Typhoon Rai (Odette): Nightmare Before Christmas 

Just when you had everything planned out for the remainder of the year — your tasks, projects, finances, celebrations… the biggest typhoon of your life hit you — metaphorically and literally. 

We were minding our usual business… I was working and finishing my deadlines for the week and getting ready for client meetings. Mahal was busy with the resort. Everyone was working. Though we were getting news reports about an impending typhoon, upon checking, the eye of Typhoon Rai or locally known as Typhoon Odette won’t be hitting us but instead, it will head straight to Cebu City which is 3-4 hours away from where we are. We had plans of doing our Christmas shopping there that weekend so we figured that we just had to reschedule. Plus, we’ve already experienced so many kinds of weather conditions here that we became complacent. We felt confident that it’s just another one of those storms. There could possibly be a brownout (electricity getting cut off) that will last for an hour or two, or at the most overnight, but that was it. We didn’t do any kind of preparation at all — we didn’t save water; we didn’t charge our phones and electrical devices; we didn’t check if we still have enough gas; we didn’t buy supplies… nothing. It was as if it was just another day in our beach kind of life

Late in the afternoon of Dec. 16, it started raining a little. There was no wind. It was just drizzling. I was inside our room working. Then I heard one of our people here call for my personal helper because our Christmas tree in the gazebo fell from the table where it was standing. So my helper went there to fix the mess. Even that didn’t give us any warning bells. It was 5 in the afternoon and I had so many deadlines to finish. The electricity went out. I wasn’t concerned except for the fact that I was still in the middle of finishing work and I had to use my phone’s data service and my laptop’s remaining battery to at least finish the day’s tasks. I figured, once my batt runs out, I’ll just finish work in a few hours when our electricity comes back. 

Next came the water problem. There’s no water coming out of the faucet. That made me feel worried. I hate it when there’s no running water being the clean freak that I am. How can I clean up, wash my hands, do the dishes, cook, and most importantly, poop??? I was so worried that I started not eating for fear of pooping and not having enough water to wash my butt with. We had a little water left in the pail and I saved that for only very important water needs. 

Then that evening, the rain and wind started getting stronger. It was so strong that we could hear it howling. Tuz even asked us what that sound was? I kept telling him it was the strong wind howling. He kept saying “No, mommy! It’s not the wind! It’s like an animal mommy!” He couldn’t believe that an animal sound like that could be coming from the wind. It was the first time he heard something like it. I started getting worried. Aside from the howling wind and the rain falling down harder and harder, we could all hear the waves from the ocean as if it was right next to us! I asked Mahal if it’s really true that no tsunamis ever happened here before and he said that’s impossible because we are surrounded by other nearby islands such as Sumilon, Siquijor and Bohol. If there would be a tsunami, it won’t be a strong one. Storm surges are possible but it probably won’t be as damaging. I trusted him. 

The most pressing concern at that time was how the other members of the family were doing. Mahal’s older brother was at the second floor of the building across ours and Mahal was worried that their roof might fly off since it’s just made of wood unlike ours here which is made of concrete. He’s also worried about his uncle who lives just across the street from us, right beside the ocean. Mahal kept opening our bedroom window to see the situation. I kept telling him to close it coz there might be roofs flying around with winds this strong. 

To distract ourselves, we played Monopoly with Tuz. We enjoyed it for a little while until we all felt tired and decided to sleep. However, our room was starting to feel hot. Whatever freon was in the air when the electicity went out was no longer there. With no air conditioning and windows all closed, I was starting to get sweaty. I opened one of the windows and opened the bathroom door to let some air flow inside while still making sure the screen was closed. It was so weird. The storm was so strong outside but still, no wind was coming inside our room. I thought to myself that at least we won’t get blown off by the wind if no wind was coming in! Thank God our own little shelter here seems durable. I fanned us all until I got so tired I fell asleep. 

The next day, Mahal woke up first. Upon stepping on the floor, he felt it wet! He woke me up. My heart was pounding so hard that images of flood came to mind! I reached for my phone which I thought was beside me but I couldn’t find it. I got up and found a part of the floor not just wet, but a little flooded! Good thing it wasn’t as bad as I thought, until I saw my phone face down submerged under water! I gasped! I immediately wiped it off with all the tissue I could find and turned it on. It was still working, thank God! The volume of the video files sounded a bit muffled but at least my phone was still in working condition. I went outside and saw the devastation Typhoon Rai (locally called Odette) brought. 

Everything in our terrace was all over the floor, all the plants (my vegetables!!!), the grape vines, the trees around.. all looked like a tornado swept them away! Several roof tops in the reception area and the gazebo flew off. The gutter in the gazebo got dismantled. The first floor of all the buildings in the resort got flooded, not just with water, but with mud! The entrance of the resort was filled with muddy water and everything looked terrible! I never saw anything like this in real life except in calamity movies and the news! I couldn’t believe we were living in a nightmare like this! 

Still, I felt grateful for being alive. Despite the damages to the resort, we were okay and well. I wondered how people in other places were coping. We were only under typhoon signal #3. How much devastation did the places under signal #4 suffered? I can only imagine!

The next few days became a challenge for me. I didn’t know when electricity would be coming back. There was no phone signal. There was no water. I couldn’t stay still because I had work to finish and I didn’t want my clients to think that I just disappeared into thin air. They’re in the U.S. and the only way I can contact them was via email. So I asked Mahal to drive us to the next town until we can get a signal from my phone before its battery runs out. 

