Editor’s note: Outside my close circle, this is the first time I’ve shared my story. Reliving it was difficult but important because this experience changed my views on life, the way I see others, and the things that truly matter. Roby x
On November 8 2013, exactly one year ago, I was on the phone to my mum at dawn. She and Dad retired recently making regular trips to the Philippines where they stay in their second home on the island of Samar, my father’s hometown.
That day was different though, and my phone call was a mixture of worry and anger. A super typhoon was at their doorstep and they decided to sit it out. It was a short conversation. I don’t remember much of it, only mum saying there was water rushing into the house; we said “I love you” and then the phone cut off.
By noon, I would sit in my living room staring at the satellite weather as the eye of the super storm slammed into their little coastal town and flattened everything in its path.
With windspeed of 315 km/h and gusts up to 378 km/h, Haiyan was the biggest typhoon on earth: a destructive force and deadly monster howler that wreaked havoc on the islands of Samar and Leyte.
And my parents were right in the eye of the storm.
I tried to call them again and again. I couldn’t get through.
By the second and third day, and with yet no word, worry turned into fear and panic as I watched the destruction unfold live on TV.
With little information coming from western media, I tuned into the Philippine local media and joined various Facebook groups for live updates. I would learn horrifying stories and familiar places that now resembled a war zone – roads littered with bodies of men, women and children, entire towns and villages swept away, a once bustling city brought to its knees.
On the outside, I remained hopeful and upbeat, afraid that if I entertained the smallest of doubts, I would fall to pieces.
I reached out to others for help. I had just launched woman.com.au earlier that year and it was just getting off the ground. Stacy Nelson who had just finished off as our editorial assistant and community manager took over as editor all the way from Glasgow. She kept the website and our social media ticking over while I focused my attention towards my personal crisis.
I turned to my new found friends on Facebook for comfort. Strangers from around the world who call Samar and Leyte home. Brought together by a disaster that smashed our childhood memories to pieces, we bonded immediately like long lost friends each carrying a piece of the puzzle that would make us whole again.
We shared a common goal: to search for our loved ones. Sharing comforting words, encouragement and every morsel of information we could find, we grieved together as we witnessed our childhood city bow to Haiyan.