Kapolei family brings home elderly parents from Philippines

Kapolei family brings home elderly parents from Philippines
Simplicio and Celerina Redona
Simplicio and Celerina Redona
The Redonas' devastated home in the Philippines
The Redonas' devastated home in the Philippines
George Redona
George Redona
Marty Redona
Marty Redona

KAPOLEI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - We've been following their journey and are pleased to report, it has a happy ending.

George Redona, his brother, Marty and sister, Gloria, all returned from the Philippines, with their elderly parents.

But it wasn't easy.

"It was worse than we thought," says George.

The three decided to leave Hawaii on November 13th, after they hadn't heard from the 76-year olds.  It had been days since Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the country.  Especially hard hit, the coastal town of Tanuan, near Tacloban, where the Redonas' parents live.

They flew to Manila, then took another flight to Cebu City.  They were hoping to catch the ferry to Tanuan from there, but were told, it was not safe.

"The shootings," says George, "people were getting desperate and hungry."

They instead hired a guide, a friend of a friend, to find their parents.  It was a risk but they didn't have another option.

"We shook hands," says Marty, "we were going to trust."

Marty gave the man the picture of his parents and told him where the house was supposed to be, he wasn't sure if it was still standing.

The man then hired a 3-man team already in Tanuan.

And then, the Redonas waited.  For days, they did not hear from the man.

"Once in awhile, my trust," says George.  "I didn't trust these people, I wanted to do it on my own."

But on the 3rd day, they got the phone call they had been waiting for.   Their parents were found in the upstairs portion of their home.  The yellow home in the picture.  It was still standing, but the bottom floor was full of water.

Their mother later told them, as water started gushing in, she actually carried her husband upstairs.  He had a stroke years ago, and can't walk.

"We're still trying to figure out how she was able to lift my dad," says Marty.

The rescue team hired a male nurse to care for him, because they still had a long journey out of the devastated areas.

"My dad wasn't mobile, and at night, it wasn't safe to travel," says George.

From Tanuan the group had to walk to Tacloban, then catch a ferry to Cebu City.

"It took them 3 days to get out, " says Marty.  "(They were) stepping on debris, on dead bodies."

They couldn't get on the ferry right away, so they headed to the airfield.  Because of the father's condition, the Philippine military allowed them to board a cargo plane.  They arrived in Cebu City where their kids were waiting for them.

"Our first confirmation that they were alive, was visual," says Marty.

"They looked like they were drained and tired," says George.  "But they were up and talking.  All of us started crying, hugging each other."

Simplicio and Celerina Redona survived about 10 days with very little food and water.  And they had with them, just a few possessions.  The black shirt Simplicio is wearing in the picture was given to him by a Philippine soldier, because his shirt was soaked and dirty.

The family went to a restuarant at the Cebu airport that night.  The picture shows Simplici giving a thumbs up.  Celerina, smiling.  It was their first real meal in a long time.

Because they are American citizens, it didn't take long to process them.

They returned to Hawaii on November 23rd.

We visited the couple a few days later at their daughter's Kapolei home.  They were comfortable but the celebration was brief.  They spoke about the damage in their town, the relatives who died in the storm, and the friends still missing.

"We are just grateful for our kids," says Celerina with a smile.

They want to go back someday, hopefully soon, but for now, they'll enjoy family.  This Thanksgiving is the first that they will be able to spend with all seven of the kids, their six grandkids, and four great-grandkids.

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