Manila, Philippines, Jan 18, 2015 / 14:38 pm
Elena Garado thought she was dead after being trapped under a table for four hours when Typhoon Yolanda hit her hometown in November 2013.
But one year later, she is happy with her life and says that she knows there is a purpose to everything.
"Time changes everything. Everything, this Yolanda…There's a reason for everything," Garado told CNA on Jan. 17.
Super Typhoon Yolanda – known internationally as Super Typhoon Haiyan – ravaged the country just over a year ago, claiming the lives of more than 6,000 people. More than 1 million people were still estimated to be homeless a year later. Then, this past December, another typhoon tore through the eastern islands of the Philippines, causing even more devastation.
Present for Pope Francis' Jan. 17 Mass in Tacloban with survivors of the typhoons, Garado was accompanied by her brother, who saved her life after the devastating storm.
"Our house was damaged, totally damaged. I thought I was dead, because I had no clothes and (was trapped) under a table for four hours (with) no food and no water," she said.
Trapped in the house along with her nephew and maid, Garado recalled, the trio was eventually rescued by her brother Joseph, who found them, and took them all on a single motorcycle to a safer area.
Joseph told CNA that he began to worry about his sister after not hearing from her in 10 hours, so he went to her house knowing that something was wrong.
"I'm happy because she's alive. I thank God," he said, explaining that they are still in the process of rebuilding some things.
Since her house was destroyed, Garado went to stay with one of her children in Cebu for two months. She has now returned to her house, which was rebuilt in March, and is working at a store.
To be present at Pope Francis' Mass honoring the victims and survivors of the deadly storms, makes them both very happy, they said.
If given the opportunity to speak with the Holy Father, Garado said that she would tell him she is "very thankful and blessed, and I want him to pray for us."
Faced with the difficulty of losing many of her belongings, Garado said that she is just happy to be alive, and that "when I saw our house totally damaged, I thought 'material things are useless.'"
Time heals everything, she observed, adding that she is "very, very" happy with her life right now.
Pope Francis regretfully had to cut his visit to the Philippine island of Leyte short due to mounting concern over bad weather from an inbound typhoon. His schedule had previously been moved up by 45 minutes in order to avoid the storm.
Although he left early, the pontiff was able to keep his scheduled appointment for lunch with a group of survivors of Typhoon Yolanda and also met with a fisherman and his family, giving them a blessing.
The Pope had been scheduled to bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor. Due to the accelerated schedule, he blessed the center from his Popemobile as he drove past en route to the airport.
He was also slated to meet with priests, religious, seminarians and survivors of the disastrous 2013 Typhoon Yolanda. While he met with them briefly, he was not able to deliver his prepared remarks, due to his early departure.
Alan Holdren contributed to this article.