Though I go to church every Sunday and believe in God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints, I do not consider myself a religious man or a devout Catholic.
However, my experience last Friday while I was on coverage in Palo, Leyte during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda made me a firm believer, or shall I say, reinforced my faith that God and the Blessed Mother truly exist.
In my 25 years as a journalist (and I have covered wars and natural disasters here and abroad), never have I seen death staring me in the face.
I and my TV news crew, Jerico Javier, my segment producer, cameraman Levi Duriano and his assistant, Teddy Balanza, were on a rented van and were on our way to Tacloban City from Palo when “Yolanda” landed in Leyte that morning.
We were cruising the highway near the beach when a big tree fell in front of our van, forcing our driver to make a u-turn and try to find another route as the wind started to pick up.
But as we sped off to another road, a big acacia tree blocked our path. The strong wind seemed to lift our vehicle in the air. We decided to take cover on an old government building in the area.
However, it was too late to get inside, so we just sat it out on the northern wall of the building facing the Pacific Ocean. Trees in front of us began to tumble one by one like dominoes and the roofs of the houses nearby started flying all over the place.
Minutes later, the wind changed direction and started whipping us in the face so we decided to take shelter on the eastern section of the building. We can now hear the roar of the wind as vehicles were tossed in the air, including a bulldozer.
Suddenly, we can see water coming from the ocean heading inland like a tsunami. In less than minute, we were waist deep in seawater.
Since we had nowhere else to run and it appeared that we would either drown or be blown away by Yolanda’s powerful winds, I prayed to Jesus with these simple words, “cover us Lord with your most Precious Blood that You have shed, and protect us with the painful wounds inflicted upon You.”
Then I kissed the brown scapular which I have been wearing and whispered to The Lady of Mt. Carmel “Mama Mary protect us.”
As soon as we rushed into the building, the gate that we used to cover ourselves with from the strong winds was literally ripped into pieces. The concrete light post broke in half and fell where we were standing seconds ago as the sea and flood waters merged reaching as high as eight feet.
An hour later, the strong winds stopped and the waters subsided. But the area where we were was reduced to a wasteland.
Though we lost our equipment, including my cellular phones and my clothes inside my backpack, we were all thankful that we were alive. It seemed as if some unseen hands sheltered us from harm.
As we boarded the Air Force plane from Tacloban City going to Cebu last Saturday, I realized one thing. If it is your time to go, you can’t stop it. However, if you ask Him to put it on hold, he may just do that provided that it will be for your good and that of your loved ones and above all, for His greater glory. After all, he owns our lives.
Thank you Jesus. And thanks Mama Mary for always being a mother to us all.