It was the last day of our visit to the Philippines and we were headed back on the same day as the biggest typhoon in recorded history was due to hit the Philippines.
We were incredibly lucky. We were north of the worst of it and only experiencing strong winds and heavy rain. Further south, thousands were killed by falling buildings or flooding and many more were left homeless.
Now that I am back home in Brisbane, Australia, I sit here amazed at how lucky I was. I still have a home, I have food, and I have my loved ones. The Philippines tragedy is a stark reminder that not everyone has it as good.
I almost feel guilty for getting back without incident. From what I saw, many people there have never had the things I take for granted. While there are wealthy families, many people still live in homes with dirt floors and a rusty corrugated tin roof. For some even that has been taken away. As I watch the terrible devastation, in the Central Philippines I hope they can rebuild their lives.
For my husband and I, the storm was an adventure, just part of a wonderful magic trip to a country bursting with life and colour. In the next few posts I will write about some of our other incredible experiences in the Philippines but today I want to tell you how it was for us at the edge of the typhoon.
We headed north from Manila the day before the storm and it was clear something big was expected. All the advertising signs had been rolled up for safety, leaving hundreds of giant scaffolds looking skeleton bare.
Within a few miles of Manila we had to stop several times to pay tolls and while I normally loathe the idea of paying a toll, this time I didn’t mind. After driving for days at pushbike speed on roads where we fought for space with motorbikes, Jeepneys, pedestrians, dogs, chickens, and even the odd cow or pig, it was nice to drive in our own dedicated lane for a while, even if we had to pay for it.
All too soon the highway ran out and we were back on provincial roads. Provincial roads in the Philippines can be hazardous, even without the slow traffic and kamikaze livestock.
Some sections were being repaired but these could be more hazardous than an unrepaired road. In Australia there would be flashing warning signs for miles ahead, a police car nearby, and hundreds of neon orange road cones to warn and divert drivers. In the Philippines there might be one hand drawn sign and a row of rocks. In some cases there was just a row of rocks.
Occasionally we saw a sign saying “Men at Work” and several times we saw the crew working. Road workers had no safety gear and were breaking up old concrete roads, building concrete walls, and repairing the road edges with hand tools.
So the roads were already variable and tricky to negotiate, but on the day of the storm we had heavy rain and wild winds that threatened to blow cars off the twisty road we were on. Most people stayed home and we saw no traffic for miles.
There were several landslides and lots of rocks on the road. We began to wonder if the road was even open where we were.
We were very relieved when we saw a bus coming out way. We knew from previous experience that Philippino bus drives don't let much get in their way, but even they could not negotiate a blocked road.
At one point I got out of the car to clear off a few rocks too large to drive over and I looked up to see rocks still sliding down the hill. I got back into the car really fast.
It was the most adventurous trip of my life and the storm was just one small part of it. I look forward to sharing some of the highlights from our trip to the Philippines in coming posts.
Do come back. In my next post I will explain what a Jeepney is.