STORIES FROM THE SHELTER
While most residents hunkered down inside their homes to weather the wrath of Typhoon Soudelor, Ben Repeki was by himself outside, running to a place of safety.
He could have gotten on his vehicle but, with a fallen tree already blocking the driveway, there was nothing else to do but run.
As gusts of destructive winds and heavy rains battered everywhere and poles came down one by one around 10:30pm, Repeki was trying his hardest to put one foot in front of the other, the thought of seeing his family the only thing that made him press onward.
“The wind was strong already. I’m lucky I made it because the wind was pushing me. It was hard for me to walk. But I managed to run and I’m lucky I made it out,” Repeki said.
Prior to the typhoon’s arrival, Repeki secured his family at the Tanapag Middle School shelter but, being the man of the household, he wanted to stay at their home in their village.
“I have to secure the home…I was hoping to stay at home but it got bad,” Repeki said.
“I felt already that [the house] will give way so I started moving,” he recounted.
Repeki’s wife, Maggie, was herself struggling with her own fears.
“He was crying. I was so in a hurry to see him,” she said, a worried tone still in her voice.
“He secured us but he stayed behind,” she added.
If Repeki had delayed his decision to run for his life, it might have been too late.
“I went back there and I looked at it, and there’s nothing left. Everything’s scattered. My house is totally damaged,” he said
“It’s scary. It’s Mother Nature, it’s scary. You have to be scared,” Repeki added.
A whole family hides in a cabinet
Terror was what the Laude family felt inside their home a couple of blocks away from the Repeki’s.
As the tornado-like winds ravaged their house made of tin and wood, they first tried to hide under their bed. Eventually, with water pouring down through the nonexistent roof, they were forced to transfer.
Inside a wooden cabinet was where they found refuge.
“We hid inside my daughter’s cabinet, all four of us,” Gemma Laude said.
She said they stayed there all night, on bended knees until daylight came.
“In my 22 years here, this is the worst that I have ever experienced,” Laude said.
Over at the Laude’s neighbor’s house, the Canarejo family was struggling to survive as well. Running from one room to the next, they tried to find a dry and safe spot for them to spend the night.
“It really felt like someone was trying to pull our roof off by hand. That’s how strong the winds were,” Cecil Canarejo said.
“I’ve been through a lot of cyclones in the Philippines but this is the worst,” she added.
According to Canarejo, they weren’t able to receive much warning about the typhoon. Yet despite everything, she said they were still very lucky.
“I cannot sleep well at night but I am still thankful to the Lord for saving us and no one got hurt,” Canarejo said.
These families stayed at the Tanapag Middle School and Tanapag Head Start after Soudelor hit, bringing what small things they can salvage from their homes.
While some of them took photos, some wanted to wait for FEMA before they touch everything as they have nothing to document the damage, much more to rebuild.
“We’re expecting them to come around to do their assessment but I haven’t seen one of them yet,” Repeki said.
“I want them to come and see the damage,” he added.
As for the Laudes and the Canarejos, they no longer plan to live in their old houses. They are now looking for a new place to call home—a concrete one to keep their family safe from future typhoons as they all struggle to rebuild their lives.