PALO, LEYTE - Bilfrid Militante was not quite a man yet, but he died like one.
Against his mother's wishes, the 12-year-old joined his father and the other men of the village in watching over their homes on the eve of the devastating landfall of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" here, said his mother Cristina Maceda-Militante.
The mother wanted the boy to evacuate with her to a relative's ancestral house in the village of Buri uphill. But Bilfrid, a high school sophomore, insisted that he was old enough to do what the adults did. "I'm going to stay," he told her proudly.
Most of the menfolk of Candahug village in this coastal town facing the Pacific Ocean had resolved to brave the night to protect their belongings and livestock. The women and children, on the other hand, were to head for high ground.
"They said it would be OK. They said it would just be wind, that there would be no flooding," said the 37-year-old Cristina, who makes a living by making rice cakes.
But like so many others who made light of Yolanda's power and fury as the monster hit the area on Friday, they thought wrong. And a multitude paid for the mistake with their lives.
Bilfrid was found 1 kilometer away from where their house once stood, buried in the pile of debris.
"He was a papa's boy," the mother said, visibly struggling to fight back tears.
"We had high hopes for him. He was so good in class. The teachers always appreciated him," she said in front of the newly built Palo Metropolitan Cathedral, where some 20 bodies were taken, including her son's.
Village buried in sand
Bilfrid's father Gilberto is still missing, presumed dead, as are many of Candahug's men.
A day before Yolanda's landfall, the Inquirer met Crispolo Daga, a 49-year-old tricycle driver who lived in Candahug. "We're used to storms. It's dangerous for the children, so we brought them to the evacuation centers. We men will stay behind," he had said.