Ronel Reubal, 27, may have been lucky to survive the strongest storm ever to hit the planet last year, but grim memories from the disaster continue to haunt him.
Reubal, who sells puto (native rice cakes) in Tacloban City to support himself and his young son, lost his wife Ailen and unborn child and nine other relatives when giant waves churned by Yolanda swept inland on November 8, 2014.
Tacloban is the capital of Leyte province in Eastern Visayas, the region hardest hit by the super typhoon.
Its Taguictik barangay (village) in San Jose area is now home to Reubal, who is originally from Tabango town.
Home for him and his son is a tent similar to those occupied temporarily by thousands of other typhoon survivors.
Three of Reubal’s relatives are still missing.
Shortly before Yolanda slammed into Tacloban, the Reubals and other families heeded the government’s appeal for them to leave their houses for an evacuation center that had been set up for their safety.
Reubal carried his young son while his pregnant wife held his right hand. Behind them trudged Ailen’s parents and the rest of the relatives.
They kept going, braving the howling wind, until they were caught in a storm surge.
Reubal said he was able to hold onto a bamboo pole, clutching his son, when the surge came but his wife and the other relatives failed to do so.
“It was like there was a whirlpool and I saw nothing but white. I was not able to see where my wife was blown away by the wind,” he added, his tears welling up.
He let go of the bamboo pole only after a few hours, when he thought that he and his son were safe.
Also after the surge passed, the sun shone, and Reubal saw nothing but bodies strewn on the ground.
On the third day after the storm, he found Ailen’s bloated body dangling from an electric post.
Reubal lost not only Ailen but also the baby that his wife was carrying.
He wanted to hug and kiss her but the smell of death overwhelmed him.
Reubal decided to just bury her.
He said he now draws strength from his one-year-old son.
It is difficult to be a father and at the same time a mother to his boy, but Reubal has no choice but to try to start a new life.