Archive for October, 2009

Down But Not Out

Pink SoleOur family and close friends know why we’ve been out of circulation lately.  Like millions of other Filipinos in Metro Manila, we were greatly affected by the recent mega-flooding brought about by typhoon Ondoy.  Our house like so many others you saw in the news was submerged in 6 feet of muddy flood waters.  Bear with us as we chronicle this significant part of our lives that yes, affected our running lives as well.

How do you stand up strong from a drowning, emotionally-draining, energy-sapping experience such as Ondoy?

The village where Jun and I lived for a total of 25 years now (9-10 years as singles living with our respective parents and 15.5  years as a married couple) never experienced anything remotely like this.  Sure, some parts of the village roads got flooded sometimes BUT flood waters NEVER reached  the road fronting our house. Well, not until that fateful morning of Sept 26th.


First of 3 cars swept by the current

I woke up from a very restful sleep that morning unmindful of the non-stop rains all through the night. And why not?  It has rained non-stop many times before uneventfully for us and what the rains brought us were cool, breezy, rest and sleep inducing nights.  Not this time. Clear rain water was starting to pool in front of our place.  Unusual but far from threatening.  Maybe the rains were stronger than usual, I thought.  No strong winds.  That’s good, I further thought.

The rains continued pouring though and before long, the gutter was filled to the brim and water started going up our garage.  Very, very unusual.  Alarmed with the situation, I started monitoring the flooding very closely.  I called up my parents who also live in the village and asked about their situation.  My Dad was very jolly and unmindful of the rains.  No flooding there.  I warned him and got a teasing instead which I was in no mood to receive.  He must have sensed my concern such that he went to our house and looked into our situation.  I bidded him to return home as Mom was there alone.  By this time the garage was already holding a lot of water and the vehicles’ tires were soaked 5-inches deep. It was at this time that I asked Jun if we shouldn’t be bringing the vehicles out.  Jun was right when he said we couldn’t anymore.   By then, the route going out would have been deeper in water as we were in relatively higher ground.

While the waters have not entered the house yet, I started packing 3 days worth of clothes and asked the kids to wear their hooded jackets and rubber shoes.    As soon as the water entered the house I very calmly instructed the older kids to put all things important to them  in the topmost drawers like school uniforms and school stuff.  Their  Why-Mommy questions were just answered with a calm “Don’t worry baby.  Let’s just do this to make sure.”  Everyone cooperated excellently.  They also threw in a few favorite toys they could get their hands on onto the upper deck of a double-decker bed in the spare room.  Smart kids!

Blue SoleAs Mariel was busy preparing the kids, I was just as busy helping the maids keep the water out of our kitchen.  I was quite oblivious to the rising water as my thoughts and efforts were focused on the rain coming in from the kitchen roof.  Did we miss out having the gutters cleaned?

Just then, the then still clear water was in our living room ushering in a lone catfish, eliciting giggles and shrieks of delight from our little Mikka.  There was still laughter in the house seeing Mikka’s excitement over the fish.  All this time Mariel was in the room occasionally going out only to check on  the water.  I didn’t know then but found out later that she was packing our running gears and stuffed it all at the topmost drawer.  Good thinking hon!

The water was going up fast.  I had to bring down the main switch as the water was starting to reach the sockets.

Pink SoleI asked the kids if they can find me the floaties.  Sofia’s nervous  “Why Mommy?” made me scratch the idea.  “Nevermind baby, it’s okay.”  I just thought we will bring them out early and will not need the floaties.

Mercifully, and I attribute this to the Lord’s guidance, we decided to bring the kids out to safer, higher ground even while thinking that no, the water will not go any higher.  No, our house will not be flooding like this. No, this cannot be happening.  In the midst of confusing thoughts, the Lord gave us calm spirits and lead us to bring the kids out early enough.  We went out, Jun leading us  across the neighbor’s house wading through thigh-deep (waist deep for our 10-year old) racing waters under pouring rain with nothing but a set each of dry clothes we hurriedly pulled from our closets and stuffed in my small bag.  We realized we couldn’t carry any heavy bags anymore as we were getting out of the house.  It was a good thing our good neighbor also named Jun was in their garage and readily welcomed us and ushered us in and up their 2nd floor room.

