Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mark's Survival Story

"Seawater coming in from the windows, not the door; all seeping in to the house that there's not a single moment available to grab a few things. All are being drowned. And my instinct was to save myself and my housemates."

The Hit
The news about the typhoon was not unusual. From the moment I set foot on my area as a medical representative, Tacloban City, typhoons have been introduced as part of my normal daily life. I've experienced floods and got some of my things soaked, but that's it. After drying them all, things were back to normal. I personally never thought that this "super typhoon" really means the superlative used in its name. 

Haiyan or Yolanda from space as it approaches PH.
Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com
November 8 was just an ordinary rainy morning. News said that the storm surge might occur but the word "storm surge" was not explained in a way that normal people can easily digest. During the wee hours, the wind began to blow hard as if there were people walking on the roof. This woke me up at around 5am. Although it's still too early, I decided not to sleep anymore and have a feel of what's happening. A couple of hours later, things started to become denser. At around 7am, I decided to check on my car that was parked several meters from our door and it seemed fine, at that moment. The instance I walked back to the house, things were submerged in water already. It has rose in a very fast pacemy things all wet. The water was not seeping from the floor like the usual flood; they were entering through the windows as if someone was intentionally pushing it inside. In a few minutes the depth of water was more than what we can bare, pass my height and even going higher. This made me and my housemates go to a more secured place, the ceiling. I went there first and pulled my house mates one by one. When we thought all was okay, I fell back to the raging water. Good thing they were able to get hold of me. There I lost my mobile phone, the only way to let my family in Manila know that I am surviving, that I was okay. But survival is more important. My housemates pulled me up. Bruised, wounded, soaked and worried, all I can do is stare and witness the water engulf my things—the television, my clothes, my office promotional materials, my personal things. For hours, I waited in the ceiling, praying that the water will subside. For three hours I uncomfortably sit in the ceiling floor, waiting for the noise created by the super typhoon to mellow down, waiting for the water not to continue rising and go back to the sea. The agony was too long that I never thought it was only three hours, because it felt so much longer.   

This is the amateur video taken by my friend: 

When water was out, my housemates and I went out of the house and shock came to me. My car sat on top of my house mate's car and the surrounding was a total mess. I thought it was only in movies that I would be able to see a total devastation like that but I am seeing reality right before my very eyes. I am one of the few walking on the street, seeing all houses crumbled down to the earth, looking at others who were as shocked as I am. Dead bodies under debris were like a normal scenario in the place where I normally see family members happily talking to each other. Nothing was left standing; all has kissed and embraced the earth where it belongs.

The Survival
In a different compound where our friends who are also medical representatives are staying was the place we targeted to go to, to check on them. No vehicle, no anything. We were on foot for one hour. The walk could have been lesser if there was not much blockages on the way, and not much emotions brought by cries, confusion and death around me. 

On our way, I saw a noodle container van that has fallen open. On devastation like that, food is needed for survival. I acted easily. I squeezed myself in the container van, as what the people already there are doing, grab a good number of noodles and brought it to our neighbour’s house. They needed it. And from there, I continued to walk to our friend's place. Our friends were fortunate to have survived like us. That same night, news has spread that there will be a tsunami. As a way of survival, we walked to the mountains for about half an hour. It's literally climbing to the muddy soil until we reached the top of the mountain. We made sure it was too high a place for the water not to hit. Stayed there for couple of hours and started walking back down around midnight when we realized that the tsunami won't even occur.

We stayed in that house, all 13 of us, for four days. Four days that would mean our lives. Our days were filled with challenges to survive. Our group were divided with assigned tasks for what we should do daily. I volunteered to loot from different container vans—noodles, canned goods and stuffswe can use to survive. I got bruises and more scratches but who cares if this is the only way I can help to supply our needs? At night, we guard the house from robbers because they would literally sneak on our roofs to get stuffs to eat. Some would really pick a fight just to have foods. That's how hard it was to survive. No fresh clothes, less food, more need to protect myself from other people who were scavenging for foods and to protect the 12 other people I was with. Four days was way too exhausting. Each day that came would give me more wounds that can't be treated at that very instant, the streets will be filled with stronger smell of decaying human flesh and people around have increased anxiety of almost helplessness in the whole town.

