Five years ago today, on November 8, 2013, the most powerful typhoon ever recorded in modern history made its first landfall in the Municipality of Guiuan, Eastern Samar Philippines.
Up until that time, a category five super typhoon was unimaginable. The idea of it was still beyond the consciousness and comprehension of everybody so much so that weather reports did not include this category in their news reports at the time. Its strength, diameter, gustiness and power were unprecedented that the scientific community might as well re-write their scales. It was unlike anything experienced by the townspeople in this coastal pacific community.
When “Haiyan” or super typhoon Yolanda unleashed its power over Guiuan, nobody knew for sure what had happened there. Cellular phones were suddenly cut off and electric power shut down. While Tacloban’s fate was being broadcasted on live television by field reporters, at least during the early hours, Guiuan and the rest of Eastern Samar were unheard of.
Those who live outside Eastern Samar – relatives who witnessed the events through mainstream media, could not grapple the fact that they were without means to reach their families or find out whether they were still alive or not.
Absent any communication, the people of Eastern Samar living outside the province depended on social media for updates especially from those who had first-hand reliable information about the actual situation. One particular figure stood out during this time – the former Congressman of the province, Atty. Marcelino “Nonoy” Libanan.
He called out to his kababayans to move to action and rely not on government alone but most especially on their own initiatives to find and bring food to their respective families. It was an extraordinary time, and that time required extraordinary leaders who goad their people to action despite the seemingly impossible chances of survival.
Speaking to them, Atty. Libanan wrote on his Facebook wall:
“It is now very clear that the worst hit in Eastern Samar is the Municipality of Guiuan where Yolanda made its first landfall. While there are reports of casualties, many are very much alive in this town of more than 70,000 population. I would like to call on my fellow Eastern Samarenos who are not in Eastern Samar, including those outside the Philippines, to help avert this humanitarian crisis. Our government and leaders right now are facing enormous problems but they are also implementing solutions. Let us organize group by group, town by town, batch by batch, clan by clan, barkadas, etc., to go to Eastern Samar especially Guiuan, and other worst hit municipalities, and bring food, medicines, clothing, water, etc.. Let us also organize medical missions. I was informed yesterday that the road from Basey to Guiuan was already 50 per cent passable, and will be 100 per cent passable today. According to figures, Yolanda which made its first landfall on our shores, is the strongest typhoon recorded in modern history. Let us show the indomitable spirit of our Waray- waray blood! Let us answer Yolanda!! Our people badly need us! This is the moment! Let’s move!!”
This Facebook post dated November 11, 2013 became viral having been shared 1,175 times. His Facebook account became a significant source of much-needed information as to the real situation on the ground. The people of Eastern Samar found strength in their former leader and looked up to him for comfort, guidance and motivation during that tragic event that was unlike anything that happened in the history of the province. Thus, true leaders never grow old. Responding to his call to action, his kababayans did not hesitate to volunteer and offer help to Eastern Samar. The devastation brought by the typhoon may have caused significant damage to Eastern Samar but then again it also brought the best in them, the best of their leaders.