Pro-active preparation for Typhoon Yolanda proven effective in Albay province. At the height of super typhoon “Yolanda” here on Friday morning last week, the Department of Education regional office was hit by a fire caused by faulty electrical wiring resulting to minor damages. A residential house in Tabaco City was also burned but the conflagration was immediately put under control that same morning.
Except for these minor hitches, the monster that was being feared, the ferocious Yolanda, became a lamb that meekly passed by Albay.
Earlier, however, preparations were high for the coming of the super typhoon, the strongest by international standards, as it was feared to wreak havoc like what typhoon “Reming” did some six years back.
Reming caused massive destruction and difficulties in Albay on Nov. 30, 2006 killing close to 2,000 people.
And Yolanda, with all her wrath, could have put back the province in the same, or perhaps, worse situation, had it not been for what many believe was an act of God through the power of prayer, backed up by preparations.
This was the consensus among the people of Albay who said that determined and sincere prayers for God’s forgiveness and protection, plus self help through preparation, led to the disabling of Yolanda that was expected to hit the province at 10:00 a.m. Friday, with Albay under Signal No. 3 as Yolanda packed center winds of 225 kilometers per hour and had a radius of 600 kilometers.
“We were all resigned in the family that our house will be flattened again and that scores of property would be buried by mud flow from the Mt, Mayon,” said Ernesto Llaguno, a recently retired Department of Public Works and Highways laborer who lives in Barangay Busay, Daraga town.
Llaguno said that for the first time, he bought a cellphone load worth P200 when his wife showed him text messages of prayers against Yolanda, seeking to cripple its strength.
Barangay Busay was among those buried by mud flows during Reming where more than 200 residents died of drowning in floods and many had not been recovered.
The family members of Ernesto’s relative, engineer Willy Llaguno, seven of them, were all killed and had not been found after his house was hit and buried by cascading mud flows from Mt. Mayon during the height of wrath of Reming.
Willy was in Saudi Arabia as an overseas Filipino worker and had been in touch with his wife almost every minute, monitoring his family’s situation, as Reming was ravaging Albay.
The barangay had already alerted every one to evacuate but the Llaguno family opted not to leave, thinking their concrete two-storey home would save its members.
Suddenly, his wife informed him that floods had already accumulated in the ground floor of their house.
And that was the end of the story but the beginning of a nightmare to other Albayanos.
Reming crippled power lines in worst-hit Albay and it took the help of a dozen electric cooperatives from other regions to restore power in two months.
A day before the expected Yolanda’s landfall on Friday, Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda was being criticized for his preemptive evacuation efforts to attain zero casualty, which was implemented as early as Wednesday and classes already ordered suspended Thursday in all levels to prepare for Yolanda.
To make matter offensive to his critics, he announced that food supply good for one day in evacuation centers had been readied a day ahead as the province expected more than 150,000 mouths to feed.
“We could not sacrifice people,” said Salceda, an ex seminarian, adding that his research showed that the powerful typhoon Yolanda was no ordinary joke and that “the only weapon we can rely on is God through prayers.”
Albay has been considered as the most prepared and advance in disaster preparedness that even in preparation of food supply and medicines was done one day ahead in evacuation centers, said Cedric Daep of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
“It’s my first time, I prayed hard and often, not for me anymore and my family but for the country and the Filipinos. I thought of the Mindanao situation, the civil strife, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, corruptions scandal and now super typhoon Yolanda again. Can you still forgive us all, my Lord? I keep on asking even as a barrage of texts messages for prayers flooded every one’s cellphone and that radio stations have regularly been repeating Oratio Imperata, which had been proven several times in the past when typhoons spared Albay,” according to a resident who simply identified himself as Gener.
Albay’s “Oratio Imperata” prayer for deliverance from calamities was a voice clip of Diocese of Legazpi Bishop Lucilo Barrameda Quiambao, now retired.
According to Monsignor Noe de los Santos of the Diocese of Legazpi major seminary in Sipi, Daraga town, “oration temperate” is a determined acknowledgment of one’s fault of utter regard of environment and climate change — and at the same time, a petition for divine protection.
Broadcast journalist Henry Maceda, of the oldest radio station dzGB in Legazpi, said “every time there is an expected disaster, we, in the radio, would start airing Bishop Quiambao’s Oratio Imperata prayer and people listen.”
In 2008, a strong typhoon was expected to hit Bicol and Albay’s preemptive response cost it more than P25 million in its evacuation efforts and for food supply but the typhoon spared the province, saying the weather disturbance feared “Oratio Imperata” played constantly in all local radio stations, laughed Maceda.
With Signal No. 3 and Pagasa reports showing Albay among those to be hit in Bicol as it was covered by the 600 km diameter of sustained 225 strong winds, the roads went empty of vehicles and humans after midnight Thursday with residents preparing for the worse scenario, said Salceda, adding there was a great cooperation for those to be evacuated.
As usual, there were casualties — there were trees that fell — but there was no flood, except for the ordinary rains, said Salceda, who pioneered the preemptive response program.
Albay was expected to be flooded with volume of rain water once hit by Yolanda but when the government weather agency reported that the typhoon suddenly went west-ward, people start shouting “Salamat po Lord” and began thinking of returning home.
And they saw no fallen trees or banana plants, no damaged houses and government infrastructure projects.
At 2:00 p.m. Friday, while Yolanda was pounding the Visayas region, amid a gloomy atmosphere in the province, the sun suddenly showed up — reinforcing the belief that the typhoon would no longer hit Albay. (PNA report by Manily Ugalde)