Here in the Philippines, we were hit this week by the 13th typhoon of the season, nicknamed Milenyo by Filipons, and codenamed Xangsane by the international community. It started its path across the 7,200 island archipeligo of the Philippines on Wednesday as I was departing Metro Manila by airplane to Dumaguette. We were delayed, and then just before we arrived, the pilot told us he was instructed to return because of the high winds and pouring rain. But that to return could mean an even more alarming landing at Ninoy Aquino International. We had limited fuel, and couldn’t get away from or wait out the storm. So he made a run for landing in Dumaguette Airport, a small one runway strip next to the sea between Cebu Island.
It was one of the more harrowing landings of my life, complete with what the co-pilot said was "skimming on the water", as we struggled to level out and land properly on the tarmac. Prayers were said, hand gestures were taken up, parents covered their children’s heads. I was half oblivious, still recovering from the previous night of stomach sickness, my first bout in my stay here – ironically after a fancy italian dinner that cost more than my previous week of meals out combined – and kindly numbed my anxiety.
At the airport, I was greeted by UUCP President Rev. Henry Legaje (imagine being greeted by Bill Sinkford at the airport, beautiful!) and he remarked at how scary the landing seemed, and how he was glad I made it. Things got much worse the next day.
On Thursday morning, around 10am, the storm hit Metro Manila, which folks also call NCR for National Capitol Region. Winds nearing 100 mph tore through the city, toppling oversized billboards that are truly a public hazard, trees hit streets, cars, homes and pedestrians, water flooded in many districts, and the city was blacked out for power. Today is Friday afternoon and I can no longer reach family there. Cel phones which are used 95% for texting have run out of battery, email is only available in a few places with back up generators such as the malls and big businesses, and the last message I received was from early this morning saying that everyone was safe.
I have heard from some of our other pastors, who report damage and several homes destroyed in Bon Bon Baranguay Valenzuela, flooding in Bicutan, and have not accounted for everyone yet. 18 have been confirmed dead in the NCR, and looking at news reports, the Washington Post reports the toll at 48. I’ll be taking some more reports and let folks know any other details, as well as pictures when they become available.
Weather is calm here in Dumaguette, we are about 1 hour south by plane of NCR. I took a long walk through the city today, while the UUCP Board met for a 2nd day. I’m heading back there soon for dinner, presently at an internet cafe that costs 40 cents/hour for fairly decent internet access. Took some nice pictures, and generally feel rested and ready to finish my sermon and preach this Sunday. Sorry to those who I have not responded to, and to missed conference calls.