Surviving Typhoon Haiyan: “I Knew I Had to Hold On a Little More.”

Tacloban resident Vita Garrido shares her harrowing story of survival in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
Vita Garrido, 63, waiting at the airport Tacloban to be evacuated. Photo: ACF-Philippines, Daniel Burgui Iguzkiza

“All the houses that stood around mine were destroyed, but mine somehow stayed standing,” says Vita Landeline Garrido, a 63 year-old resident of Tacloban. 

Determined to stay alive

Despite the dangers of Typhoon Haiyan, Vita didn’t want to evacuate and leave her home. But flood waters were so high that they reached the second floor of her house. To escape the floods, Vita spent hours hanging onto a crucifix on her roof—only patience and an extraordinary determination kept her alive. She says:

“I’ve spent my entire life fighting, and I knew I had to withstand a little more.”

– Vita Landeline Garrido, 63, Typhoon Haiyan survivor, Tacloban

As she held onto the crucifix, she also held her passport, which is now wrinkled and weathered. It’s also well-used: Born in the Philippines, Vita lived in New York for 20 years, returning to her hometown of Tacloban to care for her elderly mother. She ended up remaining in her homeland, only to lose her family’s home in the floods. Vita is now taking refuge near the airport, with tens of thousands of other displaced people.

Reminders of home and hope

Besides her passport, Vita was able to grab one other thing from her home that she cherishes dearly: a medal from the 1987 New York Marathon. She keeps it in a small bag, along with more medals from other runs. To Vita, her medals are reminders of triumph over difficult circumstances—she started running marathons after she donated a kidney to her ailing sister.

“All I could save from my house are these medals. I have nothing else. This is all that I am.” She says this proudly, with a smile, even after such a tragic loss. Though she has lost everything but these medals, Vita is hopeful:

“I knew I had to hold on a little more, and all would be well.”

– Vita Landeline Garrido, 63, Typhoon Haiyan survivor, Tacloban

We are working in Vita’s hometown of Tacloban to make sure that hundreds of thousands of typhoon survivors receive the critical aid they need. With your support, Vita and others like her can begin to rebuild their lives.