By Rey Anthony Chiu | 10:37 PM December 24, 2021
Contemplating about death, Madeline de la Torre, 42 of Bilangbilangan Daku, has told her husband Glen to take care of their kids, even as she weakly treaded on the waist-high water that surged through the entire island, December 16, around 7:00 PM.
Bilangbilangan is an hour away by boat off Bien Unido and among the many islands in northeastern Bohol sprinkled along the path of Tropical Storm Odette.
Fresh from a myoma operation, Madeline has to swim, clear a way in the flotsam that accompanied the surging sea water, pushing current and debris that lay under her bare feet.
Ahead of her is her husband Glen, wrestling broken fences, torn walls and fallen trees that obstruct their evacuation to a chapel not a hundred meters away.
Behind her, their two invalid children has to keep their head bobbing above water while holding on, another child has on his back still another lame sibling, and two more kids in tow.
That time, the wind howled and roared as the wooden houses groaned and creaked before bursting into a thousand disintegrating splinters, peeling tin sheets, plywood strips and wood flying everywhere.
The pounding waves in the shore smashed the inlands’ wooden boats as they pounded on each other while those that luckilly break free from their teethers drift into the dark seas.
“There were snapping, breaking, screeching and banging sounds as flashlight shafts from evacuating neighbors crosscrossed, sliced and leaked through collapsed walls, broken fences and disappearing roofs,” she recalled
This as the sea water whipped by the 280 kilometer gusts sprayed mist and sand obscuring visibility to barely a meter away,” she added as she towed two invalid children to shallower and safer grounds.
“It would have been better if it were day time, but it would have been a lot scarier s1eeing all those flying debris” school security guar Madeline Padillo joined in.
Elsewhere, their neighbors in Purok 1, were also either heading to the chapel, or the school building 400 meters away, solid structures they think that could withstand the lashing gusts and torrential rains, and whipping waves: something they never had experienced in their life times.
“Every step is always a risk. The path is littered with torn iron sheets, wood splinters, glass debris and broken fences swept by the storm surge,” she said.
Madeline and Glen were gifted with 5 kids, three of them were born unable to speak or walk.
While Glen, 48, a laborer, cleared a way for them, Madeline stayed close, two of the their children holding on to her, while at the back, another invalid piggybacked on a younger sibling, bobbling and weaving through floating debris, fighting the pushing currents and blinding rain.
“I was so weak, the thrashing current, the cold, evading falling and flying debris while finding safe way to the chapel was no mean task. Twice, somebody’s roof fell on us, thank God we were still unhurt,” the mother or five who just had a myoma operation narrated.
Earlier, as the winds strengthened and sounded mad, the sea water withdrew, and when it came back, it surged and washed the boats off anchors, or the ones lashed on the shores smashed against each other, bringing with it splinters, flotsam and whatever garbage the wave collected from the shores to the houses.
The waves swept through the island carrying with its force whatever the wind detached from the flimsy houses and few trees that used to provide shelter from searing sun.
Weakened with the ordeal, treading on flotsam and clearing a way for her children, Madeline was at the point of giving up.
“Whatever happens, please take care of the kids,” she weakly told her husband.
For Glen, who has been securing the familys income, taking care in spoon feeding the kids would be a challenge. Madeline has always been the home maker, while he is out for work.
They made it to the chapel, shaken but safe. The de la Torres joined over 20 persons huddled in a 3 meters by 4 meters chapel, children crying, infants innocently suckling and mothers making sure their families are in tact.
Totally dependent on potable water from the mainland or collected rainwater, Bilangbilangan residents had another problem in their lap. The surging sea water washed away their water stocks and filled their rain collectors.
The storm surge also washed away whatever food was stocked for the ill weather, leaving them with practically nothing to eat.
“This is the third day that we have not eaten full meal, when hunger hits us, we drink water which is salty, but that is better than nothing” she said.
An island that sits right smack in the ferocious eye of the storm, Bilangbilangan is amonbthe most populous islands in Bohol.
Here, barangay officials have asked people to evacuate and seek sturdier protection as early as 2:00 PM, that day.
The state weather bureau has elevated the red rainfall warning ovee Bohol by 2 PM, the order for forced evacuation hardly got any reaction from the community that has survived fae stronger Typhoon Yolanda.
Little did they know that they are now in the path of the eye of the storm, unlike when they were on the fringes of Yolanda’s wrath eight years ago.
“I have lived here since 1969, and storm surges never happened since. Even during Super Typhoon Yolanda, we were hit but it did not affect all of us as much as it did today, ” joined in 75 year old Felicidad Cabalan widow.
Over all the 3-hour ordeal, luckilly no one in the island perished, something the people celebrate.
It was the third day from the storm when we came to deliver relief: 5 kilos of rice, 8 canned goods and a liter of water.
Clearly, for people aho have not had any meal for three days, this is not worth celebrating, but the smiles and tears of gratification still welled.
Deapite losing most of their boats and the chance to venture out to the sea for food, residents here crave for water, at least for the infants and kids, tarpaulins as temporary shelter and something to cook while they start preparing to stare into the eye of another storm. (rahc/pia7/Bohol)