The typhoon took just four hours to destroy everything they owned. It didn't seem fair that the lives that they had painstakingly built over generations could be taken away in the blink of an eye.
"I lost everything. I'm back to zero," Mr Walter Valdez, 33, told The Straits Times at an evacuation centre at Mactan Air Base in Cebu on Wednesday. He was still in the same clothes he wore to work last Thursday.
Super Typhoon Haiyan, which is called Yolanda in the Philippines, wiped out his entire family in Tacloban, he said.
Mr Valdez was at the restaurant where he worked as a waiter when the typhoon struck. He had moved his wife and three children - ages one, four and six - out of their flimsy hut to stay with their grandmother, whose house was made of concrete. They would be safe there, he thought.
When walls of water 3m high rolled inland, the house became a deathtrap. The water rose rapidly to the ceiling, drowning his wife and three children inside.
Mr Valdez himself was swept away by the water. He survived only by clinging onto a coconut tree for three long hours.
When the water subsided, he found the bodies of his wife and eldest daughter. The two younger girls are listed as missing, but Mr Valdez has given up hope of finding them alive.
His only worldly possessions now are some of the relief goods handed to him when he was evacuated from Tacloban.
Mr Valdez is looking to make his way to Manila, where his remaining hope is a friend who he has not seen in years.
He is certain about one thing: He is never going to live in Tacloban ever again.
"Maybe I'll return after five years, just for the memories of my wife and children," he said.