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Beer ‘saves’ 6 while clinging to a tree at height of storm

Tacloban City — As the local popular song goes, sa langit wala ang beer (there’s no beer in heaven).

So when six residents of Barangay 39 here–whose lives depended on how hard and how long they could cling to a germilina tree last Nov. 8 amid the howling winds and smashing storm surge brought by super-typhoon “Yolanda”– chanced upon a floating refrigerator loaded with bottles of Red Horse beer, the temptation to drink was too irresistible, with all of them thinking that it could be their last drink.

“Pakosog hin dughan, para mawara han kolba (to make me feel strong, to take away fear),” said 30-year-old Ismael Labuncay when asked what made them engage in a drinking session in the midst of their five-hour ordeal on that fateful day.

Labuncay had everything to be afraid of. The strong winds packed by “Yolanda” caused the tree and its branches to sway hard while the storm surge and large debris shook them even harder.

There was also the danger on flying debris. In fact, an iron sheet hit and pierced one of the tree branches, an indication that the flying debris could kill them in an instant.

Two days before “Yolanda” struck this city, Labuncay’s family was already safe in the evacuation center at the Rizal Central School as they heeded the call of their barangay officials to at least put the women and children in a safer place.

He said he decided to stay to guard the house, confident that his concrete house would stand the strong winds of the storm.

“Yolanda” came at 5 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 8, exactly while he was having coffee near his house along with other fathers who chose not to leave their houses.

As the strong winds were buffeting his house, a storm surge rose as high as a three-story building.

Labuncay said he survived the first salvo of the storm surges and managed to run and seek refuge in a nearby germilina tree.

“I was there first. Then some of my neighbors begin to follow as they called them to join me because they were already being carried away by the flood,” said Labuncay in the local dialect.

Labuncay said complains of tiredness and wounds from debris were all he could hear of until a floating refrigerator got stuck up near the tree.

It changed the mood of their conversation, Labuncay said, especially when Rachel Ramirez, who was the only girl and was at the bottom, began to inquire of its content using her feet.

A few minutes later, all six of them started a drinking session, in between winds and storm surge breaks.

Labuncay said the kick they got from drinking beer was just enough to take away the cold and take away their fear.

Kiss And Make Up

For months before “Yolanda,” cousins Reynaldo Ramirez, Sr., 49, and Francisco Abarca, 63, were not on speaking terms over an intense quarrel over a girl.

Their neighbors staying in the evacuation told the Manila Bulletin that it all started when Abarca dated Ramirez”s girlfriend who works in a night club.

But fate then brought the two in the germilina tree.

And in the face of death and over a few bottles of beer, the two decided to bury the hatchet– but not before speaking out the enmity they felt against each other.

Seventh Survivor

In the middle of their drinking spree, Gerald Ramirez and Wency (the only gay in the group, spotted their two young neighbors floating—six-year-old Tan-Tan Badoy and his four-year brother Jumong.

Rachel said she was the one who tried to helped the two to cling on the tree, but in the process, Jumong was hit by a debris and was carried away.

It was when the happy conversation ended, as all of them watched helplessly as the boy was carried away by the sea.

Like A Tsunami

Sifting through what’s left of his house, 30-year-old Roldolfo Yu narrated that it was the first time he saw the winds pulling the seawater away from the shoreline.

“I saw the sea water receded for almost a kilometer. I believe that it was because of the strong wind,” said Yu in Tagalog.

It’s only a matter of seconds after the sea water receded that he personally saw a giant wave approaching towards his direction, forcing him to run away.

“The waves came by batches. After the waves hit the houses, the water returned back from the sea and later would swept away more houses again,” said Yu.

As of latest count yesterday, a total of 3,725 people were confirmed dead across Eastern Visayas with 1,567 still missing.

More than 1,200 cadavers have already been retrieved in just span of two days starting Friday, either floating in the sea or under the rubbles.

Nearly 40,000 houses were either totally or partially destroyed, with all the debris still piled up alongside the road.


  • Hotaru

    Parang pwedeng gawing commercial hihi

  • reynald

    nice story, nice angle

  • Marrian Ching

    While this article is a cause for good vibes, I would just like to point out what seems to be a lapse in editing this story.

    A number of friends and I feel that the part describing Wency as “the only gay in the group” is unnecessary and not value adding. We hope that you and/or your publication will consider editing this part to make it more gender sensitive.

    Salamat, at mabuhay po kayo.

    • Grim Panda Slayer

      Gender sensitive? If you haven’t noticed, they’ve also mentioned that a Rachel was the only girl in that same group. Ergo, everyone else was a guy except for those two. Most people will take it as it is – that Red Horse is a tempting choice mostly for men, but also for some women and gays. It respects the fact that a certain number of gay people also drink the beer. It adds value to the article because of that. Gagawa ka pa ng isyu eh.

      • churva

        tomoh…trying to scrutinize even the most trivial matter in a story just to be noticed …haiiiist nako talaga ang pinoy….ihaw na ate!!!

      • LL

        Um… last time I checked, a gay guy was still a guy. -_- Di ba lalaki si Anderson Cooper? I agree wholeheartedly with Marrian Ching. (Plus, IMO, she said it really nicely, so the whole ‘gagawa ka pa ng isyu eh’ was really uncalled for.)

        Please educate yourself about the difference between homosexuality, transsexuality, queerness, etc., as well as sex and gender. K Thanks.

  • Robert

    ganda maging pelikula ito

  • JD Cruz

    Thanks to RED HORSE…now his kicks saved lives!!!! Excellent Publicity indeed! EXCEPTIONAL!

  • onith marcaida

    ang galing naman….

  • Yanong_OFW

    sana hindi nyo nilagay totoong pangalan nyo..sisingilin kayo ng may-ari ng refrigerator na tinangay galing sa tindahan nya..

    • churva

      lagot !!!

  • Adrian Xandler

    As the saying goes… “RED HORSE, ito ang tama.”

  • Americanblood1

    To share not only a single tree that gave these 7 people a chance at a future life but to then have a refrigerator float by and get stuck by the same tree and it ended up providing them all with the beer that gave them courage to hold on for what must have seemed like an eternity. What a chain of events in such a sea of death and destruction.
    In the end I myself would be calling that tree, the “Tree of life” at least for these 7 people.

    I hope these people if not all the Philippine people keep what they have witnessed throughout this horrible event and use it as a lesson on how precocious life really is, in an instant any of us can lose our lives, we only get one chance to be who we are, hopefully we all use it to share in good ways everything life has for all of us.
    Blessing to all those affected by all of this.I Wish I could come there to help you all rebuild your lives..