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2005 Sep  7

New Orleans

Philippine Official Survives Katrina's Wrath

BASTA PINOY NEWS --“The building was shaking at saka umu-ugong. Umu-uga talaga yung building,” recalls Philippine Honorary Consul General Cielo Martinez when hurricane Katrina made landfall 70 miles from Metarie, Louisiana. “I have never seen anything like it. Sa atin malakas yung hangin, yung ulan, pero ito iba, parang tornado.”

The previous day, Aug. 28th, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the mandatory evacuation of the city. “Naging serious na ang systematic evacuation -- areas of the city took turns leaving the city.”

Her family proceeded to Lakeside Hospital in Metarie where husband Dr. Roberto Martinez worked. “My family stayed in a room on the third floor of the hospital.”
Charley's Damage to Filam Home in Port Charlotte Florida
NOAA satellite image for larger view of Hurricane Katrina taken on Aug. 28, 2005, at 11:45 a.m. EDT when the storm was a Category Five hurricane. Click here for high resolution version.

Early morning of Aug. 29th Katrina made landfall. “Sa labas nakikita yung mga puno talagang tumutumba na. The wind was howling. It was deafening. It was very scary.”

That afternoon Dr. Martinez told his family to evacuate but he had to stay. “Sabi niya hindi siya talaga makakasama sa amin, kami na lang daw, kasi kailangan siya sa hospital support system. The patients need them.”

Charleys a cateogry 4 hurricane hit Port Charlotte Florida
LANDFALL. View of South Plaquemines Parish, La., near Empire, Buras and Boothville where Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, at approximately 7:10 a.m. EDT. (Photo: NOAA)

ConGen Martinez left with their three children but was forced to turn back. “Umalis na kami, pero hindi kami makalabas, parang maze sa labas, may flood na. Bumalik kami.”

Later that evening as the situation deterioriated everyone was forced to evacuate. “Wala nang choice, marami nang crime happening. Nagmamadali talaga kami umalis dahil we were given a couple of hours to leave, dahil may pumapasok na hindi na taga-hospital. Mayroon wristband kami, para alam nila taga-doon ka. May security, pero wala ka nang magagawa.”

The Martinez family took their car and left with other hospital doctors. “We left in a caravan for safety, so we can fight by the numbers. At least kasama na namin siya (husband Roberto). Kung naiwan siya doon, magulong-magulo na.”

“Marami kaming nakitang may baril. At saka kitang-kita namin yung mga naglu-loot, binabasag nila yung mga salamin.”

“We have to drive parang maze, parang trial and error na you go into a street then hindi pwede, so you turn around until makakita ng clear street.” The caravan traversed the streets, encountering flood, fallen trees, broken glass and dangling wires from utility poles. It was total darkness. “We drove on top of the levee which was the only dry part. Para talagang nasa maze -- you just keep on trying.”

The Martinez family reached Chicago the following day.

ConGen Martinez has been trying to reach her assistant Shiela who she last spoke with on Aug. 27th. “Nagte-text ako at tumawag ako sa kanya pero walang sagot. She told me her family will evacuate to Houston, pero no word from her as yet. Alam ko yung subdivision nila binaha.”

Katrina could turn out to be the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history in terms of property and economic damage its fury sparing none on its path. “Yung bahay ko under water. Its less than two miles dun sa nag-break na levee.”

“My message to Filipinos affected in Louisiana is to contact the Philippine Consulate in Chicago for assistance.” Louisiana is under the jurisdiction of Consul General Blesilda Cabrera. Consul Martinez is closely coordinating with ConGen Cabrera and Consul Patrick Hillado.

“The Consulate website has been setup for those affected to post their names, city, and state where they come from and remarks as to their status so their relatives will know,” said Consul Hillado. “Kasi marami ang hindi makatawag sa pamilya.” The Chicago Philippine Consulate website is

“Sa ngayon ang priority natin ay ma-reach yung affected na Filipinos. We are coordinating with the Philippine Embassy on all efforts,” said ConGen Cabrera. “We will keep on trying our very best to get in touch with Filipinos in the affected areas.” (Basta Pinoy News)


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