How much did it rain? The answer really should be “too much.” I don’t know how they measure rainfall. But now I do know what a cloudburst looks like. There are no raindrops to speak of. It comes down in sheets.
In Alabang, the sky was dark in the early afternoon of Monday, and it rained relentlessly all night and into Tuesday. Flooding was reported all over Metro Manila. The sun struggled out Wednesday morning. We thought that the worst was over. But before noon, the menacing clouds returned. There was lightning and thunder, and more torrential rain.
Pagasa announced that it would pour for two or more hours, maybe as heavy or even heavier than the days before. The dams were at spilling levels. It was frightening.
Pictures of devastation we prayed never to see again after Ondoy were flashed on television. Photo grabs of a landslide that snuffed the lives of nine family members appeared on Facebook.
A portion of Marcos Highway collapsed.
These dramatic images were shown via the global media. And the world reacted. CNN’s Anderson Cooper tweeted his concern. Filipinos from every corner of the planet took to the social networks to check on their families and friends. Fund and relief drives for victims were organized here and abroad.
In the middle of the deluge we witnessed the heroism of the Filipino in many heart-tugging scenes of rescue and selfless courage.
I tried to imagine myself and other seniors caught at the edge of the rushing brown floodwaters. How does one scramble to safe ground while leaning on a walker? Does a wheelchair float? How do you climb to the rooftops with arthritic limbs? How can you keep your medications from getting wet?
There was one photo of two seniors being rescued. It hit home.
It was also a vindication of sorts for our much-maligned police force. Two of their men proudly wearing “Pulis” on their T-shirts carried an elderly man and woman who obviously were unable on their own to flee from the fast-rising water. One officer held the woman as if she was a baby. She looked helpless and frightened but still had the presence of mind to modestly hold the bottom of her dress in place. The elderly man rode piggyback. The caption did not identify them. Were they related? Something tells me they were. What mattered was they were safe.
It is at times like these that I most miss being the spry adventurous young woman of once upon a time. I climbed trees, took long walks on the beach, and still could dance all night. Those were the days.
But we do what we can. I supervised the assembly line for bowls of hot lugaw for the children to take to evacuation centers in Muntinlupa. That must count for something!
As a little girl, I heard people say “siyam siyam” when talking about a delay. I have also used it, and most probably in the wrong context. But I didn’t know that it could mean nine days and nine nights of non-stop rain. I finally got a sense of what it could mean in terms of danger and destruction. Thank God it didn’t get to that! Scary!
In spite of Pagasa and other environmental groups, I miss my Papa’s accurate prediction and evaluation of weather conditions, all done without today’s newfangled devices. We always knew when and where to run for cover.
I have always loved the sound of rain on the roof or the pavement. For many of us, it evokes memories of love and romance. But not this time! At the height of this recent deluge we shared one thought: Enough already!
Looking at the aftermath of this latest tragedy, to say that something needs to be done about our infrastructure is to belabor the obvious. That the floods were “a man-made disaster” is also true. Just look at the garbage deposited on the riverbanks and the seawall.
A Herculean job awaits the DPWH. Let us pray that the department is up to the challenge. I remember many horror stories about scandalous shenanigans in the past. Have they finally embarked on the straight and narrow road? I surely hope so.
By the way, I came across this news item a little late, but it bothers me that I can no longer get Haägen-Dazs ice cream (my favorite after Arce) because of some “magicians” at Customs. Did the 23 rubber boats they turned over for rescue just suddenly “appear?”
Through this whole ordeal of rains and floods, it was inspiring to see the warm camaraderie, irrepressible humor and incredible resilience of the Filipino.
I had so hoped that politics would not rear its ugly head like it did during Ondoy. (Remember the relief packages with the markings of candidates?)
But it did. And although we were united during those several wet, dreary and dangerous days and nights, on top of the roaring thunder, above the cries for help of our fellowmen, we heard the grating voices of self-appointed prophets of doom and damnation. They chose a time when we desperately needed to embrace one another in true brotherhood, to trumpet their cause and sow seeds of division, guilt and fear.
But the Filipino is wiser now. Today’s Pinoy is God-fearing. He loves his family and wants to provide them with a good, bountiful and healthy life. He knows that he has a choice. And he will choose well.
“Mankind’s greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear.”—Elizabeth Kubler-Ross