My sleeping habits have gone back to normal, although my eye bags are still pretty dark and big. I finally went back to our home church last Sunday (3 Aug 2014), and most importantly, I finally get to spend a lot of time with my wife and our son Malcolm.

Yup, the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly is finally over. I still wonder how we were able to pull through the logistical nightmare that it became, thanks to category 3 typhoon Glenda (international name: Rammasum).

We kept telling people that Tagaytay was safe, it’s hardly visited by typhoons, it’s pretty hilly and high and there was nothing to worry about.

In fact, in the afternoon of July 15, I was back in Manila to deal with several matters–finances and transportation. By 2 pm, it rained hard. But after less than an hour, the clouds parted and some sunlight escaped the clouds.

Manila was supposed to be under signal no. 2.

I thought: “This is signal no. 2? Nothing to worry.”

Boy was I wrong!

That evening, while we were at CCT Tagaytay and Retreat Center, we happily welcomed the delegate who started arriving. Our Hospitality team, headed by Nissan Escusa did a great job ensuring that they had transportation directly from the airport to Tagaytay.

Everything went well up to midnight. Beyond that, we were still expecting one bus, and 5 vans to bring close to a hundred delegates–most of them from the United States.

And then, by about 2:00 in the morning, typhoon Glenda unleashed its fury over Tagaytay. I thought, it will go away in just a matter of an hour or two. I was wrong.

The howling, destructive winds, stayed with us for close to eight hours, with about an hour and a half calm in between when the eye passed us by.

Safety (of the delegates) first

As the host team, we had to ensure that the delegates were safe from the storm. So when reports of a broken, shattered window started coming in, we decided to move from building to building to rouse people from their sleep and ask them to go to the common meeting spaces between the buildings.

We had a Security Team composed of thirteen (13) people. At first I thought that was a little too many. But I was thankful that they were there to help us secure the safety of the delegates. Shoutout to the head of our Security Team: Engr. Ramil de Vera, former national president of the United Methodist Young Adults Fellowship in the Philippines.

By 1:30 in the morning, I decided to wake up Mike Ratliff, the YPM Associate General Secretary because we were worried that the strong is stronger than we anticipated.

Both the Filipino volunteers and some members of the planning team, started going from one building to another to ensure the safety of the delegates.

By about 3:00, it started to become really dangerous. Some plastic roofs of the covered walkway started flying. The wind flung a lot of debris in between the buildings. The 150 – 190 kph-strong could easily blow people away. One of our volunteers, Lemuel Jan Rosano, was very thin, we joked that the wind could blow him away. Although it was a joke, we told him to stay put.

But our volunteers had jobs to do.

We asked those who arrived by 2:00 in the morning to go directly to the Isaiah Hall–the main session hall of the Retreat Center. The volunteers, then, moved from one building to another. We woke up sleeping delegates and asked them to move to the meeting spaces.

I was stuck at the Jacob and Daniel Hall with Ramil, and Nicholo. I had to check on some rooms just to make sure people were safe. I came across the room of two of our Young People’s Ministries room–Rori, Chris, and they were rooming with Collins, a member of the planning team.

I saw their laptops in the room, picked them up as quickly as I could, then placed them in the cabinet in the room. Did I mention that their window was shattered by this time? I would have secured Collins’ luggage, but I saw a big shard of glass near my ankles. I decided to go.

We wanted to go out, but we just couldn’t. By this time, some roofs were blown off. The debris in between the buildings were just flying here and there.

Thankfully, the delegates were calm and prayed. For a lot of them, this was probably the first time they experienced such a furious storm.

What a way to welcome them.

Just to give you a perspective of the typhoon’s strength, check out the photo below, courtesy of http://mattdamethodist.com/

CCTdamage

Filipino Hospitality

I grew up in Isabela, a province in the North of the Philippines that used to be in the path of storms. This path has changed over the past couple of years. Typhoons now pass through central and southern Philippines.

The morning after, I worried about food. Usually, in the aftermath of storms, food prices go up. In worst case scenarios, there’s a shortage of food and basic needs.

Thankfully, though, CCT came through for us. They served a good breakfast and even provided lunch for us. Even though the houses of the CCT retreat center were also damaged, they decided to serve us first.

Thank God we managed to secure a new venue by lunch time. By the evening, we transferred our delegates from CCT Tagaytay and Retreat Center to Island Cove Hotel and Leisure Park.

So, we planned for the GYPCLA at CCT Tagaytay Retreat and Training Center for three years. GYPCLA at Island Cove? We had to do it in, like, three hours!

But thank God, we had a venue, and not long after, we had the buses and the vans to move our delegates.