Written By Cervin Pillejera Bariso, Writer, Operation Blessing Philippines

“We took shelter at the nearby school. I was not able to bring anything with me. At first, it’s the roofs that were flying. Suddenly, I saw the whole houses themselves being blown off by the strong wind. When the door of the classroom where we evacuated was destroyed, we felt the raindrops falling so hard on our skin and it hurt badly. In an instant, the water was up to our necks already,” narrates Artemia Gadoa, 45, a Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) survivor.

When you are faced with this kind of situation – braving the strongest typhoon to make landfall in history – what would you do and how would you react? For Artemia, she would continue to worship the Lord.

“Nanalangin nalang ako. Sabi ko ‘Lord, kapag tumaas pa ang tubig wala na kaming mapupuntahan. Kung kukunin Mo kami wala po kaming magagawa.’ Pero kahit pinanghihinaan na ako ng loob kumanta nalang ako ng Still. (I just prayed. I said ‘Lord, we cannot go anywhere if the water will continue to rise. If You will take us already, we can’t do anything.’ But even though I was losing courage I just sang the song Still),” grateful Artemia said.

The song Artemia was pertaining to is by Hillsong, with the lyrics “When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm. Father you are King over the flood, I will be still, know You are God,” and it gave her more hope. She needed to strengthen her heart for her family. She was left taking care of her children and grandchild amidst the harrowing winds and the forceful surge because her husband, Rolando, 56, was left to watch for their house.

To survive the surge, Artemia, carrying her then less-than-a-year-old grandchild, together with her children and other grandchildren swam to the school’s stage and took refuge there. For hours they struggled with the piercing rains and the hauling current of waters. When this long nightmare was over, Artemia could not help but praise God.

“Noong makita ko na ‘yung mga bubong ng mga kotse sabi ko, ‘Salamat, Lord! Salamat aking Ama! Talagang napakabuti mo’. (When I already saw the roof of the cars I said ‘Thank You, Lord! Thank You my Father! You are really good’),” continues Artemia.

However, the trials did not end after typhoon Yolanda left. The survivors were grateful but were also anxious of what lay ahead of them after the typhoon. Artemia and her family did not know where to start with wrecked homes, fallen trees, and dead bodies surrounding them. Without clothes to change into and beddings to sleep on that night, Artemia and her family slept drenched on wet books they laid out on the floor. They did not eat and there was no fire to keep them warm.

No one from the family including Artemia’s husband was killed. For her this was enough reason to give thanks and move forward. They maximized what was available while help was still on the way. They ate uncooked instant noodles; and when fire became available, they steamed even the spoiled rice and made junk food their viands. This was their situation until they had the chance to go back to their empty lot.

“Pagbalik namin, parang disyerto na. Kahit mga damo wala (When we went back to our house, it seemed like a desert. Even the grass was gone),” describes Artemia.

Typhoon Yolanda’s aftermath was very challenging for Artemia and her family yet they moved on. For months they lived in a makeshift house while her husband rented a pedicab for a living. This has been their situation and they persevered; though hurting, they are grateful.

Because of their faithfulness, the Gadoa family experienced breakthroughs. The church where they attend referred their family to Operation Blessing Philippines and they were seen to be deserving of blessings from the Lord. Aside from the new pedicab for her husband and the scholarship grant given to Artemia’s daughter in college, the family was also blessed with a house the Operation Blessing is building on its Community of Hope in Palanog, Tacloban.


“Maraming salamat talaga sa Operation Blessing dahil ginamit sila ng Panginoon. Alam ko na si Lord ang humipo sa puso nila. (I really thank Operation Blessing because God used them. I know it was  the Lord who touched their hearts.)” said Artemia.

Also, Artemia wants to say this to all of the donors of Operation Blessing: “Salamat po sa inyong tulong kahit hindi n’yo kami kilala. Malaking tulong talaga ang ibinibigay n’yo. Wala man po kaming maibigay na kapalit, mananalangin na lang po kami na lumago ang inyong mga negosyo. Sa prayer na lang po ako babawi. (Thank you for your help even though you do not know us. What you give is helping us a lot. We may not be able to repay you, but we pray that your businesses will grow. We will just give back through prayers.)”