My Life in Seven Days #7 - #10: Aftermath of Typhoon Odette, A Personal Experience

Typhoon Odette hit Central Visayas in the Philippines on December 16. Before that, we celebrated my husband’s birthday on the 13th with a cake and a kilo of lechon. I asked Billy of 96.3 WRock to greet him, and he did. My husband woke up just in time to hear it. On another day, Jac escaped from his leash and made a good dash back and forth about four times before we successfully clasped the leash on him. My book mail also arrived on the 14th. I also made graphics for a pull-up banner for my sister who planned to sell K-pop-related merchandise at Parkmall for three days (later canceled and postponed upon news on Odette). Really, they were regular, sunny days.


Then typhoon Odette hit us. Where we are in Cebu City, rain fell helter-skelter and the wind was savage. It was night. Electricity went off then. My husband and I worked hard for hours to keep the flood from entering our living space. Jac-Jac, who was sleeping, woke up wet and confused and scared. Odette has already plucked parts of our galvanized steel roofing and water leaked through the cracks. We were mopping and catching water. My mother-in-law, in her walker, moved to her daughter’s room and put earphones on. I worried about my mother and sister in Mandaue City now that Daddy has passed away. 


We only stopped mopping and moving containers of floodwaters until midnight. Then we tried to sleep. Early in the morning, we saw the aftermath: the roof of the extended garage fell and almost half of the roof on the second floor was uprooted. My sister-in-law and her son went out to check and capture the neighborhood on video: electrical wires were low, almost to the ground; roofs of several neighbors’ houses were nowhere to be seen; plants lost their leaves; the tower signage of Jollibee fell and flattened a vehicle; signages flew yards away; people were out in the open in dazed, silent shock. A scene out of a movie.


My husband and I slept out in the garage for five nights. When the mosquitoes became relentless, I moved back to our room after initial cleaning and slept on the floor. Before my husband moved back a day later to sleep in the loft, I did a second cleaning. I cleaned as much as I could with what light and water I could get. A flooded space, regardless of the gravity, smelled bad. The ordeal made me look at our living space and living conditions differently. It was heart-breaking.


During the first week after typhoon Odette: 


  • Water was the major problem. We lined up for hours for some days to get our supply. Stories of hardships abound in the street. In the first few days, we could only get one gallon per family member at the closest water refilling station; my family of five could only acquire four gallons in a day. A pregnant woman carried a 25-liter container of water. Men joked about not having taken a bath for four days. Parents said they rationed their water so their children could drink more. Many shared the extent of damage to their homes while lining up patiently for drinking water. A police officer from Mabolo Police Station cut in line to purchase a gallon and a crowd hooted and applauded (meant as an insult). Business owners and their staff became heroes, ensuring peace and order within their premises when police forces could not. A business owner in my mother’s neighborhood offered deep-well water for free and asked only for a donation of any amount to pay for the gas to power up its generator. Also, I experienced how chivalry was not yet dead.


  • The water demand pushed COVID-19 restrictions out of the window (how to breathe through a face mask while carrying gallons of water, how to observe social distancing when people are thirsty for a drink). But most of us lining up in the streets still wore face masks. We were tired, but there was a general unspoken consensus that seemed to communicate how we dread another lockdown.


  • The scarce supply of water made proper hygiene almost impossible. It was only three days after the typhoon when I started cleaning the kitchen and my husband covered the bathroom after we got an extra supply of water. We also took a bath then.


  • The lines outside water refilling stations, ATMs, gas stations, banks, supermarkets, and pharmacies were long. Stocks soon ran out and we stuck to basic food supplies.


  • We also had no power and no Internet connection, so we had limited access to information that could tell us how the rest of the country or the Central Visayas was doing or how the government responded to the situation. The word out in the street was that the barangay captain was hiding, just like during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and, for me, that is representative, a microcosm, of the attitude of “public servants” during this very serious calamity.


