By Tara Yap
For Alma De Asis, it was her strong faith in God that made her survive Typhoon Ursula’s treacherous flash flood that hit a vast farmland in Batad town, Iloilo province on Christmas Day.
“I looked up to the heavens and said: ‘Lord, help me. Give me the strength to survive’. I told myself I will not give up,” recalled a teary-eyed Alma in Filipino.
Alma, 64, and a younger relative were the two survivors of the flood which quickly engulfed the De Asis ancestral house standing in the middle of a rice field of Pasayan village, where there was a wake for older brother Alberto.
Killed by Ursula’s flashflood were Alma’s nephew, Roel De Asis Sr., 40, and Roel Sr.’s three children: Rosa, 14; Roel Jr., 12; and Rhianna, 3.
Roel, who lived in another town, took his three children to Batad to pay respects to his departed father Alberto.
Also killed was 12-year-old Elgie De Asis, Alma’s niece who she considered as her own child, having taken care of the latter since a baby.
According to Alma, they evacuated the house, leaving Alberto’s casket, when the floodwater started rushing in past 2 a.m. She saw Roel Sr. and the three children wade through the floodwaters, but later lost sight of them.
Alma also recalled how she could not do anything to save Elgie, who was swept by the flood’s strong current and was yelling “Mama! Mama.”
“It was so dark. I couldn’t see her. But if there was light, [I knew I could rescue her]…I know how to swim even if I’m already an elderly person,” Alma said, crying.
Meanwhile, Alma was able to reach the nearby Madre de Cacao tree where she held on to a branch for almost three hours. She was rescued by relatives at daybreak.
“I told myself I will not let go and I will save myself. It was God who helped me,” added Alma.
Aside from Alma, 10-year-old relative Freddie Diel also survived Ursula’s flood. The boy was swept towards a separate tree, where he clung until he was rescued.
Many residents of Batad and neighboring Balasan town told Manila Bulletin how Ursula’s flood took them by surprise. They were warned of storm surges based on what happened in the area during November 2013’s super typhoon Yolanda. However, they did not anticipate that Ursula will create such havoc.
As of December 27, the Iloilo Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that Ursula killed 13 people and displaced more than 14,500 in the northern part of the province.
Meanwhile, the Western Visayas Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council recorded 19 casualties as of Friday while almost 22,000 people were displaced in Aklan, Antique, Capiz, and Iloilo provinces.