Bagyong Ondoy: What it Didn't Drown

Friday, October 2, 2009

PHOTO: Cars a block away from where our apartment stood in Provident Village, Marikina.

We were at the newly bought house of friends, celebrating with them, when I first heard about the flooding in the Philippines. I didn’t mind it that much, until I saw the photos. And the videos – and the news articles too. That got my attention. And we’ve been glued to all the updates we could get back home on the aftermath of Bagyong Ondoy.

Many photo galleries in Yahoo and in Facebook, focused on one place – Provident Village in Marikina. That was where we used to live – in fact, until 2 months ago, a lot of our precious stuff were in an apartment that we rented in Provident Village. My wife asked her siblings to move these to Baguio July of this year. Thankfully, these were not swept in the flood.

We did hear a very harrowing story that pierced our hearts. Our househelp, who has stayed with us since Dec 2000 and who we consider as a close friend, was in the Marikina apartment when the flood waters came. She was with her baby daughter who was less than a year old. The flood waters started seeping into the apartment on Saturday morning. By 1pm, she, the baby and other neighbors somehow managed to climb to the roof and stayed there for the whole night of Saturday, until a friend of my brother-in-law was able to go through the flooded roads and get her and the baby on Sunday morning. I was numb after hearing that. I don’t have details whether they had an umbrella or whether they ate or drank anything while they were on the roof. Our only consolation was that they were in the roof with neighbors – at least, they weren’t alone. She hasn’t replied to any of our text messages yet, though we know she is now at a safe place. I wonder how adults could survive such an ordeal, let alone children and infants. We Filipinos, are really a tough bunch.

I read so many stories, many close to our hearts since it affected those we know. The houses of friends were affected by varying degrees of flooding. I’ve yet to hear from kumpares in Marikina and Pasig. An email I sent to their workplace accounts haven’t been answered yet – perhaps they still haven’t reported for work? I heard of an officemate whose house was fully submerged in flood waters. The sibling of a friend was not able to contact her family for 48 hours since her phone went dead and she couldn’t recharge it. They thought she was missing and even paged her through a TV show. Another friend and her family are staying at a hotel – they can’t reach their home due to the floods.

And of course, there were the stories of those who didn’t survive. People clinging to rooftops saw bodies floating around. That of a young man, an elderly woman with her arms wrapped around a young child, a mother and her five children – it’s simply overwhelming.

For every calamity though, there are also the brave and unselfish acts that bring warmth to the soul. I was pleasantly surprised to recognize the name of a high school batch mate on one newspaper article – her hubby used a kayak he had never ridden before to help rescue strangers at the risk of losing his life. (Read Man loses belongings to save lives). I also saw friends from our church back home being very active in relief efforts. Tomorrow, a friend from Chicago is driving from house to house collecting clothes that her relatives will be sending through to the Philippines.

On our short stay in this life, calamities like Bagyong Ondoy come and go. I don’t hope any such calamity on anyone, but I know these calamities are there to help us realize what our priorities are. It is people and relationships that count. Floods may drown the most expensive cars and houses, but it can never drown the people’s hopes, or their abilities to help and love one another.