As Irma approaches, Floridian Edong Pangilinan is staying put

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With grandchildren Gaby, Zach and Cade Greenwald

With grandchildren Gaby, Zach and Cade Greenwald

By Cristina DC Pastor

Two days before Hurricane Irma descends on the Florida Keys, 78-year-old Eduardo ‘Edong’ Pangilinan is home with his daughter, son-in-law and their three children. They are telling stories, watching TV, and taking stock of all the food the family has accumulated for the days they anticipate the monster storm to be raging.

“We are staying put. Medyo delikado but a lot of neighbors are staying put also,” said Edong, a resident of the coastal community of Ponte Vedra, about three hours away by car from the capital city of Tallahassee. Ponte Vedra, a beach and golfing community, is a suburb of Jacksonville, which is the largest city in Florida, and a neighbor of St. Augustine, the oldest city in America.

“It’s a retirement community,” he said. “Lots of summer houses for the rich.”

As news of Irma hits television and social media, Edong’s community is eerily deserted. The tourist spot of Casa San Marco is quiet. Not a soul can be seen on Constitution Park. At the beach by the St. Augustine River, not a single boat is docked. Many residents are busy boarding up their houses and making frequent runs to grocery stores to buy food, batteries, water and other necessities. Others have left for safer locations.

“Everything is quiet, people are worried,” he said. “We saw on TV that Irma would hit us as a Category 5. That should be the biggest, strongest one in history.”

Initially, the Pangilinan-Greenwald family had planned on fleeing to Georgia and staying in a hotel there to ride out the storm’s worst havoc. They abandoned that idea in favor of just staying put. If the situation worsens, Plan B will be activated: The family will go to the hospital and seek shelter there. His son-in-law, David Greenwald, M.D. – married to his daughter Carolina — is a neurosurgeon at the Flagler Brain and Spine Institute.

The family’s sense of cautious confidence may have some basis. The latest forecast is that Irma is going up the west coast of Florida facing the Gulf of Mexico. Ponte Vedra is on the east coast and may not experience the full impact of the hurricane. Just the same, the family, with its three dogs and a cat, is all set to move at any time. Another daughter, Marie, and her family are set to join them.

“Might as well be together,” said Edong with a slight chuckle.

A quiet downtown in Ponte Vedra

A quiet downtown in Ponte Vedra

Food is one item the household will not have to worry about. “We have enough food. I kept buying food that won’t spoil. My son-in-law keeps buying food that’s fresh,” he said.

The morning of our interview, Edong cooked ‘bistek’ (beef steak), stored them in plastic containers and kept in the refrigerator. “Just in case there is no power,” he said.

A journalist in the Philippines – he wrote for the Evening News published in the 1960s by the legendary Harry Stonehill — Edong has vivid memory of the worst Philippine typhoon in the 1970s.

“I cannot forget Typhoon Yoling, the day my youngest son was born. We drove from Alabang to UST Hospital. At exactly the time when the eye of the typhoon his Espana was when we arrived at the hospital. When my wife was delivering, power went off. We used candles,” he recalled with laughter.

Fretful but hoping for the best, was how Edong felt when reached by The FilAm.

“All is OK,” he said.

© 2017 The FilAm

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