A Filipina mother’s story of birth and survival in a cave during Typhoon Haiyan


Author: Thin Lei Win

MARABUT, Philippines, Nov 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Elizabeth Caramol was nine months pregnant with her ninth child last November when Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm on record to hit land, swept away her family’s rickety home on a coconut farm in the Philippines.

Haiyan damaged practically everything in its path as it hit land on Nov. 8, packing winds of up to 315 km an hour (195 miles an hour) and unleashing seven-metre (23-foot) storm surges. It killed, or left missing, some 7,000 people and forced up to 4 million from their homes in the central Philippines.

Caramol and her family took refuge in one of the many caves along the beautiful, winding coastline in Marabut municipality in Samar province. She feared for her life but safely sheltered, delivered a healthy boy and named him Cavein – pronounced “Kevin”.

A year later, Caramol, now 36, spoke to Thomson Reuters Foundation from her home, a newly rebuilt wooden house on stilts, about how her family is slow rebuilding their lives.

“A day before the storm, we evacuated to a cave about 200 metres from our home. It was a big cave with two levels. About 60 families took refuge there, but we stayed there until Dec. 4. We were the last to leave because we didn’t have anywhere else to stay.

“We went to the cave because we were told a strong storm was coming and there could be sea level rise from the water. Here, the water was halfway up the coconut trees and even came inside the cave.

“Many people moved up to the second floor when the water started coming in, but I had to stay on the first floor. I was due to give birth on Nov. 8, and I was starting to experience labour pains. They hurt so much I could not move.

“I thought I was going to die. I told Napoleon, my husband, to take all the kids to the second floor and leave me there. The water rose to around one foot and then it went down the next day.

“I didn’t want the baby to come out because the conditions in the cave were not good. We brought rice, water, salt and matches, but we ran out of water and matches pretty quickly. There was no other means to get water. We just had a container to collect water that dropped from the trees. There were no toilets either.

“I had labour pains for five days. When I finally gave birth on Nov. 12, I was so excited but I also had fear in my heart because of the hygiene conditions and the infections that could set in.

“Our home was washed away so we had nothing for the baby, not even clothes. We cut some blankets into pieces of cloth to wrap the baby. We named him Cavein Cuevas Caramol, because he was born in a cave.

“For five days, we ate nothing but rice and salt. I just breastfed the baby, like how I raised my other kids. I was worried that he is not going to be healthy but he is.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Thu, 6 Nov 2014 07:49 GMT


4 thoughts on “A Filipina mother’s story of birth and survival in a cave during Typhoon Haiyan”

  1. An exciting story. I will never have such experience as I’m a man but I understand the happiness and pain of women. This story has made me think a lot.From today I will respect my mother double times.


  2. Thank you very much for your sharing. So we both have younger sons name “Christopher”? Lovely. I agree, the name of the baby boy is the right one. In Papua New Guinea, women have children in very hard places and even in natural disasters. I was moved by the story too. Glad your Chris was ok.


  3. This is a lovely story of at least one miracle in the midst of so much human tragedy. The Philippines experiences so many natural hazards and I can only marvel at how the people cope with them all. Thank you so much for sharing this. My youngest son, Christopher, was in Manila when this horrendous storm struck. He’d been working there for almost two years, and is home now. The storm didn’t hit Manila, but he’s told us all about how it struck relentlessly elsewhere. The name Elizabeth gave to her new baby is so very appropriate, I think.


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