By: Hermiette Ferrer Lerog
Principal, Cabrera-Altres National High School
On the morning of December 16, 2022, shortly before Typhoon Odette’s landfall, I remembered the touch of a rain shower on my skin as I sleepily watched the leaves outside being caressed by the wind. I felt some guilt for having enjoyed it so much that I almost became oblivious to bracing myself and my loved ones for the looming danger ahead.
As the winds blew harder, I was still in my office at Cabrera-Altres National High School, seven kilometers away from my house in the city, doing my routine while preparing some necessary disaster risk reduction measures. With the help of my colleagues, I arranged a place for those seeking refuge at our school. Some evacuees had already settled in the day before.
After setting up and settling everything, I felt like there was still much more to do. I wanted everything prepared according to plan and better. I wanted to do more.
As the wind got more intense, I began to panic. “This is it,” I told myself.
Immediately, I asked my teacher-ride-buddy Wennie for us to go home to check on our respective families. So we hopped on his motorcycle and took off for home.
What I saw along the road was unbelievable. As heavy rains poured down, I saw how the mighty winds had ravaged the surroundings, uprooting some trees. Fearing the storm might catch us in the middle of the national highway, we rushed through the slippery and dangerous road, our homes still four kilometers away.
That one hour traversing the highway felt like the longest in my life. Two more kilometers left, yet we were frightened by the flying roof sheets and tree branches, the rising water on the road, and the constant pounding of the wind from all directions – like a horrifying scene in a movie. In those moments, I feared death. The hour suddenly felt like an everlasting day.
There we were, still one kilometer away from home. In a blur, the once beautiful city landscape was no more. The storm was at its peak, and Wennie and I could not proceed any further.
We stopped by at a friend’s house. It meant that we could not be on time to be with our families. I failed to secure our home. And it broke my heart. While worrying about my family, I grappled with these thoughts in my mind:
1. Nothing beats a prepared man. Preparedness should always be our priority, especially during natural disasters. The earlier the preparation, the higher the chance of survival.
2. No one is a hero on his own. Without the help of our friends who sheltered us during those precarious moments, Wennie and I would not have made it. To live is to co-exist with others. I also experienced this concretely in our school community at CANHS, where the teachers, staff, and everyone else helped prepare for the onslaught of Odette, where everyone cared for each other and ensured that everyone was safe in the school during the typhoon.
3. In those terrifying times, selfless men and women showed up. They braved all distress and discomfort to extend a helping hand, not minding the threats to their safety and lives. It was such a victorious and noble act. I salute them.
4. No one can defy nature. We can respond to it when it calls us to act, but we must also respect, love, and nurture it.
The mighty wind slowly subsided. It was the calm after the storm. Now, I must seize every moment, walk with faith, and win this game called life. As Wennie and I resumed our journey towards home, I was basking on the life lessons I learned through the tumultuous hours of what felt like an everlasting day.