Typhoon Odette — A Photo Series (Part 1)

On December 17, 2021 a strong typhoon swept across the Visayan Islands and Northern Mindanao, Philippines

Typhoon Rai, locally named Odette, quickly reached super typhoon status shortly after entering the Philippine Area of Responsibility

I am all too familiar of the impacts of a super typhoon; having lived in this band of islands that sees at least 12 tropical systems a year. Though sometimes we aren’t fully aware of the impacts a storm may bring until it is right over our heads

Typhoon victims receiving relief goods, and still managing to pose for the camera

I was in Manila when I got word of the storm days before it hit the Philippines, and was but a weak tropical system out in the Pacific. Forecasters said it had the potential to be very devastating.

My parents live in San Vicente, Malitbog, Southern Leyte — in direct path of Typhoon Odette, and was in constant communication with them, making sure they were prepared and stocked for the typhoon and days after it passed.

As Odette passed the Philippine Sea, it rapidly gained strength and moved up to super typhoon status. The Philippine Sea Effect

This family lost everything after coconut trees fell on their home

I lost communication with my parents at 3 in the afternoon on December 17. This silence and not knowing what had happened to them was reminiscent of another super typhoon that passed through these same strip of islands in 2013 — Yolanda.

This was once a seaside village that saw fishermen dock every morning.
San Vicente

On December 18, I packed whatever supply I had into the truck, readying myself to drive down into the wake of Odette. I also brought my gravel bike knowing that not all roads were passable. By all means necessary I was going to head down to Southern Leyte just to make sure my loved ones were safe.

Trees were scattered all across the highway. This made logistics, transportation, and access quite difficult for the first few days.

10am on December 18, I started making my way to Southern Leyte. The usual Tacloban-Abuyog-Agas Agas-Sogod Road was unpassable due to landslides. I had to take a longer route via Baybay-Bato-Bontoc Road which added 2–3 hours to my drive.

The roads were still chock full of fallen trees, electric poles, and other debris, making the trip slower than usual.

I had arrived at 3pm in Bontoc, 20 Kilometers away from our home, but was stopped by highway engineers because the roads leading up to San Vicente were still blocked.

It was time to ride the bike for the remaining kilometers

A typical scene. People cleaning up whatever belongings they have left.

I rode my bike through the darkness, through debris, and fallen trees, and toppled electrical poles. Several times slamming on the brakes because power lines were hanging low, probably severing my head had I not been cautious

At 8 in the evening on December 18, I finally arrived at our home.

“Ma? Pa?” My voice cracking as I shouted from the gate.

A flashlight turned on inside the house. It was mama. She couldnt recognize me from the darkness, but I said “Ma, Nick ini” (Ma this is Nick).

They were all safe.

Sand from the shoreline, 500m away. It was brought to this window frame by the strong winds
Mom in the dirty kitchen
Mom and Dad

Days prior to the storm making landfall, I had promised my parents that I will find a way to get to them no matter what. I said, “whether I drive, pedal, or walk my way to them, I will get to them no matter how long it took me.”

Learning from the events during Yolanda, we had learned to make preparations if a devastating typhoon swept past us. Knowing what to do after the storm was one such preparation.

This time we all agreed that they’ll stay put inside the house if it wasn’t too devastated. Then I’d come bring supplies to them by any means.

Oting and Ineng had their roof sheared off at the height of the storm. Ineng sustained a bruise on her cheek after their kitchen door swung violently open and hit her face.
Without any boats left, these fisherfolk catch fish along the shoreline

Everyone lost a piece of themselves on December 17. They lost their homes, their belongings, their livelihoods, and their hearts.

Writing this, it still brings me to tears knowing how much damage Odette has brought upon these humble towns and villages, and the people that live here.

I returned to Tacloban on December 20 after helping clear out some debris in the house. I made plans to return on Christmas Day to provide relief to those affected by this typhoon.

Odette Photo Series

If you wish to see my gravel ride during the aftermath of Odette, click here

Hope.

All images copyrighted by Nick Aguilos Studio. No images shall be used without permission from the author.

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Photographer / UI Designer

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Nick Aguilos

Nick Aguilos

Photographer / UI Designer

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