Surviving Odette and ending an Azkals streak

(I always thought that I’d end 2021 with a post about the Myanmar-Azkals game. Then Odette came. Here’s my story)

Since the 2004 Tiger Cup, I’ve never missed a Philippines game in Southeast Asia’s biggest football tournament that was available for me to watch. I saw all the games in 2004, the first win against Timor Leste, the what-could-have-been against Thailand when we had the early lead, Michael Casas’ penalty save against Malaysia.

The next one was in 2007 and what a disappointment it was, especially since it came after an impressive qualifiers at home where we beat Timor Leste, 7-0. Phil Younghusband, who scored four against Timor Leste, missed out since he was fighting to keep his spot in the Chelsea reserves. We lost the first two games against Thailand and Malaysia, 4-0. We lost the captain Aly Borromeo to an injury in the first game and a goal against us, an impressive bicycle kick by Malaysia even made it to CNN’s Play of the Day.

NOT A WELCOME SIGHT. Acacia trees stripped of their leaves and branches greet residents of Moalboal in the morning after Odette hit the tourist town.

It was that forgettable. Then came our final group match, against Myanmar. It wasn’t aired on TV but I followed it online in one of those websites where you only see the minute and the score. Halftime came and it wsa still 0-0. Those guys must be getting crazy. A win by Myanmar would have seen them through the semis and by god, before the match, everyone has written off the Azkals.

Sixty, 70 and 80 minutes went, it was still 0-0. Then, the website said FT:0-0. I jumped. Man, to be there and to have witnessed that match must have been something. Heck the writer of must have gone through his Thesaurus in finding platitudes for the Azkals. Years later, I asked Cedelf Tupas, the lone Pinoy reporter who was there on the match what it felt like. Cedelf couldn’t find the words.

We were down and out so I was looking forward for the Dec. 18 farewell of the Azkals against Myanmar.

And that pretty much shows how we underestimated Odette crashing the party on Dec. 16. We knew it was going to be a Super Typhoon but somehow, the thought that it would be very devastating never crossed our mind. Heck, in one of our group chats, we were talking about resuming our tennis tournament on Dec. 17, should the weather permit it.

SPLIT VIEW. The facade of the old parish church is visible through a split tree.

While I shared screenshots of weather apps predictions of 154 KPH winds, to be honest, I had no idea how powerful 154 KPH wins could be. (It was about a week later that I learned windspeed went as high as 240 KPH) So we went on like normal, walking past trees and electric posts and that would soon fall. One Barangay captain in our tourist town of Moalboal, Poblacion West, had the right idea when he had some trees pruned.

Though they’re the only major player left, clearly GMA is nowhere to ABS-CBN when it comes weather reporting. Kapuso couldn’t fill Kapamilya’s shoes, hence the lack of information.

The night came and while we read online of how the winds were getting strong in Metro Cebu, it was relatively calm in our town, so we went on discussing nonsense in group chats, while I kept thinking back to an earlier post, would Sandro Reyes make his debut against Myanmar.

My first inkling that Odette would be no ordinary storm was a warning from my brother in Lapu-Lapu City, that the winds were really strong. Still, I was a bit skeptical. I lived through Yolanda and that was one powerful storm.

BENT. The flag pole in front of the Moalboal Municipal Hall sports a new shape post Odette.

At 9 p.m. I learned how wrong I was. Yolanda in Cebu City in 2013, though it toppled trees and all, wasn’t as strong as the Yolanda that hit Tacloban. It was certainly nowhere as strong as Odette in 2021.

Ten minutes into the storm, a tree fell on our roof and I learned the true definition of a howling wind. As suggested by my father, I moved the car into a covered area of the house, and minutes after, the spot where I usually parked it was covered with branches.

It went on for three hours. Then a lull. I know what the lull was about and I was surprised. There was no mention of the center of the typhoon hitting our town. We went out, defying advisories, and checked the damage. After 30 minutes or so, the winds came back, this time coming from the opposite direction. If the first three hours was the Juventus Ronaldo the next three hours was the Prime Ronaldo combined with the Prime Messi.

CLEARING OPS. Cops start clearing the main highways in the morning after Odette hit.

I heard a banshee and for the first time, I understood why the ancient people associate a wailing woman as the spirit of the wind. Boy did I hear her wail.

“Who’s that, my daughter asked?”

“Just sleep,” I told her.

Luckily she did. But I didn’t until 4 or was it 5, as there were still remnants of the banshee.
When morning came and I checked the damage, I thought we’d be lucky if life returns to normal in a month.

OFF ROAD. The highway in Ronda in the afternoon of Dec. 17. This was cleared 24 hours later.

“We’ll have to do this ourselves and clear our roads bai,” Chuck, a tennis buddy, told me in Cebuano as he ducked down fallen trees and electric posts.

An hour later, I went out and checked the rest of the town. I’ve never been to warzone but I thought our town resembled one. A few cops, with bolos on hand, tried to clear the road, while not a few residents, with cellphones on hand, recorded the damage.

I also saw Vice-Mayor Titing Cabaron early on Friday morning and not a few made a beeline for him.

SAND OF A BEACH. The beachfront in Panagsama on Jan 3, 2022, more than two weeks after Odette hit.

“Go list your name in DSWD,” he told a couple asking for help in Cebuano.

“We’ll clear the highway first, last priority will be the houses,” he told another.

Atter 12, the highway was cleared and I decided to hunt for a cellphone signal. The next town wasn’t and resembled an off road; in one stretch where you have to snake past fallen trees and post, you couldn’t see the paved road. Two towns after I got to Dumanjug, where Javier Patino traces his Filipino roots, and still had no luck finding a signal.

I thought, I’d try Cebu City tomorrow, maybe they’re doing better. What I thought was a brilliant plan, turned out to be an own goal.

(To be continued)

Mike T. Limpag
Mike T. Limpag

Mike T. Limpag has covered the Cebu sports scene for over 20 years, starting as an 18-year-old cub reporter for the Freeman in 1997 before moving to SunStar Cebu in 2001.

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