I traveled to Cagayan de Oro (from Butuan) last Friday. Tropical Storm Sendong is already in the Philippine area of responsibility. I checked PAGASA’s website and Storm Signal No. 2 is up in Northern Mindanao. I left Butuan early in the morning of Friday, December 16. There was rain early in the morning but it was short and not “Storm Signal No. 2 material”. In the five-hour bus ride to Cagayan de Oro, there was no hint of the catastrophe looming ahead. It rained in some towns but it was not strong enough to scare me. It looked like just another rainy December in Mindanao. Plus, Sendong was classified as Tropical Storm which is a notch lower than a typhoon in terms of strength.
This is how the Lim Ket Kai mall parking area in Cagayan de Oro looked like in the afternoon of December 16.
I traveled to Cagayan de Oro to take a bus to Pagadian the next day, Saturday. I promised to attend a friend’s wedding. I met with a friend from Bukidnon as my travel companion and stayed overnight at her sister’s place in Nazareth. Her sister was on a business trip and her flight home that afternoon was canceled. We still went to her house and arrived there with no electricity and water was running low. My friend’s girl scout instinct came in handy because she brought a fully-charged LED flashlight. I thought about my flashlight back home and, for a second, I pondered over my inadequate packing skills. Boy, was I lucky to have a friend who was packed ready for a battle? We freshened up with what meager water we had and off we went to sleep.
Around 1 am (or was it 2am?), I woke up because rain was really pounding hard on the roof. I was not familiar with Cagayan de Oro weather since I have not lived there so I did not understand the effects of the heavy rains.
Still unaware of the situation, we left the house in the morning. We were supposed to catch an early bus to Pagadian. As we went near the gate of the house, there was a hint of Sendong wrath: muddy street. Another hint: fewer tricycles (motorela). We ended up riding a cab to the nearest Jollibee store where we planned to get breakfast. As we enter the door, the guard asked us if we were willing to wait for 30 minutes before we are served. Apparently, only the manager reported for work. Not one service crew came to work. We hope the crew were in a safe place.
It took time to find the jeep to take us to the bus terminal. Along the way, the devastation was clear. We passed by the bridge near the city hall. It was clear that houses along the river there were ruined. I don’t want to know how many lives were lost there. We could still see the raging river below. There were people trying to salvage their things. Their faces showed distraught.
Bus travel was delayed for half a day. When we arrived at the terminal, the first bus of the day was still there. The drivers were waiting for a signal to go for fear there might not be passable roads ahead. We were able to leave Cagayan de Oro at around 11 am and this was the situation we saw. I took the photos along the way from Cagayan de Oro to Iligan City (before we reached the Iligan bus terminal.)
We arrived Pagadian 8 hours after. The bus kept on taking in stranded passengers (which is a good thing). As passengers embarked and disembarked, we would hear several tales of a friend of friend of friend who lost loved ones in the storm.
I just got home from Pagadian this morning and I have a spitting headache from all the traveling but this headache is just a small inconvenience for me compared to what the people of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan are experiencing right now so here I am creating this blog post.
How you can help
Wherever you are in the world, you can help.
There are many ways you can help the storm victims. Jane Uymatiao listed down different organizations that welcome donations for the typhoon victims. Check our her list here: How to help victims of Tropical Storm Sendong
Here is a Google document that collates what Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City need and how you can help: Typhoon Sendong Relief Operations
A little act of kindness goes a long, long way. Let’s give the people of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City our love.