MANILA - When Celson Baring Mok See drove his uncle to Polangui, Albay early Sunday morning, he did not expect that he will come face-to-face with what is considered as the year's strongest typhoon.
Trapped inside a shopping mall in Albay for at least five hours, he witnessed how super typhoon Rolly (international name Goni) wreaked havoc, with violent winds tearing down everything around their small refuge.
"Talagang nakakatakot... nakakatakot talaga... Kasi 'yung hangin may kulay na itim. 'Yung hangin hindi ko alam kung saan nanggagaling 'yung kulay na itim, para siyang usok na pumasok pero hangin sya. Pero may kasamang tubig, tapos sabay nun 'yung mga natanggal na kisame na parte ng mall," Celson said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
(It was scary... it was really scary. The wind appears to be color black. I did not know where the color black was coming from but it was like a smoke. Then water came in along with parts of the mall's ceiling.)
He admitted that he was a bit hesitant to travel from Manila to Albay due to the approaching typhoon. But he said his uncle thought he can still travel back in time.
Based on state weather bureau PAGASA's forecast, Rolly would make landfall between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. in Catanduanes, about 142 kilometers away from Polangui.
But when Celson dropped his uncle at around 5 a.m., strong winds and rain already started to strike. Little did he know that the typhoon already hit the municipality of Bato in Catanduanes around that time.
"Malakas na 'yung hangin tsaka 'yung ulan, so sabi ko baka bumaha at magbagsakan 'yung puno dun sa pinuwestuhan ko. Sabi ko hanap ako ng mas safe na area. Naalala ko meron palang mall dito sa katabing pinagparadahan ko. Sabi ko dun ako, mas safe ako," he said.
(The wind and rain were getting stronger, so I thought it flood might rise soon and trees might start falling from where I was staying. I said I need to look for a safer area. Then I remember the nearby mall where I was parked. I thought I'd be safer in there.)
After securing his car in the mall's elevated parking, he was approached by a security guard and told him to go inside the mall to take refuge. Along with other stranded individuals, they hid in a still unfinished stall to wait out the storm.
"Nung nandun na ko sa mall, 'yung kasagsagan naman ng bagyo. Mga 6, 7, 8 or 9 a.m., mga ganyang oras tuloy-tuloy, wala siyang patid 'yung buhos ng ulan tsaka 'yung hangin tuloy-tuloy, galit na galit 'yung hangin," Celson said.
(When I was inside the mall, that was the height of the storm's wrath. That was around 6, 7, 8, 9 a.m. It felt like a never ending pouncing of wind and rain. The wind felt turned violent.)
It was 7:20 a.m. when the typhoon made a second landfall in Tiwi, Albay.
From where they were hiding, Celson witnessed how the mall's ceiling tore down and the glass door shattered, with debris flying around with the raging wind. That was when he thought to do a Facebook live since his relatives in Manila are worried, asking for his situation.
But the situation was getting worse. While their hiding place was mostly concrete, the front area was made of plywood. So at the prodding of another security guard, they transferred to a safer area.
When the worst was over, it was pure devastation that greeted them: stalls along with their products destroyed, steal beams and railings scattered around along with shattered glass and wood panels. The flood was at waist-level, according to Celson. In one his videos, he also showed electric posts lying in the middle of flooded roads.
As of writing, Celson is still stranded in Polangui. He said it still dangerous to drive back to Manila as some roads remain impassable. He also added that many people like him are stranded in the area and that food is scarce as stores remain closed.
"Sana po mapahatiran kami ng tulong dito. Marami pang stranded dito. Wala kaming mabilhan ng pagkain... Kanina meron dito 'yung amo ng tiyuhin ko naglabas ng isang kaldero ng lugaw. 'Yun na lang ang tanghalian namin. Tapos pinaghatihatian namin 'yung biskwit dito tsaka 'yung tubig," he said.
(I hope we'll get help soon. Many people here are stranded. We have nowhere to buy food. A while ago, my uncle's boss brought out a pot of porridge. That was our lunch. We were also given biscuits and water which we divided among ourselves.)
Rolly was packing maximum sustained winds of 225 kph when it first hit the country's landmass. So far, the typhoon left 10 people dead with more than 390,000 displaced.
After hitting Catanduanes and Albay, the typhoon also made landfall in San Narciso, Quezon and Lobo, Batangas before finally exiting landmass into the West Philippine Sea. Rolly is expected to leave the Philippine