Typhoon Ondoy Gives Filipinos Extra Ordinary Saturday

Life was still normal last Saturday morning. I went to the office with a clear plan for the day. It was a rainy morning due to the typhoon Ondoy, but I was not suspecting Metro Manila and Central Luzon will be under flood waters.

Everything was normal in the first few hours in the morning. One cannot notice the heavy downpour of rains when he is inside the office.

We actually noticed the flood when it was almost time for lunch. Our caterer did not come on time because they were already stuck somewhere. We learned from the Internet that flood water was already waist-high in most areas. In some areas, it was even deeper.

I got worried when I received a text message from my cousin at around 12 pm. He said, "Di na po yata ako makakauwi. Hanggang bintana na ng jeep ang tubig. Lamig na lamig na ako."

He was stranded somewhere at Kalentong on his way to P.U.P. According to him the water had risen so fast it almost reached the window of the jeepney he was riding, in two hours that they were stuck in a traffic. There was no way that they can get out of the jeepney because of the too strong current of water. I advised him to stay inside the jeepney and wait for the flood water to go down. It was more dangerous if he will walk through the rushing water. My cousin sent me a message again. He said that he was already chilling and hungry. It was past 1 pm. He was still inside the jeepney - almost filled with flood water. There was no way to buy food.

In the office, everyone was also hungry and worried. Our caterer had not arrived yet. Everyone was receiving calls or text messages from their respective families. My manager's husband told her that their area was already deluge with flood waters- for the first time. Flood waters filled their first floor and they were already at the second floor.

Our HR Officer led a game to lessen our worries and hunger. But my worries for my cousin just grew stronger. I already lost contact with him. I learned from the Internet and videos that a great part of metro manila already submerged with flood waters.

I tried to call all the government emergency numbers to report that my cousin and others were stranded in a jeep almost filled with flood waters and to ask for a rescue. To my frustration, all the numbers I dialed were busy.

Our CEO instructed one of our managers to order food from the nearby Jollibee outlet. The store was closed because flood waters were already knee-high inside. However, the crew accommodated our order and cooked burgers and fries for us, in a kitchen with knee-high flood water. We appreciated our office mate Joel and our utility man Dodoy who walked through the chest-high flood water so that we can have burgers and fries to eat. Finally, our caterers arrived. We had our lunch at 2 pm.

We were instructed not to leave the office until the water goes down and it was safer for us to walk. My cousin was not yet responding to my texts and calls.

The Long Journey Home with Flood Waters

Our Pet Inday

We only left the office at 3:30 pm. Gamboa st was already passable. We walk through Ayala to EDSA. To our dismay, EDSA was crowded with stranded vehicles. We decided to walk again, rather than be stranded in traffic.

For the first time in my 13 years of stay here, I walked through flood waters. It was awkward at first. Then I felt the thrill for this first time experience. I was walking with my officemate and we just tried to enjoy the experience. We were able to help an old woman when we crossed an intersection with deeper and stronger current flood waters.

I was silently praying for my cousin. I was not worried for my siblings because I was sure that they were safe. One of my brothers has an overnight work schedule, so I knew he was safe inside his office. The other one was also in the office and safe. My sister Ingks was home.

My officemate’s house was just somewhere in Malibay, Pasay. From there I walked alone with the hundreds of people who were also walking on their way home.

Walking alone (with the hundreds), I became more conscious of the dirty, muddy, dark flood waters. I became more conscious of the stuffs flowing with the waters. There were lots of scrap papers and cartoons, plastic bags, plastic cups and bottles. When I crossed Taft Avenue, the water was deeper- almost chest-high. Used diaper came rushing in front of me. Horrible! Those horrible things are clogging our drainage.

On September 19 - a week before Ondoy hit the country – Greenpeace Southeast Asia headed a clean up drive somewhere at Laguna de bay and collected 2,195 liters of various wastes, mostly plastic bags, in just two hours.

