A year after Typhoon Ondoy…

October 26, 2010, exactly one year since the destructive Typhoon Ondoy wreaked havoc to Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon. This day will not be forgotten by  many people including my Family, some relatives and friends because we are included in the list of victims of nature’s wrath through a typhoon named Ondoy.

It was a typical Saturday. Early in the morning, it was raining but not so heavy yet. My Mom and Dad went to the local market to buy a week’s stock of food. Only my 2 sisters, brother in law and nephew (then 7 months old) were left at home. The rain started to pour heavily.

Our car was stucked on the road due to traffic (since some roads became impassable).  My mom became worried that the water might go inside the car but nothing they can do since the traffic is not moving for an hour. She needed to use the comfort room and since they realized there will be no way the vehicles will move soon since the rain becomes heavier, they decided to leave the car on the road and go to my aunt’s (father side) house which is close to where they were stranded. Soon the flood becomes deeper and deeper that it went inside the house of my aunt. They had to transfer to a neighbor whose house is 2 stories high.

Back home, my siblings are in panic because they can’t contact my parents and the waters are rising very fast. Our home is bungalow type though it is built higher than the road and in the 20 years that we lived there, never did the floods reached inside our house…if the flood waters reached our gate, it is already above waist deep.. Except on that day when the waters reached inside up to the window pane.  My sister said the flood waters rise very fast and the current so strong, it seems like seeing the Southeast Asian Tsunami videos. They had to climb a stair to reach our next door neighbor who’s Townhouse is 2 stories as well.  They had to do it quickly and cautiously because they are carrying a baby. All the appliances and furniture tumbled down as the flood entered our home.

These events were happening while I am totally unaware of since I am in Bangkok and the weather is so sunny that time.  Never did I expect a typical typhoon to directly hit Manila since it has been raining constantly in the country during that time but it is expected in a monsoon season anyway. I even watched a movie with few friends that day.

I did not receive any single message from family members about the predicament simply because it was so quick and they are totally unprepared. They had to contact each other (my parents, my other siblings, relatives who are mostly living in Marikina or Pasig–all flood prone areas) so in a short while, all their mobile phone batteries went dead.

I was only able to check my Facebook after dinner. I got the biggest shock of my life when I opened Facebook and the wall of my friends are literally flooded with messages about the disaster, re-posting call for help from those affected and prayer requests.

Then I checked the news website and found out how big the destruction is. I got goosebumps and my heart beats faster. At the back of my mind, I am praying nothing wrong happened to my family. I tried contacting our landline as well as the mobile phones of all my family members and relatives. All are unreachable.

I was so restless but cannot do anything. I tried messaging my cousins in the US and Canada if they have any news about our families back home but unfortunately they cannot contact their respective families as well. All of us overseas waited in vain. Just imagine the frustration and anxiety we are feeling back then. All we had to do is pray.

I asked a favor from my ex-GF to try contacting any of my family members since it may be easier if the call is from Metro Manila. Fortunately, she is able to contact my brother in law and got updated that all members of the family including some of our relatives nearby are all ok. Only thing is that they can’t contact my cousin staying in Pasig so they are also worried if they are ok.

The family was able to contact my cousin after a few days. When the flood subsided, my family entered our home and everyone thought they are in a nightmare especially my parents who worked hard to build our home and improve it over the years but all these hard work, savings and memories (including our pictures and documents) are washed away in a few hours time.

I actually asked them to take pictures of our home but they all don’t want to remember it by a picture so I wasn’t able to see exactly how our house looked like then. All I know is they spend few days (if not weeks) to clean and disinfect the house, throw away the appliances, clothes and items that are no longer usable. Our car also had to be on queue for fixing because majority of Marikina are submerged in flood and vehicles needed to be fixed. Our consolation and for which we must be truly grateful for God’s mercy is that everyone in my family, relatives and friends are all safe.

I saw the Facebook note of my cousin detailing her and 2 children’s ordeal while stucked in their home in Pasig. It is very detailed that I can picture them like in Titanic trying to move around in deep waters. Fortunately for them, their home has 2nd floor. They consider the present as their 2nd life already since during that time, only few inches away and the flood will reach the 2nd floor of their house where my cousins and 2 little children were. Their village was submerged in water for few days without food, water and electricity which makes it doubly hard since the little one one is still a toddler then.

When I went back home few months after, there are still some traces of Ondoy in our home (some of the doors and cabinets are not fixed yet that time).

After 1 year that Ondoy “visited” the Philippines, the memory still remains. Let us just pray that catastrophe of this magnitude will not happen again.