So off we went outside of Oslob. We passed by Gawi, Lagunde, and other neighboring towns and saw how much destruction Typhoon Rai / Typhoon Odette left in its wake. Trees uprooted, metal roofs strewn on the ground, electrical posts broken, electrical wires and tree branches littered the streets, telecommunication towers down, houses with no rooftops, mud and boulders blocking the roads… It’s like a scene from the Twister movie… it’s like the end of the world — in my mind at least! We still got no phone signal and decided to turn back when the traffic started piling up. We didn’t want to get stuck there on the road and not be able to come back home before dark. But I took pictures and videos of everything we saw just so I can have evidence to show my clients in case they ask because the last thing I want is for my credibility, reputation and integrity to be affected by my sudden absence. Below is a vlog I created of footage from the typhoon’s aftermath (little did I know that this Typhoon Rai / Typhoon Odette was proving to be a major catastrophe that reputable international news outlets were already following the story!)

That night, with still no electricity, Tuz and I decided to sleep on the floor because we’re really not used to the heat. The tiles were cold and though it made my whole body ache upon waking up the next day, at least I was able to sleep from the comfort the cold floors offered. Mahal slept totally naked on the bed. For some reason, thought it was still quite windy outside, no wind was coming inside our room. This made me think that our room is really a good shelter from storms if only I can stand the heat!

The next day, with my whole body aching from sleeping on the cold floor, I asked Mahal to drive us around again, but this time going the opposite direction in order to find some phone signal. He also needed to buy some roofing for the reception and gazebo so off we went. 

When we arrived at Santander, we started getting signal. I was able to email all my clients about my situation. That gave me some form of relief, letting them know that as soon as electricity and wifi are back at home, I will resume work.

A week passed and still no electricity. Every night was torture because of the heat. One silver lining was I found out that our resort has a hidden well with clean water good for bathing. Since I found out about it, I started eating again. I was no longer worried of doing #2 with not enough water to wash with. Lol! We were also hearing word around town that electricity will come back on January 3… January 3??? I was thinking oh my God, one more week to go! Still, I focused on feeling grateful to be alive and for the cold floors at night. I can’t imagine how much worse it was for others since we had no electricity, no phone signal, and no wifi. I didn’t know what was happening to the rest of Cebu and the rest of the world. One thing I was feeling sure of though was that I didn’t think we will be celebrating Christmas in this condition. All my plans went down the drain. I ordered Christmas stuff from Shopee which, some of them, thankfully got here before the typhoon hit but I just didn’t feel like celebrating anymore. 

Then on the night of Christmas Eve, electricity came back! I was ecstatic! We didn’t celebrate Christmas but Tuz and I finally had a nice, hot, shower; we finally turned on the air conditioning in our room and we slept like babies that night. It was a nice, long, comfortable sleep under the comforters and new bed sheets. That was enough. Thank you, God! 

The following day, Christmas Day, people were still busy rebuilding and repairing. I was beginning to feel worried because there’s still no phone signal and no wifi. I was itching to work! So I just went back to my new routine of reading those books I’ve always wanted to read and review — I finally opened this P2,700 Archie hardbound book I bought last 2013 in FullyBooked, Alabang. I almost forgot I have this! 

Prior to that, I was able to read Marie Forleo’s book, Everything is Figureoutable, twice! I re-read Richard Templar’s The Rules of Wealth; I reviewed my notes on T. Harv Eker’s Millionaire Dollar Business Secrets, MindValley’s SuperBrain Quest and Vishen Lakhiani’s Extraordinary Mind. I also got busy homeschooling the kids here, not just Tuz. These activities and doing chores around the resort and at home kept me preoccuppied. 

On Dec. 26, I suddenly noticed my phone getting a little bit of signal. I tried to open my email and yes! My clients replied and they were very understanding and sympathetic, God bless them! 

The following day, I set up my laptop outside and my phone as well to get a bit of signal. I discovered that since Globe phone and internet services are still off, most people here have started to connect to the competition which is Smart. I’ve always been a Smart phone and data services user. This clogged the connection and though my phone was getting signal, I couldn’t connect so I started working on US Time Zone again. Come midnight here until around 6:30AM, my internet is working. After that, when people start waking up, signal gets super slow to non-existent again. 

So since then, that’s what I’ve been doing — just focusing on some unfinished work for my clients with the little internet signal I have, helping around here as much as I can, homeschooling Tuz and the kids, reading my books, and planning my personal goals for 2022. There is so much I have to work on myself, my personal relationships  with the people closest to me,  how to keep getting better, and where my life is going that I plan to execute a lot of major changes in my life if I want my new year to be different and better despite life’s storms, pandemic, and all. 

I wish you all had a joyous Christmas, even those devastated by Typhoon Rai / Odette. This is the first time in my life and for us as a family that we didn’t celebrate Christmas like we used to. But I did say a little prayer of gratitude for us being alive and well, and greeted Jesus a Happy Birthday. Storms can come and go. We need to stay strong and resilient and know that God won’t forsake us no matter how hard trials hit us. Everything we need is already within us. We just need to always tap into that immense power of possibilities inside of us. Never give up. Never lose hope. 

May we all have a healthy, happy, prosperous, and in every way better 2022! 

See you on the other side!  

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