Yolanda Aftermath: A Survivor’s Story

Lt. Col. Boysie Carangan reunited with the boy, Miguel (Photo from Charly's blog)

In a previous blog, “A Survivor’s Story,” I wrote about Lt Col Fermin ‘Boysie’ Carangan who endured a harrowing six-hour ride on a wooden plank as Super Storm Haiyan (Philippine codename: Yolanda) whipped up a storm surge that sucked him out to the sea. While afloat, he was able to rescue a small boy named Miguel, and together they braved the rough seas and hostile winds. Fighting exhaustion and pain, they would eventually land on the shores of Basey, Samar, which was miles away across the bay from Tacloban. Here is the sequel to that story.

Boysie’s immediate concern [after they got back on land] was to rush back to his headquarters [in Tacloban] to find out the extent of damage there. Though he was feeling so tired and cold, and had an aching right foot and lacerations all over the body, he knew he needed to get back to consolidate his men, and see how the unit could function and perhaps help out in this big tragedy.

Boysie left Miguel with the police in Basey and asked for a way to quickly get back to Tacloban Airport. A motorbike took him to the barangay, and then he had to walk around seven kilometers — on a swollen right foot — until he reached San Juanico Bridge.

Boysie confided that it was precisely Miguel’s presence that had strengthened his resolve to fight on. Clearly, God had given them each other during those critical times, in order for both of them to survive.

It was already getting dark, and seeing the destruction everywhere, and having been told that the roads ahead were no longer accessible, he decided to stay for the night at the Police Station in San Juanico.

Early the following day, there were still no vehicles coming through from Tacloban. So Boysie hitched a ride with a police patrol car heading for Catbalogan so he could report to the 8th Infantry Division (8ID) Headquarters there.

Tacloban residents check out the damage brought by the typhoon (Photo from Charly's blog)

Upon reaching the Army Headquarters, Boysie was immediately taken to the hospital where his wounds were treated. It was only then that he was able to call the Air Force to report his status. And finally, he was able to call home — to let his wife and family know that he was alive. That done — and with clean sheets, a warm bed, his wounds treated—it was time to take a much-needed rest.

The following day, the Air Force brought him back to his headquarters in Tacloban Airport — or what remained of it. Along the way, seeing the devastation around him, he wondered what he would find in his headquarters. What could he do for his men, considering that they too were victims of Yolanda? Could the unit still be mission-capable? What about the air assets?

As it turned out, three enlisted personnel were killed, while two others were missing. The two young PMA graduates were alive. Boysie, along with his men, were promptly temporarily replaced by personnel from the 2nd Air Division (2AD) from Cebu. They were also given a two-week break by the Air Force Chief himself, Lt Gen Larry de la Cruz, who had arrived for a quick inspection.

Soldiers assisting evacuees (Photo from Charly's blog)

The kid, Miguel Rulona, was turned over by the police to the Army’s 87th Infantry Battalion. The 87IB took care of him while looking for his relatives. Finally, after two weeks, Miguel’s grandpa arrived to positively identify him and take him home.

Miguel had been living in a small village called San Jose, right behind Boysie’s 8th Tactical Operations Group (8th TOG), when the disaster struck. He was staying in a small house with his grandparents and a younger brother. When the storm surge came, he got separated from them. He had the presence of mind however to hold on to a floating tree trunk.

Like Boysie, he was also sucked out to the sea. As fate would have it, the raging current would bring the two together. Boysie did not hesitate to grab Miguel from the floating log. They struggled against the hostile waters and the roaring wind together. And together, they survived the fury that was Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Relief workers clearing up the damage left by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) (Photo from Charly's blog)

Boysie returned to Tacloban last November 24, after his two-week recuperation time at the Villamor Air Base Station Hospital. It was time for him to pick up the pieces, and help rebuild his unit’s Headquarters. On Wednesday, November 27, 19 days after the holocaust that hit Tacloban, Boysie got a surprise visit from Miguel.

Miguel was accompanied by his mother and grandfather. The mother had been working in Manila at the time of the storm. Not knowing what had happened to her children, she wasted no time in getting back home after learning of the tragedy that hit Tacloban. She would get home to a lone, distraught father. Her mother and two kids were missing. They would only find Miguel days later, but to this day, Miguel’s grandmom and kid brother remain missing.

Miguel and Boysie. Alive against all odds in the deadliest storm recorded to have hit the Philippines. The grateful mother gave her profuse thanks to Boysie for saving her son’s life. In return, Boysie confided that it was precisely Miguel’s presence that had strengthened his resolve to fight on. Clearly, God had given them each other during those critical times, in order for both of them to survive.

With Miguel’s mother and grandfather (Photo from Charly's blog)

Miguel’s mom has decided not to go back to Manila. She intends to rebuild her family; but this time, in a safer place together with their relatives in Baybay, Leyte. For his part, Lt Col Boysie Carangan is busy rebuilding the 8th TOG.

It will take a few months before the landscape is finally rid of everything that will remind them of the Yolanda nightmare, but — like the rest of devastated Tacloban — the time to rebuild is now. Rebuilding will not just be about providing houses, offices and infrastructure, but more importantly, rebuilding will have to include restoring their dignity, lifting their spirits, and rekindling their humanity. 


Reposted from charly's blog.