I had a long day today that left me exhausted as I trudged home on the express bus (Alan had gone ahead to take his Mom to a doctor’s appointment) and by the time I sat down for dinner after frying some flounder fillet, and putting together a side of siomai, I had a throbbing headache. (The naproxen sodium hasn’t quite kicked in.. but I’m counting on it to relieve me soon..)
I sit back and log on, seeing a forwarded message from my cousin Ate Lian. It was another cousin’s first person entry of her experience with Typhoon Ondoy — something I had seen previously on Facebook. Reality hits me and I forget about the headache (momentarily) and I want to share this entry with you to give you a glimpse of what took place from someone who was actually there. Read on..
29 September 2009
As you have probably seen or heard, Typhoon Ketsana (“Ondoy”) hit the Philippines last Saturday, September 26. The eastern towns in Metro Manila were the worst hit areas.
We were one of them.
You can search news online on the floods that left hundreds of thousands of Filipinos devastated. Here is my personal account of what happened around me in the last 96 hours.
Saturday, 26 September
9:30 a.m. Our helper woke me up frantically. She said that there was already flooding in our streets. It had been raining since 8 p.m. the night before. I was not surprised that it was flooding. I have experienced many floods in my childhood. To me, flooding was a chance to make paper boats and make them sail right from our porch.
My dad was not home. I called to tell him that he should wait out the rain because he cannot bring in our car home anymore. I also learned that our driver went to pick up my mom at the airport early in the morning. It was just me, my sister and our helper.
10:30 a.m. The water rose dramatically, flooding our whole front yard. At this point, we knew it was serious. The last time it flooded this bad was almost a decade ago – our house was filled with 6” deep flood water.
It was not long until the water entered the house. I shut the power supply off in our house immediately.
We started hauling everything we could to our bedrooms – 3 steps up from our living room. Files. Appliances. Couches. Tables. Everything three women could possibly carry, wading in murky flood water.
12:30 p.m. My parents are still not home. Mobile phone signals were weakening. We could hardly contact our parents. My sister and I started to pray the rosary while our helper was sitting by the steps, delegating herself as the official flood watcher.
1:30 p.m. It was only 2” until the flood water rises to the level of the two bedrooms. Two inches until all our efforts to move our belongings would be futile. We continued to pray.
After four rounds of rosary, the rain started to weaken. The water never reached the bedrooms.
5:30 p.m. I hear someone yelling from downstairs – “We’re home!” It was my parents. Thank God.
My mom stayed at a friend’s condo a couple of miles away from our village. Our driver had to leave the van with her since he had to go to attend to his already submerged house. My dad left his car at another friend’s house and got a ride home in his friend’s much higher SUV, only to find out that cars could not pass the roads anymore. My dad braved the cold, waist deep water, trying to keep his balance as passing trucks made the already raging flood unbearable to wade in. He saw a couple of guys pushing a cart – trying to make little business out of the calamity by pushing “passengers” to land. They were asking for Php 20 ($0.50) for each ride. My dad got in, paid a little extra so he would be “pushed” to the condo where my mom was staying. He and my mom drove the van, parking it a few blocks from our village, and once again, dove into the flood water and walked home.
It was hard to sleep that night – no electricity, mosquitoes all around, the stench of the flood water, news on the radio about people in nearby villages on their roofs hoping to be rescued, the uncertainty of the lives of friends and family who we could not contact that frightful day.
Sunday, 27 September
The flood had already receded. There was no more water inside the house, but our garage was still submerged. We had to sweep out as much mud and debris that the flood left inside before it could harden. It was not an easy mop job. We had to hose out the mud out of the wood and tile floors. We were lucky to have running water. Cleaning Day 1.
Monday, 28 September
Cleaning Day 2. We started to realize the damage of Typhoon Ketsana to our home. For me to use the word “damage” is an exaggeration. Soaked furniture, damaged piano, muddy floors, destroyed photographs – nothing compared to people who have lost their homes and loved ones. Children swept away by river currents. Corpses hanging from fences, washed under bridges, buried in landslides. I am blessed.
Tuesday, 29 September
We finally hear from our driver, whose house was located in the hardest hit area. His house was completely submerged in water on Saturday. He had to dive underwater to push open the doors, only to discover their belongings floating near the ceiling. His neighbors tried to save each other. There is still no running water to this day in their area, and to make matters even worse, there was an oil spill in the next town that added to the already murky flood water stagnant in the neighborhood.
I AM BLESSED.
My story and the pictures I took are incomparable to the images you see in the news. This is merely the tip of the iceberg of what was the biggest storm to hit the country in four decades.
The Philippines needs your help. Any amount is greatly appreciated. I hope you can find it in your hearts to reach out to the needy amidst the ongoing recession.
ABS-CBN Foundation Toll Free Number: 1-800-527-2820
American Red Cross*
*Please specify that your donation is for the typhoon victims in the Philippines.
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Thank you very much. God bless you.
Mia S. de Guzman