In the afternoon of Oct. 31, 2020, it was increasingly obvious from forecasts of various local and international weather agencies that Catanduanes was going to get hit by then typhoon Rolly.
Its path was downward, from the original Aurora-Quezon trajectory, due to the influence of a high pressure ridge near Northern Philippines.
By 3 P.M. and onwards, the predictions grew increasingly dire, from just a glancing pass north of Pandan town to a direct hit on Bagamanoc, Panay island, Gigmoto and then Baras and Bato.
As usual, this columnist and his wife headed to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral for the anticipated Mass at 5:30 P.M.
And once inside, we had an inkling that the next few hours could be something out of the ordinary. There were only 22 parishioners inside the church at the time, aside from the 17 or so church personnel including Rev. Fr. Robert Ian Balmadrid who delivered the sermon, and the volunteer ushers manning the COVID-19 health checkpoint at the main entrance.
The usual collectors were not there at the time, probably having taken the time off to prepare for the coming of the typhoon. So, the job was taken up by two doctors: Dr. Joselito Urgel, who was with his family, and EBMC chief Dr. Vietrez Abella, who was also with her family.
On our way back home after visiting the 92-year old matriarch of the Gianan family in Rawis, it was then that we noticed the unusual stillness of the night.
There were very few people out on the road and the silence was, to borrow a popular expression, deafening.
It seemed that majority of Catandunganons were resigned to receiving whatever suffering the oncoming, extremely powerful typhoon would bring, signified by the Public Storm Signal No. 5 raised by PAGASA that evening.
Indeed, as a harbinger of bad things to come, it was only the second time that the weather agency did so, after Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.
This writer took to bed at 12 gidnight, an hour after the other members of the family did. By the time, it was already raining and a stiff breeze had arisen.
By the time I woke up at 3 A.M., the wind was gusting at an estimated 100 kph or more and we transferred to the ground floor where it was safer by any means, as half of our second floor had GI roofing.
An hour later, the super typhoon’s 200-kph winds were already battering the capital town and we tried out best to calm down our fears.
At 5 P.M, it was already gusting so bad outside that we could see nothing out of the window but rain reduced to white, foggy spray by the whistling wind.
The gusts blew apart the covering installed on the abandoned aircon frame and tried to blow out the sliding door at the nearby office. We had to hold the glass door for about 30 minutes, trying to hold the pressure by stacking heavy wooden chairs against it.
One could glimpse flashed of lightning later as the eyewall passed right over Virac, with Rolly’s pinhole eye presumably somewhere out on Cabugao Bay.
This seemed to last for eternity as the wind direction shifted, coming from the north on the howler’s approach and gradually shifted as the typhoon passed.
We tried to pray the rosary but the unsettling feeling that this relentless beast of a typhoon would stay for a while.
It was the so-called tail wind from the southeast that proved terrifying for the people hunkered down in their homes, whether it be a wooden house or a concrete one with slab roofing.
Tree branches, parts torn off from roofs, and even entire roofs began flying around. One apparently hit our GI roofing with a huge bang sometime on or about 6 A.M. and water started pouring out of the plywood ceiling.
Several minutes later, the sliding door at the dining area began to shake and we (the four boys in the family) had to literally push back with our bare hands so it would not shatter.
I told my sons to maneuver the heavy narra table against the door so the job would be easier.
There we stayed for at least an hour, pushing back our bodies against the table to keep the door closed while Millie and the housekeeper tried to contain the water dripping from the second floor ceiling and down the stairs. The floor was littered with scores of plastic pails, pots big and small, and even basins, vainly trying to contain the liters of rain water pouring down every second.
It was already 7:30 or so when the gusts slackened, allowing us to help dispose of the water in the filled pails and pots in the next hour.
By the time we were able to venture up and outside, we discovered that while the typhoon guards and the sturdy “baral” on the terrace French doors held, the aircon unit at the kids’ room flew out of its frame.
The garden and the back of the house was littered with debris, including several GI sheets and an entire roof section.
The printing press’s plastic roof over its sorting area was scattered about, torn from its metal framing.
The 20-year old guava tree that as grown as tall as our building had lost all its fruits and leaves and now lay bare like the old Christmas tree of our elementary days, the bare branches of which we used to wrap with cotton.
Otherwise, we were all alive and unhurt, unlike the thousands who have lost their homes and belongings.
Wherever you went on that first hours after Rolly struck, the air was filled with the sound of people sharing stories about their brush with the super typhoon’s wrath, blending with noise of nails being hammered and twisted GI sheets being dragged from where they fell. The eerie silence was gone.
THE DIVORCE PROCEEDING. Dan married a one of a pair of identical twins. Less than a year later, he is in court filing for divorce.
“OK,” the judge says. “Tell the court why you want a divorce.”
“Well, Your Honor,” Dan says. “Every once in a while my sister-in-law comes over for a visit, and because she and my wife are so identical looking, every once in a while I end up making love to her by mistake.”
“Surely there must be some difference between the two women,” the judge said.
“There sure is, Your Honor. That’s why I want the divorce,” he replies.