Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Tropical storm "Ondoy", (International name, Ketsana) tore through Northern Philippines Saturday, September 26, 2009, with a heavy downpour of more than a month of rain of 16.7 inches (42.4 centimeters) in only 12 hours, that submerged Metropolitan Manila, and broke the record of 13.2 inches(33.4) within 24 hours in June, 1967, according to chief government weather forecaster, Nathaniel Cruz, then roared across the main Northern Luzon islands toward the China Sea Sunday. Ondoy wrecked havoc to 25 provinces, the first ever widest land area struck and in that number.(Philstar, Sunday 27).

Since day 1, I was either in front of my TV set or on line at my yahoo e-mail, in my desperate attempt to contact my siblings, especially Edna, whose place, a subdivision at Cainta, Rizal, was one of the worst hit. The electric power was obviously cut off and signals from either Smart or Globe cell sites were also out. Our sister who lives nearest to her place is Sis Lina from Antipolo who learned that early on, flood waters entered Edna's house for the first time. Then at around 4:00pm Saturday, September 26, she lost contact with her both by landline or mobile phone. As I waited for news I was hooked on my netbook and TV for news. The scenes were scary, my heart went out to the people being carried away by the flood on top of what remained from their hpouse- the rooftop made of galvanized iron and wood. They were waving, shouting for help now, and then submerged into the rushing flood waters and were gone. People on top of a bridge who tried to help them by throwing rope in their directions failed. That scene was horrifying!

Day 2, Sunday, a grieving man-survivor, who was one of those riding that rooftop, was on TV relating his harrowing experience. He was with his wife, two children, both young girls, his mother, a cousin, and other relatives. When he went adrift and was rescued, he plucked his dead mother out of the waters. He was separated from his wife and children without any news about them. More and more typhoon victims started to be shown the night of Saturday in the internet and on TV. Pangasinan, our province, is 5- hour bus ride to Metro Manila, and yet we felt the threatening strong winds although it was quite our luck because the winds hit high and brought minimal downpour only despite storm signal # 2. How much more for those directly hit by the storm? TV footages showed houses made of light materials kept rolling with cars, buses, trees, animals, and debris. The more sturdy houses are half-submerged or are shown with just the rooftops with residents marooned on them desperately waving for help. What was pitiful were the children being plucked out from the waters muddy and dead. Drenched survivors looking for their family members plodded the waist-high or neck-high flood waters. Rescue teams of soldiers on rubber boats, and helicopters and civilians eager to help with any means possible were shown encountering difficulties because of the rushing muddy waters and rolling debris. I became more jittery as I called up my other brothers and sisters if they were all right. But I was more concerned with our relatives based in Manila, my own daughter Kit, too. I learned that she braved the storm Saturday morning to buy her necessities like foodstuff.

Day 3, Sunday, Ondoy was out of China Sea toward Vietnam passing through our province Pangasinan. That early morning at 6:00 when flood waters subsided in some parts of Rizal province and roads were passable, my other sister who lives in Antipolo, Rizal, braved the still hazardous roads to Cainta with husband Ging to checkup on Edna's. It was then that I was able to let out a sigh of relief, when they called me up to report that Edna, her husband Pol, and son JP were okay. Thank God, their house only suffered from ankle-deep flood waters that rushed inside their house flooding the living room and the kitchen. They are very lucky that their house stands on that higher place at Gate 2 of Brookside. It was Gate 1, two street corners away that was impossible to reach by rescuers until this day, Sunday. Most of the houses there were submerged to the rooftops. I learned too, that my nephew Mon had one of his vehicles, a van, half-submerged in the flood but was also okay. He is also lucky to be on higher grounds in that heavily flooded part of Quezon City. His sister Tet who plodded the flood waters from her office for about 4 hours ( she left her van in their office parking area) was able to return home to her three kids. She was feverish when she joined the many pedestrians stranded along the roads home. Lissa and son JM were accommodated by the occupants at the third floor of their boarding house for safety, too. Cleaning house will be difficult for my affected relatives but our blessings is that they are all alive and safe.

Landslides in several provinces buried families, in embrace when found. People stranded in their own homes drowned. Dead bodies were found everywhere, especially on riverbanks, along canals, some hanging on trees, burried in the mud from the landslide, floating in the flooldwaters and almost anywhere. Families who got separated from their loved ones on flight or in their washed out or buried houses cried for help to locate them only to find out that their loved ones' dead bodies were sighted elsewhere. The worst is until this day, most are missing. Those who returned to their houses found them covered with mud, destroying all that was inside. All these are clear on TV footages. Everywhere you look, the wrath of typhoon "Ondoy" is clear.

Our fallen brothers, my Filipino countrymen, need help. Thousands and thousands of the poor victims have no houses to return to. As of this posting, the number of people affected is said to be nearly 400,000 and counting. Some 100,000 people are now housed in about 150 school buildings, churches, malls, and other evacuation centers. The dead join the living in evacuation centers, waiting for the flood to subside. Where they were to be buried would be surely a problem, too. Our government officials and even concerned civilians are one in trying to help rescue, retrieve, and distribute relief goods to the victims anywhere. The National Disaster Coordinating Council secretary called even malls and shopping complex services to offer spaces for the thousands of people drenched in rain and mud. From the way the rescue and retrieval operations and even the distribution of relief goods are being handled, it indicates all to one thing, everybody is unprepared for this great disaster.

News had it that Demi Moore and other international celebrities hit the cyberspace bringing world attention to the beleaguered Philippines. Quickly, international aid comes pouring in. The United States and United Nations responded with food, water, and other relief goods in the wake of the massive flooding initially reported in the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, and Rizal, where the towns of San Mateo, Cainta, and Taytay were worst affected. ABS-CBN and GMA TV networks are among those actively involved in the relief operations at the same time that they receive aids locally and all over the world for distribution. The rehabilitation of the affected provinces will take a great task but the de-briefing and rehab of the victims themselves will take a lifetime. We are all brothers, aren't we?Our unfortunate brethren need help.

Photo by IRRI images

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