14 November 2013
Trudy Allen is a British ex-pat who works for Boracay Travel in the Philippines. She sent this email after Typhoon Yolanda.
It’s been an eventful week!
As you all seem so painfully aware, the Philippines was hit by the biggest typhoon of 2013 and possibly in recorded history. Currently, there are still many islands and communities that are yet to be reached with rescue teams and provisions and it’s very distressing as everyone knows someone who’s either directly affected or whose extended family has been.
I had a clear out of my wardrobe and have donated lots of clothes and tinned food to one of the many relief drives being orchestrated by members of the Boracay Communities.
Boracay thankfully, after all the reports and preparation committees that took place prior to the typhoons arrival, was relatively unaffected. There are a number of local families who lost their homes to minor landslides or their roofs to the heavy windows. Our miraculous escape is down to the typhoon arriving early, thereby hitting before high tide, reduced rainfall levels and a slight diversion south, to below the island, so we were no longer in Yolanda’s direct path. Sadly this meant that the mainland copped the full extent and many areas of Kalibo (one of the arrival points for Boracay visitors) was raised to the ground. This included the family home of one of my reservations team, Leni, although thankfully, they lost only the roof. Her fiancé also lost his family home.
We were also particularly lucky in having chosen Boracay Hills as an evacuation centre for our staff, their families and friends. We were fully stocked with water, candles, canned food, noodles, energy drinks and alcohol! Everyone staying was instructed to bring a change of clothes, medication and first aid supplies, coffee and anything else that they needed for personal care.
Boracay Hills is located on one of the higher areas of the island, whilst also being in a bit of a dip. The grounds are surrounded by mature trees as well, affording us further protection. We lost 4 trees, 2 of which nearly came through the roof of the ground floor buildings, and numerous roof tiles. But the trees also protected us from flying debris as well.
We lost internet at 12.15pm, being one of the last areas on the island to lose this. Then the power went at around 1.15pm. The storm hit in full force around 2pm and was all but over by 9.30pm, so I made the decision to return to my apartment to check the damage and hopefully sleep in my own bed. Opening the gates of the hotel grounds it was pitch black, as I walked slowly with my mini-suitcase and clutched my hurricane lamp. It was only about 10 yards before I was confronted with the 1st tree blocking the whole driveway, which I had to climb through, then 5 yards later was the next tree to navigate. I got half-way through climbing through the branches of this one, before becoming aware of the electrical cables which were still threaded through the branches. I almost considered returning to the hotel but checked the area ahead thoroughly and proceeded carfeully. I’m not totally sure where one of the trees came from through because I hadn’t been aware of big trees lining the driveway beforehand; obviously the one with the cables had been there.
Since Friday it has all been about surviving without electricity and telecommunications, which has been the hardest thing for most of us; not being able to let friends and family know that we escaped lightly when we knew that you were all seeing the scenes in Tacloban, Leyte and Samur – all of which were hit around 4am in the morning. These communities were as prepared as the rest of the Philippines but sadly were the first bit of land hit by Yolanda at 4am in the morning, along with water surges and huge waves which resulted in large ships and tankers being driven on to land. Some people report waves as high as 10 metres and had Boracay experienced this, it would be a very different story here as well. In addition, many of their evacuation centres could not bear the brunt of the sheer force of wind and sea.
We were lucky to have no deaths on the island but it could have been a different story; one of our evacuations centres, Bulabog Elementary School lost its roof. Less than an hour before, it had been sheltering 1,000 people.
Thankfully, those who were overseeing this evacuation centre realised quickly that the roof was unstable and unlikely to hold and a decision was made to move them all to the nearby church.
Today, we faced another typhoon – a baby really and more rain than anything. I’m at PDKSP Smoke Restaurant, enjoying a good lunch and watching the pool that is the main road but it will drain completely soon. Louise, Aileen and I de-camped here to get some work done as Boracay Hills is still without electricity and internet connection. The rest of the team are working from two of their homes.
The spirit, care and good humour of the Philippine people is something to behold. At 5.30am Saturday morning lots of people were up and chopping up the trees and branches, sweeping away debris and piling it up along the main road for collection. Repairs were being made and the ropes used to hold down roofs and property, were being removed. In fact, we woke to the most beautiful day; scorching hot and beautiful blue skies. The water was littered with palm leaves and debris but most swimmers made a point of pulling the largest bits out of the water and on to the beach for later collection.
Louise reports that the totem tree at The Palms, which had various inspiring words on its branches was still standing but the only word left on it was MIRACLE!!! As The Palms lost a lot of its roof on one of its wings, this was very apt for the hotel and the island.
Love to you all and thanks for all your prayers and good wishes, someone was looking out for us on Boracay.
With thanks to Trudy for giving us permission to post her email, and our thoughts are with her and the people of the Philippines. You can donate to the relief effort through the Disasters Emergency Committee here.