Latest Stories

Love in time of ‘Yolanda’


How far should a person go in the name of true love?

A 31-year-old Canadian engineer traveled more than 8,000 miles from Montreal to Manila and braved the odds to get to his Filipina girlfriend who was seriously injured in Ormoc following the devastation brought by supertyphoon Yolanda.

Houssam Hammoudi found her girlfriend, Mary Grace Acojedo, in terrible shape in a rundown clinic in Ormoc and brought her to safety in Cebu where she is now undergoing treatment for her injuries.

They got engaged last Tuesday and are planning to get married next week.

Now, that’s what you call “whirlwind romance.”

“He is my angel. Without him, I could not imagine what will happen to me in Ormoc,” the 22-year-old Acojedo said.

Houssam and Mary Grace have been constantly communicating through Facebook and Skype, a voice over Internet protocol service, days before supertyphoon Yolanda made landfall last Nov. 8.

“She’s been telling me how they’re preparing for the coming of the typhoon,” he told Cebu Daily News.

Ormoc City was among the areas declared under storm signal number 4 immediately after the Joint Typhoon Warning Center assessed Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) as a category 5 howler..

The day Yolanda made landfall in Eastern Visayas, Mary Grace was no longer online as all communication lines in areas where Yolanda passed got down.

Clear picture

A clear picture of the degree of devastation in Yolanda’s path came a day after the storm roared through the Visayas after power and communication lines were partially restored allowing journalists to post pictures of Ground Zero to the world.

Houssam, who was anxiously awaiting for updates in Montreal, was shocked with what he saw on TV.

“I know there was something bad that happened and it is a matter of life and death here,” he said.

Friends who knew that Houssam’s girlfriend is from the badly-hit region immediately passed the hat after learning that he had sold his car for $800 to help fund his emergency trip to the Philippines.

“I was really planning to come here in May. I’ve already booked my flight,” he said.

On Wedneday, Nov. 13, or almost a week after Yolanda struck, Houssam hopped on a flight that took him to Manila.

Arriving at dawn the next day, he met up with his girlfriend’s brother, Nathaniel who works as a call center agent in Cebu. They tried but missed to get into a ferry bound for Ormoc. “There were so many people wanting to go to Ormoc. It was difficult to get a seat,” he recalls.

They finally got on board a fastcraft and they arrived in Ormoc at 2 p.m.

Houssam and Nathaniel rushed to the Acojedo residence and found the house in ruins. They then found Mary Grace in a clinic where neighbors took her for treatment.

And for the first time, the couple met face to face and dissolved into each other’s arms.

Mary Grace broke her jaw, wrist and finger and had deep cuts in the face and body. She badly needed surgery including one that would save her leg from amputation.

“I did not expect him to look for me. I told my mother to tell him not to come over and just tell him that I was fine,” she said.

Houssam immediately paid for her medical bills. He carried her out of the clinic and walked 500 meters before they found a tricycle that took them to the pier.

“Naulaw pa jud ko kay bug-at baya kaayo ko pero gipas-an jud ko niya aron lang makasakay mi og barko,” Mary Grace told CDN.

(I was so embarassed because I was heavy and he carried me all the way up to the boat.)

Arriving in Cebu, Houssam took Mary Grace to a private hospital where she underwent further surgery.

Hammoudi has spent close to half a million pesos for Mary Grace’s medical care including a series of surgeries.

He launched a blog called “Operation Saving Grace” where he narrated how he ended up in Ground Zero and appealed for donations.

Two days since his blog went live, he was able to raise close to half a million pesos which will be used for Mary Grace’s treatment.

There are more than 700 people from different countries who extended help to “Saving Grace.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Supertyphoon Yolanda

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Opinions split on Napoles turning state witness
  3. Delfin Lee: Blame Pag-Ibig, not me
  4. Plunder complaint filed vs PNP chief, firearms office head over license delivery deal
  5. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  6. San Juan cops fail to arrest Cedric Lee
  7. More ‘Yolanda’ bodies found
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  10. Boy ‘sexually assaulted’ at Indonesia international school
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  10. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Ex-PBA player Bryan Gahol dies in road mishap


  • Napoles tags over 100 officials in pork scam – Lacson
  • Vitangcol to sue Czech envoy
  • Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  • 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace
  • Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna
  • Sports

  • Caguioa blasts ‘no heart, soft’ Ginebra on Twitter
  • San Mig Coffee grinds out win over Alaska to force decider
  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH
  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • China won’t budge, wants PH gov’t to apologize to HK
  • Marketplace