Visayas and Typhoon Yolanda

Visayas and Typhoon Yolanda
By The Pinoy Rider

You might be wondering why I am still in Cebu after 2 months. Well, as I’ve mentioned a couple of issues back, I wanted this Epic Ride to be different. I wanted it to be something that I would look back in the future and describe it as a once in a lifetime experience. I didn’t want to just make it a usual roadtrip, and conquer the place – but one of my goals was to actually immerse myself in the culture – not just by visiting famous tourist sites, eating their food – but by actually living in Visayas, full time. As they say, be careful what you wish for – because it is exactly what I got, and not in an easy kind of way. Read on to know why.
Two major calamities in 2 months. Wow, what more can I ask for? I said I was looking for a new experience so yes there it is, I got what I wanted. Although it is not the most positive of experiences, I am pretty sure that Central Visayas has given me more than what I’ve bargained for in terms of adventure. As most of you have read in last month’s issue of Epic Ride, on my first couple of weeks here in Mandaue City in Cebu, the motorcycle Gods already made sure that this adventure would be one of my most memorable ones – a 7.2 magnitude earthquake at 8 am in the morning!


Typhoon Haiyan enters Visayas as a Category 5 Super Typhoon

I was in Paranaque City for a quick visit to my family when Super Typhoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) made landfall. Though I was 500 miles away from the eye of the storm, it was classified as a Category 5 Typhoon, thus its strong winds ensured that I would still feel its effect in Metro Manila. Although brief, naramdaman ko pa rin yung lakas ng hangin while I was having dinner with my family. I felt so fortunate that I was in Manila kahit tatlong araw lang since Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda directly struck Eastern and Central Visayas – where I was based that time. To put it into perspective, Super Typhoon Yolanda is also the strongest storm recorded at landfall, and unofficially the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed. If you remember, one of the most notorious and memorable hurricanes in recent history was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It was a Category 5 hurricane, but that was when it was directly above The Gulf of Mexico. It was only classified as a category 3 when it hit The United States.
Every time I get to see news about what happened, I feel lucky yet sad at the same time. I hope everyone in there could get the help they need. I hope too, that the Filipinos would never get tired of helping until the survivors are able to stand on their own feet.
While feeling lucky to be in Manila, I was very much concerned with my kababayans in the Visayas. Maybe it must have felt like hell to them, as it looked like it as I was looking at the first few images of the aftermath in national TV. I have never ever seen such awesome power of nature. In fact there’s just so many things I have been seeing only these past few days: Never in my life have I ever seen such in your face devastation with this magnitude; It was very hard for me to see such decent people being turned into mere scavengers just after an hour of rain; I have never seen a great deal of men in tears; The desperation in people; The seemingly safe moment that turned into something deadly in a blink of an eye. On the other hand, I have never seen the world unite this much and show everyone that there could still be humanity during these tough times. I am new to this. More frighteningly, there’ll be more of new things to come. We really should take care of our environment. A calamity of this magnitude is unheard of, and even seemingly impossible to think of before, but now it is right before our eyes. It is happening, it is real. Global Warming and Destruction is really here, and we can’t deny it.

Tindog Visayas! Nagtan-aw mi,daghan mi nakat-unan ug naa rami pirmi diri para nimo. (We’re watching and we’re learning, and we are here for you)

I and my family may not have been directly affected by the recent tragedy and the discomfort we went through those three long days waiting for news about our friends in Cebu is nothing compared to those suffered by others. But as Filipinos, we are one with our countrymen in making sure that those who are suffering will be helped back on their feet.

Typhoon Yolanda put the Philippines in the spotlight when it wreaked havoc as it made its way here. But what made it amazing is the overwhelming response of the whole world. Governments, individuals, and influential personalities from all across the world made sure that much-needed help would come pouring in. Without them, without you, I believe the work would have been much harder. The Philippines will forever be thankful for this. To all those who helped, rest assured that those affected towns and cities, families and livelihood will rise again and make good with the efforts and assistance you unselfishly shared with us.

As a rider, I knew I had to take the initiative and do my part in helping out my kababayans who are suffering. I won’t be able to take it if I just sit there and just watch the story unfold. With that in mind, me and friends from All Motorcycle Brands Club and other riders from Cebu and Mandaue City organized a relief operation to help out those who were directly affected by this calamity in Northern Cebu. Tacloban and Ormoc were getting all the press, and unsurprisingly, the smaller, unheralded towns were almost receiving very little help.

Helping out

A couple of days before the relief activity in Northern Cebu, all of us converged at Pitlane RestoBar in AS Fortuna Street in Mandaue City to bring our contributions and to help pack the relief goods for our affected countrymen in Visayas. Tired but fulfilled, we were able to pack more than 600 Relief packages containing instant noodles, canned goods, rice, biscuits, candles, medicines and water

More than 600 bags of relief goods were distributed to Barangay Libho in Tabogon and Barangay Victoria in San Remigio. We were also able to distribute a few sacks of used clothes.