  • There was no refrigerator, so the meat I prepared for Christmas became unsalvageable. It was a depressing moment; you see, I had grand plans for our Christmas celebration after the COVID-19 lockdowns in the past long months.


  • I had a bad scare when my mother informed me that the cell tower two houses away from her house toppled down (in the opposite direction). I could not call or send her or my sister a text message within two days. The signal was very poor. My anxiety levels were to the roof.


  • Within two days, two hired men fixed the roof over the family car, which fell during the typhoon (see photo below). Our bigger problem was the roof on the second floor and the possibility of rain.


blogger writer editor in Cebu Nancy Cudis typhoon Odette mental health self-care my life in seven days

  • I liked reading under candlelight. It was comforting — a bit of relief, a momentary escape. I finished three books post-Odette.


  • Garbage was piling up in the streets. Where were the government officials and their staff? Invisible. Do you know what else we did while lining up in the streets for water, money, and food? We talked about politics — past and present — and the upcoming elections. And we refer to typhoon Odette as some disgusting home-wrecker.


  • Industrious individuals turned resourceful. Children lined up for families in water lines in exchange for a few pesos. Hordes went to the nearest clean river to get water for cleaning. Individuals residing near a puso offered to deliver water for families for a small fee. Motorcycles became doubly useful.


  • Later, I learned that #ImportanteBuhi (what’s important is that we’re alive) became trending. But that did not stop us from grieving over the deaths of hundreds (so far accounted for) who perished in the typhoon and expressing our sadness over resources and structures important to us that were destroyed, such as trees and farms.


  • With disrupted plans, I wrapped gifts the day before Christmas.


  • For me, the atmosphere during Christmas was sober but more meaningful. We had a humble and scrumptious buffet of hamon, spaghetti, and beef all prepared by my sister-in-law. Rain poured during our Christmas celebration, and we watched out for leaks again. Yes, water dropped teasingly through our ceilings. But, during this moment, we laughed at it and had a jolly good time. 


During the second week after typhoon Odette:


  • I adjusted well to sleeping on the floor. Jac sometimes slept on the floor above my kutson. My husband slept in the loft alone, which was better, even if it was hotter, compared to becoming a feeding ground for mosquitoes in the garage. By the looks of it, there posed the threat of a dengue outbreak in the neighborhood. But our primary concern was having access to clean drinking water.


  • Our neighbor's electricity turned back on. My mother-in-law was his godmother during his wedding. And they have always helped each other during tough times, post-Odette included. My husband installed an extension and connected it to the kind neighbor’s house so that all of us in the house, especially my mother-in-law who could not walk for long yet due to her deep vein thrombosis, could have a bit of light and access to an electric fan at night. 


  • We adjusted to our conditions and used our resources to tap people who could help us secure an additional water supply. My husband and I also went to my parents’ house to ask for their excess supply of water that we could use for cleaning. 


  • In two weeks, I only washed six pieces of clothing to conserve water. We wore the clothes on our body for 2-3 days or until we smelled so bad we could not stand ourselves. 


  • Upon the signal of my father-in-law who is still in Manila, we hired three men to repair the roof on the second floor and a professional to rewire our electricity. When they started, the days were still dry. Then news came that there was another typhoon or onset of rainy days around the corner, promising more rains. A day after the carpenters removed a good portion of the roof, rains did come and it leaked through the house. It meant another round of mopping and catching water in basins and getting wet, agitating everyone's nerves, but we carried on because we knew it would only be temporary. We have no trapal; we couldn’t afford it. Two boxes of my books were flooded but they are nothing compared to ensuring that my family does not get sick and our living spaces are as clean as possible despite the limited resources. The rains poured for four days straight. The days were long. On one of those days, I woke my husband up late afternoon and told him we were going to the mall to breathe. It was a disorienting experience, but it was a much needed quick break. At Ayala Central Bloc, we drank cold water, ordered food for the night, and bought lots of peanuts.


