Stranded

It’s August 8, 2012 and I don’t know where to start.

During my four-year stay in the university, I never really experienced the wrath of typhoon that I witnessed through television footages, and photos from the Internet. But this monsoon, this torrential rain, this flooding… everything is just so unbelievable. But the truth, nonetheless.

When Ondoy happened, it was a weekend. I was at peace in our old home in Cavite. I was then planning to go to Manila that day, but the intense rainfall associated with thunder and lightning prevented me to do so. I remember my friend, Issa, telling me that it was not raining in Manila… and so I thought that maybe, it’s just like any other storm – easy come, easy go.

I just realized that the storm was not like the typical ones when the water started entering the basement of our old house. Our relatives once told us that it was caused by the “bukal” under the house. And I believed them, ha! So anyway, I bought some “water stoppers” from the local hardware, and when I went out, there were no flooded areas but the winds were really strong and my umbrella broke down.

After dutifully making use of the water stoppers, the electricity went off for about a couple of hours and when it came back, we opened the television and to our surprise… Manila was barely recognizable, along with other places like Cainta and Marikina. So yeah, all those reported deaths, non-stop rains, flooding, stranded commuters, stranded students inside certain buildings, stranded people on the roofs of their houses – the sight was unbelievable and the worst that I have seen, then. All I could do that time was to pray, and hope for the rain to stop.

So yeah, a couple of days after Ondoy hit the country, people were slowly moving on while recalling the terror that the typhoon brought. A friend called me and shared her experiences – all those long hours inside the mall, the flood around the mall and the bus terminal, the way she took a bath inside the comfort room of a mall with a bar of soap and a shampoo from a tenant convenience-slash-drug store, the flood along the way, the long travel time, the hunger, the people collapsing inside the bus because of hunger… and the face of her mom as the she waited on the drop off point during the wee hours. It’s terrible, she was almost crying.

Going back to 2006, I had an experience with a typhoon as well (I think it was Milenyo). Debris were flying all around, the winds were shouting like crazy. It was raining so hard, the waters entered the basement of our house. Our nearest refuge was Nanay’s house. Despite the leaking all over the house, we managed to pull a huge mattress and put it in the middle of the living room and yeah, we slept there for two days because all the rooms were wet. There was no electricity and supermarkets were closed for days so we ended up eating stocked food and canned goods. The next time a typhoon hit the country, and our place for that matter, my ‘rents made sure that we have enough grocery (and yes, that explains the mini sari-sari store you’ll see at home). In my opinion, my experience during that time was worse than Ondoy, but the damages that Ondoy left and the effect it had on the country was obviously much much worse.

So now, here I am… on the second floor of a building that offers econo-rooms, having the time of my life. No, scratch that… Having my dinner courtesy of the only food house open along our street, and my brother’s brave soul. It was my second stranded day here inside the room and I think this will not be my last day.

Surroundings check. Okay, the flood along our street is about knee-deep in most areas, and almost waist-deep in some. The rain is pouring hard since I couldn’t even remember because it was quite fair when I woke up at around 11 am today. So yeah, the flood then was around ankle to gutter-deep, and it came back to last night’s depth. There are no people on the streets based on my point of view from the small window of my room. However, there are some students lurking outside their cramped balconies in the building across ours, smoking and just sight seeing (like there’s something nice to see out there). It is so dark outside, establishments are closed, private and public vehicles are submerged in the water.

SNS check. I am not logged in to Facebook, but I’m lurking on twitter and retweeting a little too much. There were lots of photos anyways, so I did not dare to pull out my phone cam for some exposure. I’ve seen all kinds of photos I have to see – stranded people, super flooded areas (passable and not passable ones), ongoing relief operations, school drives for relief operations, advertisements. Believe it or not, I was tempted to take a picture of a poor black dog this morning while it was struggling to reach a safe haven on the other side of the street but decided against it. And yeah, I’ve read lots of news, rants and complaints, wrong prophesies, positive statuses, prayer brigades, announcement of class and work suspensions and relief operations, conflicts on so-called wrong information dissemination and tweeting responsibly… etcetera. Name it, I’ve probably read it… or if not, I’ll probably read that on the days to come.

Situation check. It’s raining hard, with occasional pauses and halts. Every street I turn, there’s flood. Just as I walk down the first step of the building’s stairs, the dirty water is startling. The food is getting scarce. This morning, there is a good number of eateries open and at this point, the last eatery open where my brother bought our food is about to close. Oh, and yes. The law of demand of supply is actually true today… Prices went up (quantity went a little down, maybe to serve more hungry mouths). This morning, there were pedicabs roaming around for those people that want to be spared a little from the flooding, at this point, there are no more, as even pedicabs couldn’t take the floods anymore.

I am stranded for the second time. My first time was yesterday, so it’s actually more like a second day than a second time but anyway it feels like a second time because yesterday, the first time, was much much bearable than today. Do I even make sense here?

Anyway. We are safe. We are eating twice a day with little snacks in between. We still have drinking water. There’s electricity. Phone signal is kind of crappy, just like the Internet signal but my situation, although stranded, is way way better than those who just lost their homes and properties to the floods; those who are now waiting to be rescued from the roofs of their homes; those who are cramped inside evacuation areas waiting for relief goods; those who just died…

I am not thinking of repeating things that television footages and other media outlets already reported. I just feel like spilling this out, the situation – even though not so bad, it is still bad.

I think nature’s really being hard on us because we are being so hard on her. Imagine the trash that Manila Bay spewed just last week. Where are they even going to dispose that amount of garbage? The flood I encountered today… it was so dirty, garbage are everywhere, and there’s oil in some portions, it’s smelly, it’s just… Is this even normal? Well, maybe this is our new normal. We’re getting used to this, we just live with this, we don’t do anything to stop this.

I feel so helpless. I feel so sorry for us who are experiencing this chaos, this nightmare. I feel so sorry for the next generation. I know we can’t undo everything and be all nature-loving tomorrow… I know after this, we will go on like nothing happened. While some will keep their one-of-a-kind experience in memory boxes, and some will do something to prevent the same thing from happening (like moving to a much safer place, if there’s any… and planting trees and segregating trash maybe), we have to admit that most of us will just move on and face our usual routines and treat this disaster like a bad memory from the past.

Note: So the post was written yesterday night, but I was only able to post it today because of a crappy internet connection. As of this moment, the floods are slowly subsiding (Thank God!). Last night’s knee-to-waist-deep is now gutter-deep and I couldn’t be happier when I heard the sound of vehicles passing by our street. I am just so glad that I literally jumped off my bed, and took a peek outside and it was so bright. The sun is not visible but it’s obviously shining somewhere. Thank you, finally. Most eateries are still closed, still cleaning up their stalls but many people are in sight. The floods are “lusongable”. Yeah, pardon my term.

So, I pray for those that are still stranded (well, I still am, but it’s getting better). There’s always a rainbow after a rain. Everything will soon go back to normal. I just hope we all learned our lesson here.

Stay safe!

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