Flood water level came up one inch every 60 seconds as dams released 100 cubic meters of rain water per second; overflowed rivers ran 20-30 miles per hour; helpless people stuck waiting on their roofs, even the rich and the famous weren’t spared; some perilously clang on to trees or held tight on floating logs; streets and high-ways under thigh-deep to chest-deep flood water; bridges went invisible; cars, if not fully submerged swam like fishes; the worst — hundreds drowned in minutes.
What a heart-melting sight!
The Greater Manila Area and some 25 more neighboring provinces were under the state of calamity as typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) flaunted its raging winds and unquenchable rainfall. Within six hours, many parts of Metro Manila, which were hit the greatest, went almost 100 per cent under murky water.
This did not happen in more than 40 years! Though a furious flash flood swiped the area in June 7, 1967, people thought it would never happen again, but unfortunately, it did, September 26, 2009. The day the whole Philippines would never forget. Yet it was not as huge as the waters of Ondoy. This was the worst so far.
This was also the worst time not to have a television at home. Our set died down two weeks ago.
It was Saturday, and I woke up hearing the wooshing wind. It seemed very unusual and unfriendly. My husband and I still took the time to go to Dagupan City to buy some things for our baby. The wind came in duet with drizzles.
Careless of anything else, I walked down the isle of colorful baby clothes and cute, little bottles. My eyes were feasting. I did not know what and where to put my hands on. I was in the midst of careful choosing, when my husband said “It’s already 12 noon.” I replied, “Please don’t put me in a hurry, I am still enjoying.” I was thinking it was my right to take my time since it was my first time to go shopping for our baby. He defended, he just heard the bell rang which implied it’s 12.
I would constantly ask my husband, laying down five pairs of booties to choose from, and ask “which is cuter?” He would answer “up to you, you know better than me with those things.” I had a couple rounds of which-is-cuter and he would say the same thing every time.
Finally, we’re ready for the cashier. We had three pairs of pink booties, some white baby caps and mittens, and three milk bottles.
We went home satisfied yet surprised on how costly 15 pieces of baby stuff cost. In the afternoon, my husband went to Binmaley to pay his relatives a visit while I attended a church activity on fitness and healthy living. Everybody enjoyed the aerobics. Even I as an spectator with my huge tummy had a blast taking pictures of mothers burning some extra calories. It lasted till 5 p.m.
At home, my husband called at 6 p.m. He said he would be on his way home in minutes. I was puzzled why, on a regular Saturday family visit, he would go home that early. He then anxiously told me that he just watched over the television about a typhoon. He was horrified on what he saw on the screen that’s why he hurried home.
With the television broken, everyone at home were unaware of the typhoon, nor of the destruction happening in Manila that time. We turned on the radio and tuned in to AM radio.
On the other hand, my mother was booked for a flight to Cebu that night for a week-long affair. After hearing the news over the radio, she made a bunch of calls confirming their travel to the airport in Manila. She was anxious of going yet saddened not being able to go to Cebu. Text messages flooded her cellphone, flash reports about typhoon Ondoy enshrouding streets and high-ways made her and her party’s plan of traveling impossible. She was finally calmed and convinced. She decided not to go.
I later realized that those times I was in a delight choosing cute booties and entertained in our church activity, many of my fellow Filipinos were on an exact contrary with my situation. They were trying to save each other’s lives from the cruel waters of Ondoy. I felt a bit guilty yet immensely grateful that we only received buzzing winds, but not destructive, and some rain showers.
But it was not until Monday morning that I witnessed over youtube the horrific site caused by the unforgiving Ondoy. I was greatly interested when our neighbor informed me on how even famous Filipino actors and actresses with their families were on their roofs, helpless! As my eyes glued on the LCD and my ears covered with ear phones, I saw how Magazine cover girl Cristine Reyes called GMA News Station solicited help and rescue, as she with her mother and two nieces, one aged 10 were soaked wet, hungered, shocked, and fatigued on the roof of their two-storey house for more than 24 hours! Friend and co-star Richard Gutierrez, upon hearing the news instantly went with a speed rubber boat to the rescue.
Celebrity couples Gladys Reyes and Christopher with their two children, one is an infant also witnessed the massive flood on their roofs. It was reported that Gladys fortunately made a call to her celebrity friend Judy Ann Santos. Few hours later, Judy Ann’s husband Ryan came on a rubber boat.
Showbiz reporter and celebrity, Boy Abunda was on The Buzz describing how Ryan swam the water just to at least hand in some milk for the baby and food for the rest of the family.
What really filled my heart was Abunda’s descriptions on how ordinary civilians wanting to help but unable to get to the stranded victims on their roofs, packed some food and provisions and let it float and swim towards their hungry and chilling fellow citizens, to whom some were children and babies.
With the rescuers outnumbered by the victims, rescuing eveybody and on time was quite impossible. Perhaps even life savers themselves needed to be rescued. So, every one capable of helping, even ordinary people stretched out a hand.
Abunda then followed up with profound thoughts: “This only means one thing, that everyone is a victim, whether you’re rich or poor.”
Indeed, even the two-storey mansions of celebrities were not spared.
Few weeks ago, I happen to read on a magazine a feature on TV host/actress Carmina Villaroel’s mansion. As the pictures imply, it worth millions — neat furnitures, nice and costly gadgets, fully-furnished rooms, luxurious bathrooms. But with Ondoy’s unwelcomed visit, the mansion, their refrigerators filled with food, and cabinets full of clothes and every good and expensive things in it went broken or useless. The only thing left useful to her, to her husband, and to her twins, during the typhoon was their roof.
Abunda’s co-host Kris Aquino expressed another lesson worth pondering: “We were not prepared, no body was.”
Truly, this was a lesson on preparedness. Merely knowing that ABS CBN’s special coverage on Ondoy had solicited over 9 million pledged donation in cash and over 20 million worth of food and clothing, and still counting would give one a big picture on how many people needed help, how great the number who were not prepared.
Ondoy and many other natural calamities were proof of today’s need for expecting the unexpected — a low, public warning signal number 1 was given to Metro Manila, yet the damage done was obviously intense. This tragedy served as a wake-up call for the estimated 300,000 people affected by a single typhoon and the rest of the Filipino people.
If we look on the bright side, however, one good thing happened. Impressive amount of rainfall flooded the afore mentioned areas, relief goods, clothing, and cash donations likewise overflowed. Every Filipino from government officials, private business establishments and companies, to ordinary citizens helped out. If the places left by Ondoy were soul stirring, so was the love drowning the victims.