This extra ordinary flood is a clear evidence of climate change. The wastes are clear evidence that we are responsible. PAGASA reported that more than a month’s worth of rainfall fell in just six hours, thus the flash flood.

I was only at Baclaran at around 7:00 pm. It was dark. I was walking slowly – no carefully – afraid that my next step would be to an open manhole or something sharp that may injure me. I was already tired of walking for more than three hours and wrestling with the too strong current of flood waters. My muscles were aching. I stopped from time to time, at the middle of flood waters, to rest. I focused to the thoughts that I have to go home. I have to walk through the flood waters rather than to be stuck somewhere – cold and hungry.

I checked my phone. I had one miscall from my Tito in Bicol. Still, there was no message from my cousin. I continued my journey with the flood water. This time, it was only knee-high. While reaching home, I was already imagining of the comfort that was waiting for me. I thought I will disinfect and pamper myself.

The Journey Is Not Yet Over

It was dark all over when I reached our gate. To my disappointment, the water in our compound was also knee-high. I entered our home, illuminated by candle

Has the flood followed me?

The flood water inside our home was also knee-high. My goodness! It was also the first time.

What’s amusing was my sister Ingks managed to put all our appliances at the second floor.

Adrenaline rush.

I cannot manage to put a regular-sized refrigerator at our second floor on ordinary situation.

My younger brother was home too. He also walked through flooded EDSA and was able to help a pregnant woman who was also walking in chest-high flood water.

At around 10 pm I received a message from my cousin that he was already in a bus, still stuck in traffic, yet slowly moving already. He assured me that he will be home at around 12 midnight. I knew he was cold and hungry yet I was relieved that he was safe.

We tuned in to AM Radio station the whole night and were moved by the news reports. We were far luckier than many. We were safe inside our home while others were drowned, dead, missing, or staying cold and hungry on the roofs. We have food to eat and water to drink while many, from all walks of life, had nothing to consume.

I realized, in times like this, we are all nothing. We are all just human – helpless without God.

Everyone suffered. The masses. The affluent. The celebrities. The Authorities.

The powerful became powerless.

We can really do nothing except to pray.

It was reported at DZMM that Greenpeace helped in the rescue, using its inflatable boats, at Quezon City. I felt proud to our trained boat team. I felt proud to the organization I am supporting.

Heroes Are Made

It is moving, touching and inspiring to hear the stories after this calamity. Everyone exerted efforts to help. Everyone is a hero. A man was reported to lose all his belongings to save lives. Soldiers lost lives during rescue. Many had opened their homes as temporary shelter to those who lost theirs. A friend from Korea told me that the Filipino community there is organizing to send relief, in any kind, to the country.

I am sure many stories of kindness and heroism remain untold.

Still, it is never late. Everyone can still shape his or her own story of kindness and heroism for many still needs help at the evacuation centers.

Times like this make us Filipino.

Times like this make us humane.

Times like this awaken the hero in us. For, how can we say no when our brethren are crying for help?


Life in Momma-tone said...

I live in Calgary AB Canada and we watched footage of the typhoon on the news and I was so disturbed to see groups of people riding on top of debris that was floating who knows where and it moving so quickly I can't imagine how they would ever get to safety and so many others that were on bridges or in buildings that were powerles to help. That's how I felt here too. I was certainly impacted in a more personal way by your telling of how it was for just your average family on what should have been an average day and your revelation quote: "I realized, in times like this, we are all nothing. We are all just human – helpless without God."

Wow - I hope all is as well as can be expected and I will be saying a prayer for you and your country.

ivr said...

Thank you so much!!!

ivr said...

I was really moved by the report of Mr. Doland Castro today, October 5, at ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda.

Victims of Typhoon Reming from Bicol (cheers to my kababayans) arrived here in Manila this morning with 10 trucks loaded with relief goods for the victims who are at evacuations centers.

Our kababayans from Bicol are now repaying the good deeds of the Manelinos when they were in the same situation.

Talk of heaven on earth!

Anonymous said...

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IVR said...

Thanks 'anonymous'. I hope I know you.

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