Tag Archives: being a mother

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


Thank You Kind Stranger

“I was on the seat in the back. I felt the bus moving away. I saw  everybody, even Nathan on the ground as the bus went. When I turned around, no-one from my school was in the bus with me”. I remember my son’s words even to this day.

Chris Harris, five, was left in the public bus after the bus dropped off his brother (8), the staff and other children from Chapel Hill State School/After School Care.

Tomorrow, Chris will turn 16. Thanks to you, the Good Samaritan/ a stranger who helped Chris, find his way home.

It was in September 2004 in Brisbane City. We had migrated to Brisbane on July 13, 2004. As we were approaching Christmas, it would had been almost a year since the disappearance of Queensland boy Daniel James Morcombe and there was wide-spread publicity about him being missing. I was going through a difficult time, trying to settle into a new country without my extended family and my mother’s help with my sons.

The boys started school straight away and enjoyed it. They did better than I. In September, I was at work in Milton, near the city, and placed both boys at their school’s Holiday Care. A paid service run by the school. On that day, a trip to Southbank was organised so the children would be taken to the city to watch a movie. I understood at that time, there were three carers and 25 children. When the bus got to Southbank, a large amusement and entertainment park area, everyone got off the bus except for Chris. Chris is a very tall boy, even at age five. As a parent and an adult, I never understood how a responsible carer or teacher could not have done a head count of young children transported from one place to another. How did they not see Chris? None of the carers knew Chris was missing until they sat for the movie. His brother Nathan had started looking for him.

For Chris, after the initial shock of finding himself in the public bus all alone, and driven away, he said he searched in the faces of members of the public to “see who was nice”.  Chris found a certain young man, he thought, “looked like” his uncle Kauc. Uncle Kauc is my brother. The bus stopped at the terminal in Myers Centre, Brisbane City. Apparently, Chris walked up to the stranger (that looked like my brother) and said; “excuse me, please help me. I am lost. My brother and other kids went off the bus as Southbank, it’s all my fault, I didn’t get off”.

According to Chris, the stranger said “Ok” and asked Chris to follow him. They walked out of the bus and through the crowds in the shopping centre, straight to the police station.

I asked Chris later if the man touched him and Chris said “No mum. He did not want to hold my hand. He told me to follow him”.

At the police station, Chris gave the police my name, number and address. Chris had memorised it, and police also found the contact details I wrote on Chris’ hat and bag. A call to the school and within a few hours, the Brisbane police brought my son back to Southbank to re-unite with his brother and the rest of the group. No-one called me.

After work that afternoon I walked to the school from the bus stop to pick up my sons. One of the carers came out to see me and told me about what had happened. Before she even finished the story I demanded to know where my children were. I called Chris over, checked his body, asked if he was Ok. When he said he was, I picked him up and hugged him and got his brother. I lifted Chris onto my shoulders and held Nathan’s hand as we walked home. I refused to speak with the carers or anyone before we left the school. I was outraged and terrified of what might have happened. I just wanted to get home. I wanted to just be with my sons. I walked and I wailed like a true Papua New Guinean woman for the five kilometres home. I remember people in our suburb coming out of their houses to see what was going on and just stared.

The next day I resigned from my job. I was afraid to leave the boys with anyone. It took me two whole weeks before I could speak to the school and the Holiday care people. We never really resolved the issue. I moved on.

This week at work one of my colleagues made a collection for Daniel Morcombe’s foundation, set up by Daniel’s parents to help other parents who have lost their children to evil people. Some parents have never found their children.

I am celebrating my son turning 16 tomorrow and I am truly grateful to God and the kind stranger who helped Chris find his way home, almost eleven years ago.