By REY BANCOD
NAY PYI TAW – Southeast Asian Games karate gold medallist Ramon Antonio Franco was in Iran when Typhoon Yolanda destroyed much of Eastern Visayas, including his hometown in Tacloban, Leyte.
Franco said he felt helpless, worried about the life and safety of his parents and three siblings.
“Hindi ko sila makontak. Araw-araw, binubuksan ko Facebook. Baka sakali may masagap ako balita,” said Franco, a 28-year-old full-time athlete.
Franco said he managed to block off his anxiety during training, but he couldn’t help but worry every time he retires to his bed at night.
He had seen and read so much destruction that he was tempted to leave training camp and get the first flight out of Iran.
After two weeks, Franco said he received a text message saying his parents and siblings were safe.
“Ang laking pasasalamat ko ng malaman kong ligtas sila,” he said.
Franco said they were lucky that their house withstood the destructive winds of Yolanda.
“Nalubog lang ang bahay dahil sa storm surge. Pero buo po ‘yung bahay,” he narrated.
Franco said he sent his fiancée, Stephanie Ugaras, to Tacloban when things started to normalize.
Ugaras, who works as an insurance agent in Bacolod City, took a flight to Cebu City, then to Tacloban.
He said he and his GF have been together for seven years now and are thinking of tying the knot next year.
Since his arrival from Iran, Franco said he has not visited their home in Tacloban.
“One week lang kasi kami sa Manila bago lumipad patungo dito,” he said. “Pagbalik ko, punta ako sa Tacloban.”
He said the calamity caused by Yolanda served as a motivation for him to win the gold medal.
“Lahat ng galit ko sa Yolanda, binuhos ko sa laban,” said Franco who was set to return to action in the men’s team kumite event later in the day.
“Tawag nga sa amin eh, Typhoon Team,” he said before excusing himself.