Faced with typhoon, we thought the end was nigh.
My husband and I were in our sixties when, having fewer commitments, we travelled abroad for the first times in our lives. We visited Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the Philippines, travelling with little luggage and no itinerary all over those countries. We were fortunate there had been no major mishaps whilst we were away. People were friendly to these two old people.
It seemed to us we were extremely lucky 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 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, 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. It is still a developing country and getting around difficult. We travelled on rickety buses with no air conditioning or even windows. Everyone seemed to own roosters which crow incessantly. Livestock regularly travel on the buses 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 appeared to be bearing down on 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. They assured us it was and to make our way to the airport for our flight. The wind was howling by this time, and as we’d never experienced a typhoon before we were really worried.
On entering the busy airport we immediately checked the departure board. They’d canceled dozens of flights. Yet the flight to Cebu still flashed green. On Schedule.
We checked our baggage, still waiting to be told that no flights would leave Manila until after the weather improved. We watched as hundreds of people collected their luggage. They were leaving to get to safety; we presumed.
Yet we stayed. We waited, sure they would cancel our flight, by this time every flight on the board except ours had been.
Time came to board our flight. We shuffled our way to the departure gate. I felt as if I was a lamb going to the slaughter. My husband saw the captain of the plane as we waited for an escort to the plane which stood shaking and rocking on the tarmac. John 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, the people 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 to 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 quickly 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 us onto the bus. The wind was so strong by this time we had 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 behaved as if it were already in the air, rocking from side to side, as if it was 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 as debris flew in the air.
We fled the airport in a taxi, driving through the streets with flying sheets of roofing tin narrowly missing us. The taxi driver took us to a hotel which actually turned out to be a brothel. There was no water or electricity throughout the 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. We thanked God.
Prompt. Our Anchor in times of the Storm
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