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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, November 14, 2013
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An escape from
the living dead

BY CARLA GOMEZ

A Silay City resident escaped devastated Tacloban City on a C-130 plane to Mactan Monday afternoon by pretending to be the son of a retired Philippine Air Force official.

RoyAronCatugas, 25, a medical representative of Merck, Sharp and Dohme based in Tacloban City, said that, following the devastation left by super typhoon Yolanda it was a battle to survive for everyone with no immediate aid in sight.

He was at his boarding house in Barangay 92 Apitong when Yolanda hit Tacloban early Friday morning. Very strong howling wind ripped off parts of the roof of the boarding house and soon water began to drip from the ceiling, Catugas said.

Because Apitong is located in the middle of Tacloban and shielded by a mountain, he and his boardmates did not suffer the brunt of the typhoon, he said.

But when they went out they discovered that all the posts on the street were toppled, roofs had been ripped off, and as they walked towards downtown Tacloban they discovered the gravity of what happened.

They saw schools and houses flattened, patients staggering out of a badly damaged hospital, the dead scattered on the streets, there was no place that was spared from destruction, he said.

Catugas said they felt like the living dead as they walked through knee-high murky water mixed with blood from the bodies on the ground.

The rich and the poor were without homes, most residents of Tacloban had lost everything, he said.

When he returned to his boarding house that evening they were told that a tsunami would hit, which apparently was delayed information on a storm surge that hit earlier in the day, so they all ran up a nearby mountain for safety.

They had food for one or two days at their boarding house never expecting such devastation, but it did not last very long as they adopted other medical representatives whose residences were destroyed.

In a an effort to survive they joined residents salvaging for canned goods beneath a collapsed warehouse that was very dangerous, he said.

When they heard that water was available at another damaged warehouse they also rushed to the place but did not get much. People were hitting each other to get to the water first, he said.

They walked for hours to get food to survive, but it was depressing to see those breaking open business establishments to steal treadmills, television sets, and iPads, he said.

Even in their boarding house it was dangerous at night as looters entered houses that were suspected to have food, he said.

Catugas said he and his companions thought of leaving Tacloban by land as his car was still working and they could siphon gasoline from damaged vehicles, but the roads were littered with debris. He also learned that those in vehicles were being ambushed on the way to Ormoc by others also desperate to escape.

Knowing that it was no longer safe to stay in Ormoc and with their food supply dwindling, he and his companions, one of whom was the daughter of a retired Air Force official, decided to walk to the airport to try their luck at getting on a C-130 plane to Mactan.

Because his companion’s father was a former Air Force official they managed to get on the list of C-130 passengers but people surged forward and rushed to get on the plane even before their names could be called.

Catugas said he jumped out of a window and ran to the C-130 plane shouting that he was the son of his friend’s father, the retired Air Force official, which did the trick as he was allowed on.

His other companions escaped Tacloban on the next C-130 that left the city late Monday.

Other medical representatives from Negros he saw in Tacloban after Yolanda hit were John Earl Dejuan, Kelvin Gatoc, Angel Diopenes and one he could identify only as Kristel, Catugas said.

He said Gatoc also got to Cebu but he did not know the whereabouts of the others.

Catugas wrote on his Facebook wall “My heart breaks for my second home, Tacloban. Having to know that your colleagues and friends went missing and dead...Doing unfathomable things just to survive hunger...Having to walk countless hours to find food and water...Battling fatigue and sickness just to get through the day... Sleepless nights of being vigilant for people who might hurt you...

“My body might have faltered and weakened just to survive but my faith and hope in my God helped me through it all.”*CPG

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