In the Blink of an Eye (Super typhoon “Haiyan”/”Yolanda” in the Philippines, Leyte & Samar provinces, 08 November 2013, Friday, 4.40am)

by Augusto M R Gonzalez III (Toto Gonzalez)

The whole world has been glued to CNN as it reports the cataclysmic destruction of super typhoon “Haiyan”/”Yolanda” in the Philippines.  “Haiyan”/”Yolanda” had very strong winds that gusted up to 235 mph or 380 kph (according to the JTWC in Honolulu, the US Navy’s warning center).  Hardest hit were the provinces of Leyte and Samar in the Eastern Visayas, where the super typhoon made its initial landfalls.  The overwhelming devastation is unprecedented and beyond belief.  By simply observing the sheer destruction of the coastal cities and towns of Leyte and Samar, journalists are estimating that thousands of people have been killed.

Metropolitan Manila, some 800 hundred kilometers northwest of Leyte and Samar provinces, was fortunately spared the wrath of “Haiyan”/”Yolanda.”  But had the super typhoon passed the capital, it is most likely that the Philippines would have ground to a complete halt.  It would have destroyed the metropolis the way it did Tacloban city in Leyte.

As the news came slowly of the terrible destruction in Leyte and Samar provinces, all over the country typically kindhearted Filipinos started setting aside rice, canned goods, clothes, medicines, etc for the victims of the latest disaster.  From Northern Luzon to Southern Mindanao, Filipinos set aside little somethings (sometimes big somethings) and brought them to collection centers for relief goods.  In public markets, small groceries, big supermarkets, and even high-end food stores, customers bought extra supplies for the super typhoon “Yolanda” victims.  The same thing happened in drug stores and medical supplies stores.  The great collective charity of the Filipino people was/is truly amazing.

And then the countries of the world extended their generous helping hands to the beleaguered Philippines.  The USA United States of America, Canada, the UK United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, The Vatican, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Russia, PROC China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE United Arab Emirates, et al .  The incredible outpouring of sincere and generous assistance was largely unexpected and the Filipino nation is grateful, very grateful, for all the expert help extended in this terrible hour of great need.  Humanity at its best.


  1. Jing Trinidad said,

    November 12, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Toto,

    I have been coming back to this blog regularly for almost a year now. I have read all of you posts twice over waiting for you to write more. I suddenly realized today that its been a year since you wrote anything here. What happened? Please write more often.

  2. Mike Jordana said,

    November 18, 2013 at 3:35 am

    Considering all this talk about climate change, Haiyen/Yolanda may be a portent of things to come. Perhaps ALL of the Philippines should convert to the Batanes architectural model that can withstand much greater wind pressure than simple wooden shacks, or even hollow-block buildings with tin roofs, can.

    In Batanes, the traditional houses are made with meter-thick limestone walls (to resist lateral wind pressure) and foot-thick cogon (!) roofs (to resist the semi-vacuum formed by fast-moving winds over a surface–air-permeable cogon allows the higher-pressure inside air to be sucked outside by the vacuum instead of leaving it there to push up against the inside of the roof and eventually blow it out).

    But if the devastated dwellings are rebuilt using the same construction techniques and the same kinds of materials as before, the next super typhoon that comes along will just cause the same kind of destruction.

    I think normal hollow-block walls are good enough, though of course double courses would be better–but we should develop creative new ideas for air-permeable roofs.

    Cogon has the advantage of growing almost anywhere and it keeps the house cool besides. It’s also durable, unlike nipa, and can last between 25-30 years. Disadvantages include flammability–fire retardant would have to be used, increasing costs.

    To continue using GI sheet roofs may be okay, if the ridge cap can be redesigned so it’s raised enough to allow free movement of air to the outside while still blocking the ingress of rain water. Or maybe two or three wind-powered rotating roof ventilators might work just as well to release high-pressure air inside the house or attic during a typhoon–though they’re a bit expensive. But they’re useful on ordinary hot tropical days too. They lower the ambient temperature inside the house… or the attic, if there is one.

    Note that hip roofs are also more resistant to typhoons than gable roofs. Gable roofs should be banned.

    Sorry, I don’t have any constructive solutions for storm surges–mini-tsunamis–except to say, Don’t build next to the open ocean, unless your property is at least 20 meters above sea level.

  3. November 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    To our readers in the Philippines and abroad:

    Re: Supertyphoon “Yolanda”

    Fellow Filipinos in Leyte & Samar need our prompt help very much; also our fellow Filipinos in Cebu, Iloilo, Negros Oriental & Occidental, & Bohol.

    Please send your financial assistance and relief goods ASAP to:

    Red Cross Philippines
    DSWD Department of Social Welfare & Development
    CARITAS Manila
    ABS-CBN Foundation Inc – Sagip Kapamilya
    and other duly accredited organizations

    Toto Gonzalez

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