Sharing some pics I got from this website: http://www.typhoonondoy.org/tag/ondoy/

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Remembering July 16, 1990 Killer Earthquake

Exactly 20 years ago, a 7.8 magnitude Earthquake struck the island of Luzon, Philippines at around 1626H, local time. Luzon, being the main island of the Philippines where Manila is located and a densely populated region survived the calamity but with extensive destruction in properties and claiming approximately 1,600 lives.

Personally, I will never forget that day as long as I lived. The harrowing experience is still vivid in my memories. As a grade school boy, I can’t imagine myself experiencing it far away from my family as what other students experienced. I just finished doing my homework and about to get ready to play outside. My youngest sister who was in primary school then was in their room at that time because she had some tantrums. I can’t remember the cause of her tantrums but I believe it was her first earthquake experience and surely she didn’t know that time what is happening. There was a violent shaking of the ground and as my dad realized it was an earthquake, he told everyone of us to get out of the house to go in front in an open area for safety reasons. We had a bit of hard time opening the door of my sister’s room to take her out cos the house was shaking. We eventually managed to go out safely.

My parents, 2 of my sisters and me hugged each other as the ground is literally rumbling and violently shaking. There was a huge water tank nearby our house which the noise of it’s shaking was quite frightening and imagining if it will fall, what will happen to the residents nearby…my sisters are crying because they thought the earthquake will not stop. It lasted quite long (about 45 secs.). We were quite fortunate that we were already home from school at that time. I heard some children who were in the afternoon session in school panicked when the earthquake strike, many of them cried out of fear.

My 2 brothers were not at home that time. My eldest brother who was already in college that time visited a friend in the UST hospital in Manila with some friends. They said the earthquake was also felt strongly in Manila. Because of the event, everyone had to hurry back home and at the end, my brother and friends had to walk from Espana, Manila to Marikina (approx 21 kms. away) just to reach home. My other brother was staying in my Aunt’s house that time.

There were several aftershocks during the course of the night and extending through the week. There were some days that while doing nothing, I felt dizzy and it seems that the earth is still shaking then. Electricity was cut, schools and offices were closed for several days and the building inspectors had to check schools, offices and public buildings for safety before they allowed entry.

In the news, we saw the massive destruction of the quake most notably of which is in Baguio City and Cabanatuan City. The Hyatt Terraces Hotel, a 5 Star Hotel in Baguio collapsed killing at least 80 people including guests and employees. Many other buildings in Baguio, a popular tourist destination due to its cool climate, pine trees and American inspired architecture collapsed.

In Cabanatuan City, a big school- –  Christian College of the Philippines collapsed killing at least 15o people, mostly students. It was such a horrific experience seeing in TV or newspapers video or pictures of children who died in the rubble.

I remembered seeing in the news that Akiko Thompson, a pretty and popular swimmer was stranded in Baguio and finding ways how to go back to Manila. There were other prominent personalities that were affected by the calamity.

There were some survivors in the ruins as well. Some of them survived up to two weeks without eating or drinking. Some claimed that they had to drink their own urine just to survive.

If there is one positive thing that happened in this tragedy, it’s the Filipinos’ nature of “Bayanihan” or helping those in need. Donations and pledges of any kind keep pouring on government agencies and Television Stations. Eye to Eye, a popular public affairs program was the leading and most reliable source of donation during calamities.

Many people preferred sending their donations to this hit TV Programme because the host, Inday Badiday and her crew really go to the affected areas and personally distribute the goods. They also flash on screen the pledges or donations. Some stars volunteered to answer phone calls in their hotline.

As I write this post to remember the frightening yet historical event in our country, please join me in a silent prayer to God asking to spare our country from similar calamities in the future. It is really an experience that one can never forget…

The fury of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana)

I am sure by now many of us already know what happened to Metro Manila and nearby areas on the fateful day of 26 September 2009. Typhoon Ondoy (International Name: Ketsana) claimed the lives of over 200 people (and counting) because of torrential rains said to have produced a month’s worth of rainfall in just 6 hours. Typhoons and tropical depressions are common in the Philippine islands because of its geographical location which is within the typhoon and earthquake belt so a typical Typhoon like Ondoy should not cause too much of a panic compared to previous Super Typhoons and since Manila was declared to have only public storm signal no. 1 (the lowest typhoon warning).

The rain poured heavily and non-stop most of the day last Saturday. By noon, many areas are already flooded. Few hours more, the waters are getting higher and many areas which have not experienced flooding ever saw nature’s fury on that day. Metro Manila and Rizal province was literally a water world so to speak.

