Faced with typhoon, we thought the end was nigh.
We were in our sixties when we found we were at last free to travel. With little luggage and no itineraries we discovered, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the Philippines. We were fortunate not to experience any major mishaps while we were away in fact quite the opposite as on these trips as at each country we visited, tragedy followed soon after we left.
In India, there was a terror attack at the hotel we’d stayed at, tourists were targeted and killed. A shooting also took place in a café where we’d eaten breakfast daily.
The 2004 Tsunami devastated Thailand and Sri Lanka soon after we had been there, sweeping the beach hut, in which we had stayed, into the South China Sea. Still we continued to travel, despite these tragedies,both agreeing we had been fortunate to have not been there.
The Philippines is an archipelago made up of 7600 islands. Our visit to Manila, the capital, had been interesting but tiring as it is still a developing country and getting around the country is difficult. Our main form of transportation was on local rickety old buses with no air conditioning or even windows come to that. We were joined on these trip by livestock of all kinds travelling with their owners.
Our scheduled flight from Manila to the island of Cebu was to leave at noon. During the previous days we’d been tracking the course of a typhoon which was heading towards Manila. This was causing us some concern and we hoped to be away from the city before it hit. On the morning of departure I checked our flight to establish it was still on schedule. We were assured it was and advised to make our way to the airport for our flight. The wind was becoming ever stronger by this time, and as we’d never experienced a typhoon before we were really worried.
On entering the busy airport terminal, we immediately checked the departure board. Literally dozens of flights had been cancelled and yet the flight to Cebu still flashed green. On Schedule.
We checked in our baggage, still assuming we’d be advised that no flights would leave Manila until after the weather improved. We watched with trepidation as hundreds of people collected their luggage. We presumed they were leaving to get to safety.
Yet we stayed. We waited, sure they would cancel our flight. By this time every flight on the board except ours had a canceled light.
The time came to board our flight. We shuffled our way to the departure gate with the others, I felt as if I was a lamb going to the slaughter. John saw the captain of the flight as we waited for an escort to the plane which stood shaking and rocking on the tarmac. He asked if we were going to be safe.
“Oh, yes, Sir,” he said. “We’ll be fine.”
“I don’t want to go,” I said. “the kids would be furious with us if they knew we were intending to fly in these conditions.”
The Philippines is a very religious country, most of the population are devout Catholics. I’ll admit I prayed that they would cancel the flight. I was sure I would never see my family again.
Directly outside the glass door which led out onto the tarmac, I saw a statue of the Virgin Mary. At her feet was a collection box into which I made a donation and a silent prayer.
The ground staff opened the door to let the flight crew get on the bus. The wind was indescribable. It took two men just to hold the door open.
After the crew were safely on board the plane, the staff assisted the passengers onto the bus.The wind was so strong by this time everyone needed to walk bent almost double to avoid being blown over.
At last, each passenger found their seat on the plane. No one spoke. There was absolute silence. Looking around the plane I saw people silently praying, eyes closed and crossing themselves. I looked at John; I was crying. I knew we were going to die.
“Why are we doing this? We must be crazy.” I said.
You could feel the tension in the air as people prayed. The flight crew looked as worried as we were. The plane swayed as if it were already in the air, rocking from side to side, like a wild animal trying to escape.
After ten minutes of silence, other than the sound of the beating rain and the roaring wind, the Captain told us we would all need to leave the plane. They had cancelled the flight.
John and I gave sighs of relief. Passengers rushed to leave the plane. By this time the storm was so bad it was difficult to return safely into the airport lounge. Debris flew through the air.
We fled the airport in a taxi, the driver drove erratically through streets attempting to avoid flying sheets of metal roofing. We’d asked him to take us to any hotel, anywhere to escape the hell unfolding around us. The place he dropped us actually turned out to be a brothel. There was no water or electricity because of the typhoon. We could hardly make out where we were throughout that very long, dark night.
In the light of day, the damage and destruction showed itself. The typhoon had affected thousands of people, either through death, injury or homelessness.
We felt blessed as we left to go home. Back to Australia and our family.
Prompt. Our Anchor in times of the Storm
Word count 908