"Even in the best case scenario, we're going to have very heavy winds and rain" that bring the risk of flooding, said Renee Lambert, the head of the Catholic Relief Services office in Tacloban.
The sense of unease among residents was palpable, she said, with some stores closing and roads appearing quieter.
"I certainly see the city hunkering down," Lambert said.
Out over the ocean, the storm was displaying its formidable force, generating maximum sustained winds of around 287 kilometers per hour (178 mph), the equivalent of a strong Category 5 hurricane, according to the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
With Hagupit's precise path still uncertain, Philippine authorities issued storm warnings for 56 of the country's 81 provinces, covering around 70% of the country's population of 100 million, CNN affiliate 9news reported.
Agujero said he hoped that the Tacloban region would be spared this time around.
His biggest concern, he said, was for his family. He was less concerned about their unfinished home.
"If the house gets destroyed again, we can still rebuild it," he said.
CNN's Judy Kwon, Paul Armstrong and Ward Taylor contributed to this report.