We were able to bring food and light to 2 communities in Bogo and in San Remigio.
Napakaliit na bagay, ngunit napakalaki na sa kanila. The 250 km trip was definitely worth it for me. Sa mga kababayan ko sa Bogo at San Remigio sana nakatulong kahit papaano ang dala namin. Despite the heavy traffic and a few problems, it was a success and we all arrived home well. It wasn’t an easy destination to go to, as the roads weren’t clear yet during the time we were traveling but at the end of the day, the feeling of seeing and handling those packages to almost 600 families is well worth it and heart-warming, and changed the way I see things on different levels.

More than 600 bags of relief goods were distributed to Barangay Libho in Tabogon and Barangay Victoria in San Remigio.

In the future, we are hoping to reach out and go deeper into Northern Cebu – specifically in Barangay Bateria in Daan Bantayanwho mostly haven’t re ceived yet any relief goods. We aim to bring more smiles and share our blessings to them. What a very fulfilling adventure.
We were also happy to realize that during this weekend, it seems the entire Cebu wanted to help. Roads were so heavily packed with vehicles of all type and groups going to affected areas, each carrying their own relief goods. What normally would take 1.5 hours – 2 hours going to the areas took 4-6 hours last Sunday.

A once in a lifetime experience

Arriving in Bogo and San Remigio, two small towns around 110 kilometers north of Mandaue City, I saw hundreds and hundreds of other vehicles heeding the call of our countrymen and going to the same place to help. This display of camaraderie and teamwork for one common goal made me much prouder to be a Pinoy. This time of hardship made us one.

I got to talk to one of the survivors, Mang Remy. He relayed to be what happened to them and to their community during the storm. He said he was lucky he was alert enough to head to higher ground when the flashflood occurred. He even feared of a tsunami to come a few minutes after the flash floods and strong winds (Bogo is a coastal town in Northern Cebu). Their neighbour’s house and everything in it were submerged in water, sparing nothing. Trees were uprooted, and all the crops they planted were destroyed. It was a harrowing experience, most especially if you have children. Up to that very minute I was there, hundreds, or maybe even thousands of people are still camped out in makeshift tents by the roadside, as the only thing that’s left with their houses was the location – they cannot even repair it even if they wanted it. They cannot rebuild yet because of constant aftershocks. Everything was gone.

He said something that is worth pondering on: “Alam mo, pag dumating ang delubyo tulad ng ganito, mawawala talaga lahat at wala kang kalaban-laban. Kahit anong dami ng pag—aari mo, ubos yun.”
He is thankful for all the help that they are getting until now and he knows they will pull through very soon. It really makes me happy to see people and organizations extend their helping hands sa victims ng typhoon! Mabuhay kayo

It is uplifting to realize that in spite of all the discord going on throughout the world that there are still people like yourself who step up to try and make it a better world. Thank you.


Bogo, Cebu

I wanted to do more, but I only can do so much. I am just happy to have taken action and steps. In fact there is so much one can do – from simply giving awareness (not everyone has extra money or food to spare), greeting refugees in Villamor Airbase, donating food, water, or clothing, to personally visiting them and giving them relief goods. Any simple thing you do will be much appreciated. If you don’t have much, then you can give them your time. Let’s all try to help in our own little (or big way) whether by donating, joining relief efforts, etc. For sure there is something each of us could do to help. Bangon Pilipinas kong mahal.


Our donations and some relief goods

Thanks to the rest of the people who were able to contribute on the donations, who helped pack the relief goods and came with us to the Northern part of Cebu for distribution. You could really feel the people’s enthusiasm to help, that the tasks were finished even before the estimated time. Despite being faced with hardship, this time of crisis, however, has also enabled the rest of the Philippines and the whole world to unite and reach out to the Yolanda victims. Various initiatives from both children and adults have been sprouting everywhere, to alleviate the conditions in the Visayas region.


They were all very grateful in San Remigio

I really felt proud to be a rider, and to be able to experience something special like this in my lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, donating from far away is definitely a good thing to do, pero iba talaga yung feeling ng na-experience mo, at makausap mo direkta yung mga taong naapektuhan ng isang ganitong kalaking trahedya – magkakaroon ka ng connection at sense of attachment with them dahil maririnig mo sa kanila mismo ang mga istorya nila at mararamdaman mo talaga kung gaano kahirap ang sinapit nila. I used to complain about how difficult my life is, but that was only before I did this life changing event. So if you feel that you have the whole world on your back, or if everyone is turning against you, make sure you look back how Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated our countrymen, and who knows, you might realize that you don’t have too much of a bad life after all? Now everything else seems easy – life is good, and I know I am very much blessed. Salamat sa mga biktima ng Typhoon Yolanda, akala ko ako ang tutulong sa inyo, pero ako ang natulungan niyo.

*Special thanks to my friends Jimmy Lim and Paul Vitamino of AMBC Cebu for some of the photos during this Epic Ride

Live Free…

– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.

Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at

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