the wreckage. PIC: AA

I cannot think of Tacloban City now without thinking of Yolanda. After all, Yolanda has made Tacloban City into what it is today. But as everybody likes to say, Filipinos are resilient. No matter how hard life gets, Filipinos will always find a reason to smile. Every time we see somebody with a camera, we smile. No matter where we are. Even if we’re standing on top of a garbage landfill or waist-deep in flood waters. Even shortly after the aftermath of the super typhoon, you will find pictures of Filipinos smiling at the camera.

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Filipinos will always find a reason to smile. Here I am after mustering courage to ask CNN anchor Anderson Cooper for a picture. PIC: AA

My happy childhood memories of Tacloban City will always be with me. I will never forget. No matter where I go, no matter where I may be, I will always remember where I came from. And no matter how terrible the storm, the city I love will always fight and survive.

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Rescue mission was a success! My family (sans the husband) smiling for the camera while waiting to board our flight to Cebu. PIC: AA

Check out Angie’s blog at AngieArriesgado.com

Angie Arriesgado

Angie Arriesgado

Angie is a tough Waray-waray at heart. She quit a relatively good-paying job to spend more time with her infant son. When she’s not playing with her son, she’s busy growing her online business and producing content for various web properties. Follow her online money-making strategies and tactics at https://angiearriesgado.com/.


  • Erika

    I’m so sorry to hear what happened to your hometown. Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

    August 31, 2017 at 8:36 pm
  • Angie

    Hello Erika, me and my fellow Taclobanons appreciate your kindness. Thank you for letting me publish my story here on your site (the first and last time I will probably write about this tragic event).

    September 7, 2017 at 2:30 am