Intro text by Maria Golda Hilario
Story as narrated by Waquin Corregidor
Editor’s Note: The transcript features an interview conducted by ICSC’s RE-Charge Pilipinas team with Waquin Corregidor, an emergency responder from Palo, Leyte, narrating his story from 8 years ago when super typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) hit their hometown.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on bicycles as the ever reliable mode of transportation of our heroes – frontliners and essential workers, when the country’s public transportation system got suspended. Yet, unsung heroes were already quietly saving lives eight years ago in the immediate aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan, when local government operations in Tacloban City, Palo and other hard hit cities and towns in Eastern Visayas were paralyzed in the wake of Haiyan’s devastation. Waquin Corregidor, using his pedicab in search of his missing father, worked with his team to recover 200 out of the 477 bodies retrieved from the rubble and debris of San Joaquin.
Today, Waquin shares his story. The pain remains. Missing loved ones, unearthing lifeless bodies, have left emotional scars on Waquin — haunting reminders of lives lost, closure still elusive to bereaved families and a father he finally found after months of search with the help of young scavengers.
Waquin continues to use his bicycle today. Innate humility prevents him from acknowledging his role in helping his city heal – acts he considers any citizen would have done in his place. Today, Waquin and his bicycle continue to ferry people and goods as a bakery worker and pedicab driver, always ready to help people in emergency situations as a volunteer responder in the San Joaquin Rescue Team.
“Ako si Waquin Corrigedor, nakatira sa Barangay San Joaquin, Palo, Leyte. Matapos dumaan ang bagyong Yolanda sa amin, tumulong akong maghanap ng mga biktima at nasawi kasi isa rin ako sa mga nawalan. Isang buwan ang nakalipas, hindi pa rin nakita ang aking tatay.
Gamit ang aking pedicab, itinuloy ko ang paghahanap. Nagkahiwa-hiwalay kami ng pamilya ko noong panahon na ito, sila nanay ay nasa bayan ng Hilongos at nasa Maynila naman ang iba kong mga kapatid. Isinakripisyo namin ng isa kong kapatid ang aming panahon na makasama sila upang ipagpatuloy ang paghahanap kay tatay. Dalawang araw akong hindi kumain, hindi ako ginaganahan hangga’t hindi ko siya nakikita.
Hindi kami tumigil, marami man akong nakitang bangkay na hindi ko kilala, hindi ako sumuko. Sa prosesong ito, nakatulong pa ako sa ibang mga pamilya. Wala akong hininging kapalit, sapat nang nakatulong ako sa kanila dahil alam ko ang kanilang nararamdaman, pare-pareho kaming nawalan dahil sa trahedyang ito. Wala akong sinayang na araw, bawat katawan na mahanap ko, bawat pamilya na natutulungan ko, yun ang pinagkukunan ko ng pag-asa na mahahanap ko siya.
Kung hindi dahil sa mga kabataang nangangalakal na nakakita ng kanyang mga personal na gamit, hindi ko mahahanap si tatay. Isang araw, sa patuloy naming paghahanap, may mga batang nagsabi na pumunta sa compound sa harap ng simbahan, sa may poste, sa ilalim ng mataas na bundok ng basura. Nagpaalam kami sa may-ari ng lote kung pwede kaming magkalkal dito. Doon namin nakita ang kanyang pitaka at relo. Nahanap ko na si tatay sa wakas.
Dahil sa karanasang ito, natutunan kong maging malakas tuwing may mga sakuna. Ito rin ang maipapayo ko sa mga tao, huwag kayong manghina. Hindi natin ito hiningi na mangyari, ngunit manalig lang tayo sa Diyos. Hanggang ngayon, itinutuloy ko pa rin ang pagtulong sa komunidad tuwing may sakuna o may aksidente. Kung may nanghihingi, hangga’t mayroon ako ay magbibigay ako.”
(English translation below)
“I am Waquin Corregidor, and I live in Barangay San Joaquin in Palo, Leyte. After typhoon Yolanda (super typhoon Haiyan) passed through our place, I helped in the search operations for victims and casualties because I also lost someone due to this tragedy. After a month my father remained missing.
Using my pedicab, I continued the search. My family and I got separated at this time. My mom was staying in the town of Hilongos while some of my siblings were in Manila. My brother sacrificed our time to be with them to continue looking for our father. Time passed and we still did not find him, I lost my appetite and did not eat for two days.
We did not stop, even when I found bodies of people I did not know. I did not give up. I even got to help families in the process. I did not ask for anything in return, being able to help these families is enough because I understand what they are feeling. We all lost people we love in the onslaught of typhoon Haiyan. I did not waste time, every person we found, every family we helped, I found hope that I will be able to see him soon.
If not for the help of young scavengers in the streets who found his personal belongings, I would not be able to find my father. One day, as we continued with our search, children came to us saying that we should go to the residential compound in front of the church, by the light post, under the pile of garbage/waste. We asked the owner of the lot if we could go through the pile. There, we saw his wallet and his watch. I found my father at last.
This experience taught me to be strong, especially in times of crises. This is also my advice to the people. Do not lose hope. We did not wish for this to happen, but let us continue to have faith. Until now, I continue to respond to the community whenever there are disasters or accidents. If there are people in need, I will do my best to help.”