Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Typhoon Ondoy '09

September 26, 2009. This is a date that will definitely go down in Philippine history. The country was hit with a very different kind of storm. The President described the deluge, which was the worst to hit Metro Manila in more than four decades and left 80 percent of the metropolis under water, as a “once-in-a-lifetime” storm.

It had already started raining the night before. It was a strong, steady downpour. There was no roaring wind or frightening lightning that went with it, just torrents of rain. It was reported after the incident that it was actually a month’s worth of rain that heaven poured upon us. No wonder we were flooded! Most affected were areas in the metro: Marikina, Pasig, Cainta and Taguig. Bulacan, Laguna and Pampanga were also flooded. These areas were the MOST affected, but the heavy rains affected almost everybody and every place. Areas that were not known to be affected by flooding in the past were surprised to find themselves in chest-deep water. I was in one of these areas.

I have been living in Nangka, Marikina almost all of my life. We transferred here from Rodriguez, Rizal when I was only 7 years old. Since then, we have suffered numerous different storms and typhoons, but never was there even a threat of flooding in our village. The worst is when my foot would be totally submerged in clean rain water, when I’d walk along our street. Never was there a threat that the water would rise and enter our home, affect our vehicles, furniture and appliances. None like that. Even during the terrible typhoon years back that also totally flooded Provident Village. We were barely affected.

But not this time. We were very affected. And not just us.

Authorities said some people remained stranded in their flooded homes more than 48 hours after the floods, while power and telephone services were still cut in the worst-hit areas of Metro Manila.

Poor drainage systems meant some places remained waist-deep in water, while vast swathes of the sprawling metropolis of 12 million people were covered in sludge.

In schools, open-air gymnasiums and other makeshift evacuation camps, tens of thousands of people were desperately short of food, water and clothes.

As many areas of Metro Manila remained without power Sunday, rescuers plucked bodies from muddy floodwaters and scrambled to save drenched survivors on rooftops after Storm “Ondoy” left 73 people dead in a strike across the region.

Nearly 300,000 people were affected by the storm, including some 47,000 who were brought to schools, churches and other evacuation shelters, officials said.

As soon as we can, we tried going around Marikina trying to survey the damage brought by Typhoon Ondoy. What we saw truly heartbreaking. People grimy with mud, walking bare-foot, with glazed eyes….looking totally lost. People who fled their homes when flood waters started rushing in, were able to escape disaster with only the clothes on their back. Everything was lost. Various pieces of furniture, appliances, clothes, books etc strewn along the streets…now all junk.

As we talked to friends in Marikina, we heard stories that tore at our hearts. These are people living in “good” subdivisions. Not stubborn people living in shanties along the riverbanks and esteros who have been told time and again to transfer to another place. These are not people trained by experience to evacuate to the nearest public school whenever the rains are particularly strong.

A friend said that they were trapped in their house because the water rose so fast that they didn’t have time to evacuate. She didn’t have time to call for help or even answer her ringing cell phone. She was surprised that water started rushing in. Before they knew it, the water was already chest level. Fearing that they might drown right in their own home, her father had to break down a window just so they can escape. They had to swim to their neighbor’s 2-storey house. When the flood reached the second floor, they had to hold on to make shift ropes just to swim across to another neighbor’s house that had a third floor. They stayed there until the flood subsided. They were safe but hungry. They had to stay there overnight with other families, sharing whatever food they can find. Her diabetic father sustained a large gash on his leg and had to be rushed to the emergency room once the flood subsided.

Another friend suffered the same fate. Only they decided to break down a part of their ceiling. They thought they can stay up there until water subsided. They thought they were high enough… but the waters continued to rise, until they had no more choice but to break down part of their galvanized roof… and stay on top of their roof… for 16 hours. Neighbors just threw food and blankets at them just so they can survive.

An officemate just had enough time to evacuate to their neighbor’s 3-storey house. A self confessed techie, she packed her prized  mac book, itouch, psp, phones, digicam and a new dslr in her big backpack. But in the frenzy of evacuating, she remembered to pick up her pet dog but forgot all about the backpack. Everything was drenched, soaked…ruined.

A good friend was spared since they lived on the third floor of their apartment building. Their van and AUV though, were totally inundated. They had to be towed to the mechanics. Her parents’ house was also flooded. Inside the house, flood waters reached up to their necks. Her retiree parents had to hold on to the metal grills on their fence to steady themselves against the strong current of the murky flood waters… just so they can relocate to their neighbors house.

I’m sure there are many, many more heart-breaking stories… even more broken-hearted people. Everyone caught by surprise… everyone struggled to save their belongings, everyone fought to survive… sadly not everyone succeeded.

But Filipinos are a naturally happy, smiley people. We are known for our resiliency and ability to bounce back from every known adversity. I have seen people who were busy cleaning their muddied homes with smiles on their faces. Sure, they lost almost everything: furniture, appliances, important documents… but everyone in the family was alive and well… and for this they were grateful.

As I told my friends…This dire situation too, shall pass.

Our God is good and He is great. He knows what is best. Fear not, for He has a plan.  =)

2 comments:

*~Sarah Lynn~* said...

Glad you & your family are okay. It's been a terrible tragedy. You are correct about Filipino's bouncing back from adversity. My fiance & his family are moving forward, cleaning up and even though they lost alot of "material" possessions, they are thankful that it was not much worse.

apple said...

now ko lang ulit na-visit blog mo.
hay, there's actually more to that story ng parents ko.
di ko pa din matapos yung blog ko kasi nalulungkot lang ako everytime inaalala ko eh. hay!

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