Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Journalist recalls Yolanda ordeal

How Samar Weekly Express' Editor -in-Chief Ricky Bautista survived Yolanda's onslaught is a miracle. How he will continue his job as a journalist is another story.

MALOLOS CITY—Days before Super Typhoon Yolanda pummeled the island of Samar with devastating ferocity, 39- year old journalist Ricky Bautista of the Philippine Star was busy reinforcing his house located at Sitio Bangon, Barangay Canmanila in Basey town.

At 7 a.m. on November 8, Yolanda unleashed her wrath on Basey and nearby areas leaving indescribable damage aggravated by 10- to 30-meter- high storm surges. In a series of text messages sent to this writer, Bautista described his experience noting that his reinforced house felt like being massively pelted by stones and sand when Yolanda passed through.

“Sa lakas nito (Yolanda) parang buhawi na anytime ay pwedeng liparin ang bahay ko,” he said noting that he secured his wife and two boys aged 5 and 7 by staying under their dining table, praying.
Days after Yolanda.
Bautista was reached by PromdiNews on Sunday after getting his contact number from Ariel Sebellino, the executive director of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI).

A journalist for 18 years who covered a number of disasters including the aftermath of an earthquake in Bohol, Bautista said that Yolanda was different and its devastation comparable to hurricane Katrina in the United States.

“This is the most tragic and devastating natural intervention I have seen, it can be compared to (hurricane) Katrina in the US,” he said Bautista’s description of devastation left behind by Yolanda is not without basis.

He said that in his village, only four houses were left standing, including his. “In my village at least apat lang bahay na natira nakatayo including mine. Sa coastal Barangay ng Bacubac and San Antonio, both facing Tacloban City, 90 percent of houses, of light materials and concrete were wiped out. In Barangay New Road, ganun din, in Jinamic island, it is reported na konti lang ang naka-survive,” he said.

The devastation came despite the preparations of local government units. Bautista said: “Obviously our town and the rest of Samar are prepared for the typhoon Yolanda. All LGUs and local DRRMC have readied rescue, relief, evacuation centers.

But we were caught off guard by the storm surge with waves as high as 10 to 15 meters or lampas pa sa taas ng niyog or kasing-taas ng two-storey building.” He added that if not for the storm surge, Basey would have less damage and casualties. “Kung lakas ng bagyo lang, baka walang ganoong patay.

Pero dahil sa storm surge or tsunami-like waves, marami ang namatay. Our town of Basey was wiped out by water. Public market, tourism office, municipal hall, PNP building, evacuation centers, commercial establishments were all wiped out,” he said.

Indeed, Basey and the rest of Samar island are still mourning but the agony is far from over, more than a week after the storm. Bautista said, “it’s been more than a week, dead victims are still left untouched in some areas, some are buried like dogs in Basey. No proper accounting of dead bodies, some areas are still asking for relief from government.”

Bautista (L) with fellow journalist and survivor Rommel Rutor (R).
He also said that not only residents fell victim to the storm, as it also took its toll on community press and journalists. He himself was not able to send any stories for the Philippine Star after November 7 because power lines were down, which might take three to six months to restore.

This means, community newspapers and radio stations will have to wait a little longer to resume operations.

“Local papers and radio are still off to this time. They have problem on management personnel, working press, office supplies, machines, and electricity,” he said.  Dino Balabo