As soon as we were safe, Jun headed back home before I could protest and tried to elevate some of our more important stuff  with our household helps.  They seemed to be taking a  long time  coming out and I was already nervously trying to call and text Jun to  get out of the house.

His effort to go back home did get some of our important stuff saved including the packed bag of clothes we had to leave however he was unable to join me and the kids to take refuge in the same house we went to.  He found it impossible to go across as the now brown muddy  water had gone up to chest level and the current got stronger.  The kids and I were peering through the glass window watching him trying to get to us.  His attempt to get across to join us caused him to be swept by the current further away from us.    This scene caused panic to the kids and all of them started crying as soon as they saw their dad being swept away by the muddy water just like the 3 cars we earlier watched go with the flow one after the other.  I tried to stay calm as I hurriedly led the crying kids away from the window and just as hurriedly went back to see Jun swimming to safety.  My heart was beating so badly against my chest I thought it would burst. Thankfully, this blue sole did not panic and managed to swim to the roadside. Thank God he was able to go back to the other neighbor’s house and stayed there for the rest of the night.

Jun at his first attempt to go across to join us

Jun (blue circle) leading the maids to safer ground

With the electric power down and our cellphones out of battery, we didn’t get to talk anymore and satisfied ourselves with occasional waving.  Yes, we didn’t get to be together as a family that fateful night but I tried to comfort the kids and assured them that Daddy is okay and we will all be together again the next day.   That night,  sleep came only after midnight when my most generous neighbor, Emmy and I were assured that the water is finally going down.

Blue SoleI spent the night in the open upper deck of the other neighbor’s house together with our househelps and some other neighbors.  All I managed to bring with me were a change of clothes.  A shirt and would you believe, cycling shorts were what I managed to pull-out from the dark.  We were filthy, cold and tired but relieved to have made it up to a safer place.  That night I slept alternately seated on a chair and curled on top of a table. I am thankful that Mariel and the kids were in a place much, much more comfortable.

I was calm all throughout — from the time it started flooding, when we had to evacuate up until everybody was safe.  Even when I was swept by the current, there was a strange calm inside.  I was able to focus on what I had to do which was to bring my family to safety, save as much of our things as possible and make sure our maids and I survive this.  We did and I only know fully well Who helped us.

Pink SoleFrom across the neighbor’s house, we saw in full view how our earthly possessions went under water — cars, house and almost everything in it.  Hugging my kids close though, seeing Jun safe, receiving text messages of assurance from my Mom, Dad, sister and brother and Jun’s sister and her family that everyone is safe, honestly made  those earthly things matter much much less.  I am just so glad we are all safe and the family’s complete.

My heart goes out to those who lost a family member, a good friend, a loved one apart from losing their homes.  I can only imagine how difficult that is.  My prayers and sympathies are with you.

I will forever share a bond with my neighbors with whom we experienced the floods, with family and friends who generously gave us  their love, concern, prayers and who so generously shared their time and resources with us.  We are forever grateful.

I can’t say it didn’t hurt at all, this must have set us back about 10-15 years.  I can’t say I really didn’t mind it at all as I wasn’t able to control shedding tears as I sort through our muddied and ruined pictures especially our wedding album.  We still couldn’t help but mourn albeit very shortly about favorite things we remember and couldn’t find anymore which we just assume were part of the piles of muddied stuff we had to throw away.

It has been a full month since the great metro manila calamity.  We’re slowly trying to get our lives back in order and achieve a semblance of normalcy.  The whole family’s back in the house, the kids are back in school, Jun and I are back running and now back blogging (we hope, with some regularity now).

The process of rehabilitation will take time but life goes on.  We will be fighting — for our family, for our kids’ future, for the full life God intends for us to live.  We must stand up stronger.  With God’s help, we know we will.

We leave you with God’s word we hold in our hearts:

” Never will I leave you;  never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

“We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” Phil 2:13

Down but definitely, not out!

God bless us all!

Cheers!  🙂

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