If you can't loot, you won't have food. If you won't guard your house, prisoners who have fled from the wrecked prison can take all your survival goods from you. If you will stay shocked, you will die soon. Each day I needed to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to start looking for food. Days where I have to be as alert as I can be and be ready to flight to a place especially if the flight means stepping closer to being out of that devastated city.

The Flight
Although network is down, news spread in the area like fire. November 11, Monday, we have heard from other (medical) representatives that we can ride in C130 and be brought out of Tacloban. We walked for one hour, with just our clothes sticking to our body. I can't help but still be shocked with more deaths around me. And their smell will really make one sick. But we have to move on.

Upon reaching the airport, we told people there that our respective companies will help us. This does not have much bearing since there are a lot of people lined, waiting for that chance to be transported using the C130, same goal as ours, just to get out of there the fastest way possible. It was a blessing that one of our friends is a family of a retired Major. This made things easier and in the afternoon, we are on our way to Cebu, leaving behind the tragedy that almost brought us to our graves.

The New Life
Monday night, my foot landed on Cebu with a feeling of freedom and relief from the incident that almost engulfed me to death. I was there without anything but myself and the clothes I have worn for several days already. The Cebu medical representative, Carlo Ramirez, picked me up from the airport, brought me to Chong Hua Hospital and I was checked and injected with tetanus toxoid. The scratches in my body were treated at last. Sir Ryan Miro brought me his clothes so that I can change; they (Carlo, Joseph and Ryan) brought me to a restaurant to eat. At around 10pm, I get to talk to my boss, Sir Charles Guansing and Sir Mike Escobar and even to our General Manager Stephane Langevin. I even get to hear my family and friends and assure them that I am alright. I was so relieved. That same night, I got a real bath and get to put on borrowed but clean clothes, I get to eat a complete dinner and I get to lie down on a comfortable bed. That was the end of the tragic event.

From L to R: Carlo, Joseph, Mark, Ryan
Photo courtesy of Ryan Miro.
Tuesday, November 12, I had a meeting with the Cebu team and my counterparts on how we should handle these things that happened to me. Sir Gene discussed to me how Abbott can give me financial assistance. Then in the afternoon, I get to buy fresh clothes for myself. Sir Ryan accompanied me.

On my two days of staying in the hotel and waiting for my IDs to be processed by HRD, and my plane tickets to be released, I still can't get those things out of my head. I can't sleep well. I am happy that I have survived but I shed tears to people who I once talked to but were already dead and some could have not been identified. I cried while watching the news, seeing previous neighbours looking for relatives. I still woke up at 3am, because my body clock is telling me that I should start to hunt for food, even if I really don't have to do it. It was as if those four days was stretched to one whole year of pain and hardship. But the thought I would never forget is that I was blessed. Blessed to be alive and breathing, blessed to be back to the arms of my family, blessed to be being taken care of Abbott with a continuous job.

Wednesday, November 13, I flew back to Manila. Sir Ryan and Carlo brought me to Cebu airport while Sir Gene Bituin picked me up from the NAIA airport and brought me to the main office. My boss gets to personally check on me: Sir Mike Escobar, Miss Mel Tan, HRD and GM Stephane Langevin. After that, I was even brought home, back to my family. At last, I am home.

From L to R: Mark's dad, Mark and his nephew, his Mom, sister &Tita
Photo courtesy of Cris Molina.
That was a phase of my life that made me stronger, making me value things more. This is a reminder that I was made for a purpose. Life goes on as I continue to be the Mark Anthony Lagran that gives my service to people and give my life all to God.

Note: I wrote this as narrated by the survivor and my friend, Mark Lagran.


  1. naiyak naman ako dito friend... good thing ok siya...

    1. naiyak din ako nung ginagawa ko to. yup, ok na ok na sya. :)