Via Inquirer.net, a personal account by Adlai Noel O. Velasco: Roofless in Palo: Lost in my hometown. Excerpt:
I usually go home to Palo at least once a year, particularly for the town fiesta on Aug. 6. The last time I was there was on May 28 to attend my mother’s death anniversary. I therefore knew the place like the back of my hand. But this time, I found myself in unfamiliar terrain. I became lost in my own hometown.
When I finally regained my bearings, I noticed that the Palo Public Library on the ground floor of the old Pedrosa house had been severely damaged.
As a kid, I used to go to this library to borrow books.
Facing the library was the cathedral where I was baptized and where I heard Mass whenever I was in Palo. The entire cathedral roof had been blown away and its dome had collapsed.
While still in Manila, I had watched a TV footage of the cathedral’s roof being blown away. The sight was really depressing, particularly for the members of my family.
In 2009, our family which had been designated the main sponsor of the town fiesta that year, donated P2 million to the Archdiocese of Palo to jumpstart the fund-raising drive for the renovation of the cathedral. Construction began a year later and was finally finished in 2012.
But what took two years to renovate was destroyed in just three hours by Yolanda.
Fr. Bernie Pantin, the town’s parish priest, is appealing to donors for help in the cathedral’s reconstruction.
Despite the destruction, the diocese on Wednesday, held the closing ceremonies of its diamond jubilee celebrations amid heavy rain.
Near the church was the damaged Palo campus of the University of the Philippines which used to be the Palo Puericulture Center, the town’s health clinic where I was born.
At the end of our street is the Palo Central School, where I finished my elementary education. Its roof had been blown away. Only its walls remain standing. For me this was a really depressing sight. I have fond memories of this school which I represented in several interschool quiz contests.
When I finally saw our house, I was relieved to see it had not been totaled, nor was it as badly damaged as I had feared. The roof of the second floor with its two bedrooms was ripped off by the howling winds but the roof over the sala, dining room and kitchen remained largely intact.
I felt we were still lucky after I saw that the collapsed houses of our neighbors and friends.
My niece, Carrie, showed a video she took as Yolanda pummeled the town. One could hear the ear-piercing sound of the winds which she described as similar to a jet engine preparing to take off. Outside the house, there was zero visibility. Everything appeared white. As the rains and winds battered the roof, I could hear my nephew, Jericho, praying the rosary, his voice growing louder and louder as the typhoon got stronger. They all huddled in the small corridor leading to the sala which was surrounded by solid cement walls and a narra door.
On the night before Yolanda’s onslaught, I had called up my younger brother to warn him to prepare for the world’s strongest typhoon which was coming their way and to stay in a safe place indoors.
But he sort of shrugged off my warning, saying the moon was bright and it was not even raining.
The next day, I called him up again but he could no longer be contacted.
Surveying the coastal barangays of our town, all I could see was complete desolation. Most of the fatalities came from the barangays of Baras, Candahug, Cogon, San Joaquin and Salvacion. Entire clans were wiped out by the storm surge. Joel Agner, the newly elected barangay captain of Cogon, and six family members were killed.
More than two weeks after the killer typhoon, the stench of rotting corpses still lingers, a sign that there are still bodies that have to be recovered.
For residents of Palo, their horrifying ordeal was just another test of their endurance and resilience. They vowed to rise again from the catastrophe.