Lieutenant Colonel Fermin Carangan’s TOG 8, the Air Force unit providing air support in Samar and Leyte, was preparing for rescue missions early Friday, the day Super typhoon Yolanda slammed into the Visayas.
Little did he know that he and his troops would end up as victims and needed rescuing. Carangan recounted his ordeal in his blog, which was shared by Maritess Vitug on Facebook.
We were out of the office at 6 a.m. Friday observing. Winds brought by Yolanda were already strong around that time. We (the Air Force troops in Tacloban) were prepared for the possibility of rescue missions days before the expected landfall of Yolanda. Just before 7 am, the rains started to pour, so we took shelter.
Around the same time, we noticed that water was slowly entering our office, so we went out again. Then suddenly, we saw that the water was getting higher, until we were forced to get up to the ceiling. We had to bore holes just to get up there, and I was the last one up.
Suddenly the building collapsed and I saw my men falling into the surging water and very strong winds. There was also no more roof on top of the building. I was able to hold on to a piece of wood—a truss which I forcibly removed just before I was taken by waves and the strong current.
I didn’t notice that my two junior officers were gone. Both were fresh graduates from the PMA, and they were beside me before we were swallowed by the water.
Then I saw one of my soldiers trying to hold on to a wall of another destroyed building. I tried to reach for him but the current was too strong and there was confusion and hysteria.
I was going farther out into the sea and all I saw were tips of coconut trees starting to disappear into the swelling water. Suddenly, I saw a child hugging tightly a floating coconut tree. By a stroke of luck, the current led me to the child, and I was able to pluck him from his very unfortunate situation. He then held on to the piece of wood I was myself holding on to. Then we floated until we were out there in the middle of nowhere.
At sea, we went through another hell. We were slapped by waves, great big waves from all directions. We were also toyed by swirling winds. And we couldn’t help but drink a lot of salt water. I was now getting so tired. And so was Miguel (the boy’s name). He was just 7 years old. Too young to die, I thought. I thought of my family.
I prayed to God to take care of my wife and kids. I thought I’ve done to them what every father could – that is, to take good care of them.
I also thought of my men. Days before, I had told them to ensure the safety of their families, especially those in Tacloban since the city could be hit hard and everyone of us would be busy in the rescue missions after Yolanda. They might not have time to check on their families during the rescue. Then I thought of the two new graduates of PMA 2013. I thought that if something happened to me, at least I had been able to give professional and honorable service for a time. And that I’ve done enough since graduation. These two young guys were just starting and still have a very bright future ahead.
Then I looked at Miguel. He was trembling due to the cold. He said, “Kuya, I will sleep now. I’m so tired already.” Then I thought, maybe I survived because of this child. Without him I could have given up. Maybe he’s the reason I’m still alive because God wants me to make sure this child will live. I shouted at Miguel’s ears: “Don’t sleep! You can do it. Look, we are near land already.” Then I pointed at what I thought was another wall of swell, just to lift the spirit of Miguel. And then I realized that it was indeed the shoreline! I thought there really is a Powerful Being!
Carangan and Miguel were rescued after floating for six hours.