Lessons from the Storm

There is something about the Philippines that makes me keep on coming back here. Thanks to my amazing mother who has given me great education and an upbringing paired with a lot of great opportunities, I was one of those lucky ones who had a potential ticket to get out and have a better life outside the Philippines.

What is a better life any way? In our society, a better life is perceived as having a successful white collared career, cars, and other materialistic things are what are needed in order to be happy. Actually 2/3rd's of the country's population don't have these things, but if you ask me, I'd say the Filipino people are the happiest people on earth.

In the Philippines, life is simple and true, we are living very close to nature, we believe in order to find happiness we must live with the natural flow of nature. It is also said to be the most dangerous land to live in due to its exposure to natural calamities brewing up in the pacific. But why do we live here?

After several years of trying to find the perfect place to move, i find myself back home, in this little island in the tropics called Boracay. Being so close to nature and its wonders and disasters, one gets grounded on the fundamental values you need in order to survive and be happy such as humbleness, gratitude and compassion. Boracay, is for me the most beautiful island in the world, and it's also windy most of the time. Life is simple, its great and we work to live happy not vice versa.

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, kiters, sailors and divers alike saw a disturbance in the wind on Nov. 8th gusting up to 70 knots at that time which was not normal, nothing we've ever seen before in our forecasts. Tension built up in the entire island with the talk on what this forecast will bring, and true enough it was a super typhoon that the world has never seen before. About 5 days before the storm, the website www.typhoon2000.com, which is a popular local site for us to view typhoon tracks, showed a super typhoon with maximum contained winds of 250 knots directly on the path of Boracay. I've been through numerous typhoons before and the worst part about living at the beach is during a typhoon, and this is something i was not looking forward to.

The Super Typhoon Haiyan Yolanda was predicted to arrive Boracay/ Panay group of islands at 9 pm on the 9th, at this point our tide was at its highest and we were expecting storm surges and waves up to 7-9 meters high. Since we are located on the direct path of the eye, our kite beach (Bulabog will get hit first, and at about 2 am the storm will turn hitting all the establishments at white beach with all its fury. With 7 meter surges, Boracay will be wiped off of the map.

I really hoped that it was a joke or something, but it was not. First things first, I evacuated my home, my lovely home on the third level at a nice beachfront compound. My home is simple, it is half concrete and half bamboo. i was pretty sure that my house would be gone in one sweep of 250 knots or even less. The beaches were empty, the tourists fled, the locals evacuated into the mountains and in the midlands, but in the end there was nowhere to be safe at that point. The island was closed to the outside world, boats stopped crossing, electricity was down (thank god for generators) and the church was full.

I ended up staying with my girlfriends, yoga mentor and "mom" on the island with her family at Hey Jude hotel in d'mall (midland) as we believe the mountains are not safe due to the strong winds. Honestly, I was scared because it is like preparing to die, not just you but everyone around you. At this point I was just blank, remembering all those times I was indoors hiding from the terrible storm when I was a little kid.

We blocked all the glass windows and doors of the room, packed food, clothing and necessities for the next two weeks. I even packed my wetsuit and googles. I was ready to swim. The goal was to survive. There we waited, and sang, played, drank a little and prayed, that for some miracle we make it out there alive.

The storm came earlier than expected at 2 pm in the afternoon it was already howling at 70-100 knots. Roofs were gone, billboards were flying away, trees were down, we had nothing to do but watch the destruction of the outside world from our little bunker. We waited and waited, checked the news and waited. We saw what the storm destroyed on first landfall, we waited, we were scared.

At around midnight the news covered that the storm passed Panay island already, to our surprise we were ok, what was predicted to be a category 5 storm, turned out to be a category 3, all the luck in the world was within us. Upon seeing the infrared tracking of the storm, for some reason the eye dispersed as it entered Panay Islands, it came earlier than expected and it was low tide. Boracay was spared, but the islands around were not. Talk about faith and prayer. We cannot really explain how this happened.

I was also lucky that my house was intact, just minor leaks and flooding on the floor but i was well prepared, all my things were packed and stayed dry. The whole island had minor damages but that included our communication lines and electricity which brings us back to sleeping under the stars, candle lit dinners and daylight saving time. That's just minor compared to our neighbors...the worst was yet to come. After a few days of enjoying the stary dark skies, the power was back on some areas and we saw what the typhoon did to our neighbors, it was devastating, heartbreaking and nerve racking at the same time. There were an estimated 10,000 reported deaths and hundreds of thousands more that were displaced. Now, residents of Boracay have gathered to host different fundraisers to help nearby islands that are inaccessible. I hope you can help in your own way, these families have no food, no shelter and even no loved ones to care for them.

Talk about luck and magic. Boracay is indeed a magical place, this island is where I spent most of my teenage years, here I learned almost everything I know about life, love, family and friends. Truly there is no place like home, I searched far and deep, but I still always wanna go back to this island called Boracay.

Please join me in my vision to rebuild the spirits of my fellow Filipinos through the good way we know how. After the recent typhoon, it breaks my heart to see and feel that we, the happiest people on earth have lost our magic, our warmth and our faith that there is always a rainbow after the rain.

To Donate: Check out Philippine Red Cross - Boracay - Malay for direct depositors please send us a copy of your donation/deposit slip so we can have a proper record.

As well, stay tuned for our thanksgiving offer in the US market where you will have the opportunity to purchase a kite and have a portion of its proceeds donated to the Red Cross.