My family has been living in Marikina for almost 3 decades now. The city became popular in several occasions: 1.) It always hugs the news whenever heavy rains or strong storm pass by the country due to the fact that the city is actually located in a Valley being surrounded by higher areas like Quezon City, Antipolo, Cainta, San Mateo 2.) There was a fear amongst all residents when many years ago experts says Marikina is sitting in a major earthquake fault line so there is a big chance a major earthquake will struck anytime in this area and so many property owners try to sell their house or lot out of these fear. 3.) There were several cases of rape+homicide of pretty ladies which made Marikina look like a dangerous place to live in. Seems Marikina has full of bad publicity because of natural or human threat.

On the contrary, these news were wiped out because…3.) Marikina has been a role-model amongst cities in the Metro and the whole Philippines by winning many awards for the clean & green, river restoration, zoning projects and efficient crime prevention by the local government. Marikina become an ideal place to live. The city is almost always in competition with Puerto Princesa City, Palawan which also boasts of natural beauty and efficiency in local governance. Marikina was even dubbed the “Singapore of Philippines” because of its cleanliness and orderliness which has been a source of pride to all of us Marikenos.

And once again, Marikina my beloved city hit the news big time. It is really sad if not heart-breaking to see the news and videos of the extensive destruction to life and property that Typhoon Ondoy brought us. Marikina River suddenly looked like a sea because it swell so big. Provident Village a semi-exclusive village located near the banks of the river I believe has the most casualties in terms of lives and properties.

Our Home in Marikina which was lovingly and painstakingly built and maintained by my parents  since 1982 is now a disaster. Sure, the structure is still there but all the appliances, furniture, clothes and important documents are all wet and covered with mud and unfortunately cannot be of any use at this point. Our village has not experienced heavy flooding for many years now due to the improvement in drainage system and prompt garbage collection. As far as I know, the heaviest flooding we encountered has only reached the front of our gates (which is equivalent to waist deep water already) and never hit our garage, much more inside our house. But on Saturday, the water just flowed relentlessly into our humble abode and in the process tumbling big appliances and furniture. Our car was stucked in the road as well and submerged in flood water because according to my Mom, they just went to the wet market to buy the usual weekly food stock and are unable to go back home because the flood rose very fast and there was heavy traffic on the way back home. To put it in detail, they got wet more than they’ve expected.

Above all of these things that happened, I thank God so much because the destruction is only on our property, not lives of any member of my family or relatives. Surely, it will be very tough for us cos we have to start building our lives all over again but we can rebuild it as a family. What will be more difficult and unbearable is the thought of losing someone that way and totally unprepared. I was so anxious Saturday and Sunday after I learned about the disaster since I cannot contact anyone from my family or relatives through mobile phone or landline and at that point, I am clueless as to my family’s situation. I am just so glad to have finally contacted them yesterday and talked to them lengthy on phone.

I was watching various YouTube videos as well as news clip from GMA News and ABS-CBN and I really can’t help but feel very sorrowful on different experiences of people who had been to that tough situation.

One woman was crying her heart out because she lost several relatives including children. One of her family members tried helping others but at the end lost his own life. The lady said yes it is good to know the person did not die in vain and even became a hero because of saving other lives but it will be very difficult for them to accept the sudden death. Moreover, when they tried asking for help, no one can help them because of the extreme weather condition. This cost the death of 2 children who could have become an inspiring president or an excellent doctor in the future but have gone too soon.

Another man who is a company messenger cannot help but cry because he saw the Desktop computer he gave his child as a gift being destroyed by the flood. He said it took him very long time to purchase the computer even have to loan the money to buy but now the equipment is just a piece of garbage. One good thing I saw in him is his positive outlook that despite all their properties are lost and he admit nothing he can do anymore because it happened so soon, he still has faith in God and he believe it will all come to pass.

(To Apollo, you can see the video of the Man and the child whose computer was broken in this link sorry, dunno how to upload video not coming from YouTube in my blog. Hope you will find a way to donate a computer to them as you have intended. God bless you) : http://www.gmanews.tv/video/48395/after-floods-residents-now-deal-with-muds-in-metro-manila-nearby-provinces

Indeed at this time, all we can do is Help and Pray. Help all victims anyway we can through donations or whatever support we can extend. More importantly we need to pray. Pray for God’s mercy… Pray that it will not happen again… Pray that the human casualties will no longer increase… Pray for the salvation of the lives that were lost..Pray for healing of memories of all people who had gone through this bad experience.

I was told by my Mom that my young niece and nephew seemed traumatized by the incident. When they saw the flood going inside their home last Saturday, they cried and embraced their Dad (my brother) tightly for comfort. Then the next day when it started to rain again, they told my brother that they are scared cos it’s raining again…I really hope they will forget this harrowing experience very fast.

God bless my family and loved ones.. God Bless the Philippines.