Surviving stories of the inland Tsunami – Typhoon Sendong Iligan-Cagayan de Oro City


HeroAzkal dog Saves drowning girl – Strom Sendong  Iligan City

A pregnant dog and two other 'Azkals', a local name for stray dogs, have done their share in saving the lives of their masters during the rampaging floodwater that hit low lying villages in Mindanao, Southern Philippines

As Tropical Storm "Sendong" ravaged low lying areas near rivers and streams in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, a young girl credits her family's pregnant dog for saving her life amid rampaging floodwater that wiped out the entire village where they were settled.

As floodwater overflowed from the river, seven-year-old Jennylou and her family have decided to climb the rooftop of their house, thinking the rising floodwater will not reach them.

But their house collapsed as speeding floodwater mixed with cut logs and debris battered their house, sending the entire family floating in the ocean of debris.

While afloat, Jennylou noticed the family dog swimming right beside her and was repeatedly scratching her back as if trying to communicate with her.

The young girl finally understood what her dog wants—her pregnant dog was trying to help her. So she decided to cling and let the dog do the swimming.

While frantically swimming in the water full of debris, the dog eventually brought Jennylou to a safe place by delivering her to a big floating log where she held on for safety.

As she clung to the floating log, Jennylou saw the exhausted family dog gasping for air and struggling in the swirling floodwater. Moments later the dog disappeared, never to be seen again.

Later in the day, rescuers found Jennlou and other survivors from the sea and was later reunited with her family, who also survived the ordeal.

"I would have died if not for our dog," Jennylou said in the evacuation center where her family has been temporarily staying.

In another heartwarming story about the "man's best friend", another family was saved from the debris-filled floodwater after two 'Azkals" woke them up form their sleep while floodwater was rising at an unprecedented speed at the height of Tropical Storm Sendong.

Marrietta Ardiente said she was awaken by two dogs barking and scratching the door of her house. When she looked to find out what was the reason for the frantic dogs, she saw floodwater rising very fast.

With the help of the two dogs, Ardiente's family was able to evacuate to safer grounds before floodwater razed her family home.

As her family moved out from their home, they brought the two stray dogs to the evacuation center. The two dogs were the ones that saved their lives, Ardiente said.

Iligan City couple left with only one Mike Herald of 5 – Typhoon Sendong

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines—Out of so many lives lost on Bayug Island at the mouth of a river in this coastal heartland, a boy's exceptional tale of survival is the only thing left that gives inspiration to his folks in their time of sorrow.

Eight-year-old Mike Herald Dela Gracia, who barely stands over a meter tall and cannot swim, will always be, to his parents, "the boy who lived"— the only one among five siblings to survive the horrors of December 16 and the difficult hours that followed.

Helen and Arnaldo Dela Gracia, who sell "balut" (boiled duck egg with embryo) for a living, grieve over the deaths of Shein, 7, and Aldrein, 2, and the presumed deaths of Hana, 4, and Aldrein's twin Aljon, who have not been seen since they were engulfed by the swirling waters sent down by Tropical Storm Sendong on Friday night.

But every time they look at their eldest, Mike Herald, an active, playful Grade 3 pupil, they are encouraged in many ways, his mother Helen, 29, said.

"The burden lightens whenever we see him. He's the one who makes us go on," she said in a mix of Cebuano and Tagalog at a cemetery in Barangay Pala-o, where they watched, weeping, as Shein and Aldrein were laid to rest in a mass grave.

"He is our last child. He's the only one who lived," Helen said of Mike Herald.

What follows is an account of this schoolboy's extraordinary escape from death's door, as narrated to the Inquirer by his parents:

At 11 p.m., the children were already asleep, but a worried Helen watched the Mandulog River, only 30 meters away from their house in the settlement of Purok 7-IS, as the wind howled outside and rains lashed at their window.

Out selling balut in the streets of the mainland, her husband Arnaldo, 29, sensed that the weather might take a turn for the worse and hurried home to the island to warn his family.

At past midnight, the flood waters had seeped into their house, up to their ankles. "We were hearing people outside screaming 'Tabang! (Help!)' so we decided to evacuate because we were afraid the house would not be able to withstand the flood," Arnaldo recalled.

Arnaldo shepherded the children out, along with Helen's mother, 66-year-old Purificacion, but when they opened the door, onrushing waves met them.

Arms linked together, they sought refuge at a relative's two-story house with concrete foundations and wooden walls. As the water rose quickly, they, along with neighbors, climbed the roof and hung on to each other, the children distributed among the adults.

They thought the flood water would not be strong enough to knock over the house, but just then, another house being carried by the current plowed into them, splitting the house and scattering those perched on its rooftop in different directions.

"I just hung on. I got snarled by a coconut tree and I hugged the trunk," Helen said. She recalled how horrified she had been when she saw a log rolling into Hana. The other children, except Mike Herald, had been thrown out of sight.

From his vantage point, Arnaldo, who had found a precarious foothold on another tree, said he could see Mike Herald as he was being dragged forward by the muddy waves.

The boy, he said, had grabbed a clump of weeds to stop getting tossed by the water. But his shirt got tangled up with the branch of a huge ipil-ipil tree.

Arnaldo said he had watched in horror as the tree started rolling until the boy fell out of view.

Helen and Arnaldo were eventually reunited several meters away from their house. As they looked around at the flattened plain of brown that used to be their village, they guessed the terrible fates of their children, as well as Purificacion, who has not been found. They were prepared for the worst.

"We thought they had all died," Helen said, her voice breaking.

Then Helen heard a familiar young voice calling out from a tree that was lodged into another some distance away.

"Ma, kuhaa ko.  gutom na ko" (Mama, get me. I am hungry), the boy had demanded. The muddy water below had not yet subsided and he could not get down.

Arnaldo swam to the tree and towed him to shore. Helen rushed to Mike Herald and gave him a good hug. "We were so relieved that one of them is still alive," Helen said.

But their joy was short-lived. They soon found Shein and Aldrein at a funeral parlor, one of several they visited in this city of 300,000 populations.

The two other children and Helen's mother are still missing, among the more than 400 unaccounted for in the city, according to Mayor Lawrence Cruz. The death toll in Iligan City, as of Tuesday, had reached just below 300, he said.

"The other children could not have survived. They are four- and two-year-old, what hope could they have?" Helen said.

Mike Herald, a scrawny youth with a direct gaze and dreams of becoming a soldier, never learned to swim, nor did his mother and siblings.

Asked how he had been able to pull through, Helen said it was probably his steely determination to live. "He just never let go from that tree," she said.

The Dela Gracias originally lived in Zamboanga del Sur, western part of the island of Mindanao with a distance of about 8 hours travel by car but the birth of twins two years ago forced them to move in with relatives on the island to be better able to make ends meet.

At the moment, they are staying at an evacuation center in Barangay Sta. Filomena with no plans of ever returning to Bayug Island, whose population of more than 300 people is believed to have been drastically reduced after the storm.

"I doubt if you'll find a family there who did not lose anyone," Helen said, relating stories they heard of entire families who perished together on another part of the island. "Nothing is left on Bayug," she said.

These two moving and heartwarming dog stories could be just a few of the many life-saving tales involving dogs who also fought with for their own lives during the flash floods devastation in Southern Philippines.

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