  • I read two more books this week. I bought lots of flowers from the roving flower seller and asked about his family's conditions, which were just as bad. Half of the flowers I offered at my dad's ofrenda during the New Year.


blogger writer editor in Cebu Nancy Cudis typhoon Odette mental health self-care my life in seven days

  • Prices of construction materials doubled, especially galvanized iron sheets and wood. We also heard reports of enterprising individuals selling gas and water at triple their original prices, but some of them had been warned or apprehended by the police. Some families also bought generator sets and solar panels. The price of fish also shot up and hotels were fully booked.


  • My husband and I stayed overnight with my mother and sister during the New Year. I cooked humba. My mother cooked a whole chicken. We had a simple celebration. Since their internet connection was long restored, I took the opportunity to check my Messenger, Google Classroom, my emails (without thinking of work), then the news. I was rabid; I read as many Odette-related news articles as I could. The next day, we went to Gethsemane Parish for pamisa for our departed loved ones. 


blogger writer editor in Cebu Nancy Cudis typhoon Odette mental health self-care my life in seven days

During the third week after typhoon Odette:


  • I worried about how to get back to work. There are available co-working spaces but I’m old-school. Amid the pandemic and the threat of Omicron variant, I prefer working at home or alone in spaces like coffee shops with a good distance from other people. So I decided to live with my mother during the weekdays and go back home during the weekends until a stable internet connection is restored at our home. 


  • Just in time, on Sunday, power was restored in our house. The emotion was conflicting. We were happy about it but we were also skeptical or cautious about it. We saw some neighbors having electricity only a week after the typhoon and there we were, with no proper access to reliable information. We wondered about VECO’s grand plan, how the company decided which areas to energize next, and status updates of the entire power grid. I sent a message to someone I know who previously worked for VECO and she told me full restoration in the Visayas region is set for the end of January. When my husband and I learned that, we both felt out of sorts or somewhat “resigned” since, at the time, our power was not yet restored. I said a silent prayer for the linemen working double-time.


  • The first thing we did when power was restored was to turn on the refrigerator. An hour later, we drank as much cold water as we could. It was a touching moment.


  • Before going to my mother’s house, I ordered some frozen and canned food that my husband could cook while I was away. 


  • On our way to my mother’s house, we were relieved to see that there were no longer very long lines at the gas stations, ATMs, supermarkets, and water refilling stations. For me, not normalized, but stabilized. Cebu is getting back on its feet — slowly and cautiously.


  • On my first day of work, the first thing I did was submit service requests to our two WiFi providers. Both said that their technical teams are working hard at restoring connections in our area.


  • I ordered Bo’s Coffee drinks for four of us — me, my sister, and our two cousins who were also staying for the week — via Grab, which my sister paid for. She also treated us to dinner at Sachi, a nearby Japanese restaurant offering really good ramen, upon my “forceful prompting.” Can you imagine me smiling? Anyway, what made me happy was this: the Grab app was functioning, there was a driver available, and businesses were open despite both the aftermath of Odette and the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • My mother cooked delicious toloy and my cousin, Jayson, cooked really good fried pork. We also had fried bananas for snacks. I also had sikwate for two mornings in a row. I was delightedly full. 


blogger writer editor in Cebu Nancy Cudis typhoon Odette mental health self-care my life in seven days

  • I talked to my husband through a video call. We missed each other. It seemed that Jac did not miss me, which was just as well, since he is surrounded by people who love to feed him at any time


  • For the first time in three weeks, I felt a whole lot better. I even put on an organic clay mask for 20 minutes while at work, something I imagined I could not do while at a co-working space. 


  • It felt good to be back to work. I did not miss it in the past three weeks, but I appreciated it more. I appreciated every minute more.


blogger writer editor in Cebu Nancy Cudis typhoon Odette mental health self-care my life in seven days

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