I have experienced many typhoons in my life but Odette of Dec 2021 was the first of its mega kind to hit Cebu. I was overseas when it hit my beloved Cebu (FYI -Carcar City, Cebu -where the MoNA is located was badly hit). Below is my brother’s personal experience with the fury of Odette (aka Typhoon Rai)
My First Supertyphoon Experience
I have experienced many strong typhoons in the past. and i was kinda relaxed as the typhoon got closer. in fact i even went out for a short bike ride at 5am of 16 Dec2021, knowing well from the multiple news feeds that Typhoon Odette was closing in. The storm tracker maps showed a path that passed right through the center of Cebu island. The day before as I was working with our staff Todio & Delfin, i even joked that the typhoon may pass right in front of the door of Todio’s house.
There was some light rain when i got back to the Nature Sanctuary around 730am, and my instinct led me to ask Delfin, if he would like to go home and be with his family when the typhoon would arrive later that evening. He was actually preparing to work his normal day, when i got to ask him. He realized it was the best thing to do, especially as it would be easier to return to his mountain village in Alcoy before it starts raining. He also said, that he could do some preparation for the typhoon by trimming some trees. When Todio arrived at 8am, I asked him the same thing, and he also decided to head back home and prepare for the typhoon.
And so i was left alone at the Sanctuary the whole day of 16 December 2021.
I started my preparations, by getting my emergency gear together: flashlights, chargers & cables, multi-tools, harness, ropes, life jacket, life buoy, food provisions, water, raincoat, spare clothes, and put them together in a waterproof bag.
By 2pm electricity was shut down. after my personal emergency items were ready, i went around to check, close windows, etc. by 6pm i was having my dinner.
I stayed in my upstairs room after dinner, and thought that i could see the typhoon pass while starying in my room, which had a roof made of semi-light materials: bamboo and onduline (asphalt-bitumen roofing)
By 8pm the winds started to whine. And i decided that it seemed the best thing to do was to move downstairs where the concrete ceiling would provide the best protection.
By 9pm the winds were getting stronger, and it sounded like a dozen jet liners hovered overhead while revving their engines to the full. Based on my past experience, i allowed the wind to pass through, instead of blocking it. so i kept the inside doors open so the wind could flow freely. I struggled to keep those doors open as they were banging about, until i fastened them in place with some tie-downs. But where there were no window panes, the typhoon wind blew fiercest at the GF residence. i soon had to take away the many decorative items that lined the window: printed metal boxes, art pieces, etc. later, since i could not do anything else, i went to my Mom’s room and just lay in bed. i was not really worried about my personal safety as i knew i was in a very safe place. but banging, cracking, smashing sounds just made me wonder exactly what was happening around. i noticed that water was slowly appearing on the floor of the room. but that did not seem a major issue.
By around 1030pm it was all quiet, and i decided to venture out to see what happened. and i was greatly surprised that the main door was now blocked by the branches of the huge acacia tree that had fallen down, with many branches blocking the main entrance. anyway i was able to get through the debris and proceeded to check the other areas. the biggest damage i saw was a mango tree that got uprooted and had fallen on the roof of the MoB.(newly transferred Museum of Bicycling) all that i could do was to shut off the main circuit breaker. The vehicles that were parked there seemed safe. with that i hurried back inside the Pavilion ground floor knowing that the tail end of the typhoon was arriving very soon. part of the pavilion roof had fallen and the gutter was sending water right in front of the main door. i had to quickly make a path for the rainwater to the pond, so that the water would not flow inside the residence.
By 11pm the tail end of the typhoon arrived. and with much greater fury than the head of typhoon Odette. i removed the lighter glass jars that lined the window ledge, thinking that the heavier ones could not be blown away. too bad, that i did not take them down as they were soon smashed onto the floor by Odette’s fury. I went back to my Mom’s room, only to find that the water on the floor was at least 1.5 inch, despite the fact that it really did not rain that much.
so i just lay in bed and waited for the typhoon to abate. by around 3am the strong winds were gone, but intermittent gusts of strong winds continued to blow. i just stayed in the room until around 5am, 17 December 2021, the day after, when i prepared to head out tho check the damage brought by the typhoon. My main goal was to shut down the main power entrance breaker, so that there was no risl that power could be resotred without having been able to check out our electrical systems.
I found it almost impossible to get to the main entrance breaker located near gate one, as the pathways were all blocked by fallen trees. i had to dodge, climb over, crawl under several tree branches, sometimes i had to walk through water filled swales. it was quite disorienting to move through that terrain, as i could barely recognize my usual markers. after around half an hour i was able to reach the breaker and turn it off. then i went out of the gate just to see what had happened outside. it was just daybreak. and i could see fallen trees lying on our access road, but also 2 or the 3 electrical posts that brought the power to our place. well my major effort to shut off the main entrance breaker turned out to be futile, as we would not be having power for quite sometime.
so i made my way back, but throught the back side of the our cimcumferential road. with much effort i reached the store rooms only to find out another tree had fallen and broken another part of the roof. and then to my great sadness, i saw all our 3 vehicles parked at the basketball court, pressed down by one mango tree that broke at the base of its trunk. i thought, i could have parked the vehicles elsewhere, but where? i would not know where i could be sure they were safe from the typhoon.
when i reached the pavilion, i finally saw that the typhoon had totally demolished the roof, and thrown about the furniture, turned down shelves and so on. it was a total disaster.
in retrospect, i realize that the typhoon was not properly identified as the SUPERTYPHOON that it really was. since i have experienced category 5 in the past, i would rate Odette as a Category 8. should that have been clear in our minds, our preparation would have been so different, and levelled up. we had the time, but we, including myself could not and did not prepare sufficiently for the kind of storm that was coming.
The extent of the damage it has caused everywhere, is proof of this underpreparedness.
953pm, 26 December 2021
Justice German Lee Jr. Nature Sanctuary
Bacsije, Barangay Ocaña, Carcar City
So many in Cebu were severely affected/impacted by Odette. Some organizations reached out to help those badly affected in our barangay in Ocaña and for their kindness and generosity our barangay folks are deeply grateful.
Damage to the Sanctuary:
1)Odette claimed so much plant life at the Sanctuary. What took many decades of planting and nurturing, Odette destroyed in a few hours. Priority now is clearing the fallen trees and rescuing the plant life that can still be rescued.
2)MONA (Museum of Naïve Art): Thankfully, the museum was spared, and other than some damaged prints and signages, the museum is still standing and in good shape.
3)MOB (Museum of Bicycling): Just recently relocated/transfered to the Sanctuary from ELICON (Ecological Living Conservation House), most of the items were tossed around by Odette and there was some considerable damage. A lot of work has to be done to bring it back. Yes, lots of hard work and patience. All the best with the restoration and revitalizing efforts to the MOB curator, Eddy Lee.