Thursday, October 22, 2009


The first time I heard about dams and why they are constructed was dated back to those early years of construction of the Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija. My twin brothers, Mario, a Civil Engineer, and Carlito, an Architect, worked at UPRP that commissioned the construction of said dam. Why a whole thriving community with its school building, its church, market, and other fixtures of houses and buildings had to be submerged to give way to a dam was an issue I remember I raised with my brothers. Then my husband, Robert, fresh from college and a new board- passer as Mechanical Engineer, joined them, too. But he spent most of his service in government at Isabela where he joined the pioneering work for the Magat Dam Project. I went with him during one summer vacation and witnessed at Mabitin Village the drilling for rock formation samples on a vast mountain which they studied. I only had a vague idea that those samples would tell if the place was a potential dam site. Before the dam was completed he was transferred to National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Tarlac.

I just settled with the information that dams would serve as water reservoir, the big source of which is the rainfall, to provide power to irrigate farms, to light houses and buldings and to run machines. So, when the people around the vicinity of the proposed San Roque Dam rejected the project, I wondered how people could be so selfish to part with their lands where the dam would rise. In fact, the plan was first mothballed. Then after sometime, construction was pushed through. NAPOCOR now operates the dam.

The benefits as promised to the Pangasinenses have now turned into a curse. For how else are we going to describe what the dam did to 41 of the 48 towns of Pangasinan submerged in flood waters as an aftermath of Typhoon Pepeng? Proofs of the damage are still ripe in the news. The whole Shoe Mart (SM) building in Rosales was submerged with only the rooftop in full view that put to danger the lives of thousands of stranded mallers in broad daylight. Rescue operation was hampered by strong winds, heavy rains, and the rushing flood. A large portion of a dike in Bayambang collapsed and the angry flood waters wiped out land, houses, properties including people with it. Scenes of rice fields with ready-to-harvest produce were all destroyed and buried in sticky "linang" or mud. My brother, who is on dialysis 3 times a week , missed his sessions at the Nazareth Hospital. All roads leading to the hospital were unpassable for several days. I can't imagine how scared he was the day flood waters rushed inside his house and he and his only companion had to brave the rushing flood that was waist-deep in no time at all. This was in Bacnono, Bautista. Without any form of communication to reach him, my youngest sister Edna who also suffered floods in Cainta, called up NDCC and begged them to locate our brother who must have run to an evacuation center at Bayambang, the nearest town. We were quite relieved to know he was safe at the height of the deluge.

San Roque Dam is the damnedest dam ever heard in this part of the earth if you ask any one Pangasinense. It's no joke to rationalize that what happened happened because Pangasinan is a flood plain and the dam is a catch basin of water spills from 2 other dams, the Binga and Pantabangan of nearby provinces. It's crazy to reason out that excess water must be released for fear of massive damage should the dam cracks or worst, breaks. Never mind if they had to unload more than 6,000 cubic meters of angry waters per second. It's out of this world to say now that they didn't do anything wrong because they had followed normal procedures- no lapses, no negligence.

The local PAGASA officials added salt to injury when they said they have no modern equipment to gauge the amount of rainfall a typhoon will unload, giving the NAPOCOR less of guilt for its neglectful timing of release of the excess water. Pangasinenses will never be able to recover from their personal loses. They will never found peace and security in their own homes at anytime of the night and day. The only best thing they could do is to lift it all up to the Father Almighty, to pray that miracles may still happen. I really commesserate with the townspeople of Rosales, Villasis, Calasiao, Bayambang, Bautista, Sta. Barbara, San Fabian the worst hit towns. Broken lives of broken people- when will all these end?

Here in Lingayen, we are used to floods coming in the wake of storms and during heavy downpour. Like the rest of the province that experience these floods, we have seemed to have built our resolve to live with it because floods don't happen all days all weeks all months. They are occasional. With or without warnings especially about dams opening their spillways, we are ready for these events. But not in the tragedy that recently happened.

The flash floods came in the dead of the night while most people were in bed, probably wishing that the strong winds wouldn't blow off their roofs or topple their houses. Before nightfall I already handed the key to my parents' house to one of my relatives who are regular evacuees in the vacant house with instructions that they should transfer early in the night. I knew that few from among our neighbors were asleep. The young perhaps were tucked in bed by their parents who had to keep watch for the night. It was around 11 pm. When I woke up for the bathroom, I saw the old house with lights on so I knew they were there for any eventuality. Then I heard someone knocked at my front door begging to have their tricycles be brought to my garage because the flood was rising and-fast. When I looked out in the dark, I gasped at the sparkling rushing water that had already entered the old house. I texted them and instructed that they go to the second floor for safety.

My house is built on higher grounds but the first sight of the rolling floodwaters and the muffled cries in the dead of the night from everywhere, got on my nerves. I almost panicked. My daughter, Pot, left the day before on orders by his boss in their Lingayen main office to assess the situation in their branch office in Marikina that was also devastated by Typhoon Ondoy. She asked two children of my house help to join me during the night while she was away from home. I commandeered the two sleeping children aged 8 and 12, to transfer in one of the rooms upstairs. Then I went back to the living room snatching away from the outlet all light appliances - electric fans, DVD player, radio, etc., and scooped anything I could carry in my hands for deposit upstairs. I just left everything I couldn't carry like the TV, the ref. Silly, wasn't I?

I switched on all the lights outside my house to have a better view of what was coming, looking from time to time at the water level in my garage in front and in the service area I call dirty kitchen, at the back of the house. It was a blessing that the power was not cut off all night. All of a sudden I couldn't remember at what time was the low tide to take place. It was my personal calculation of the high and low tides that used to help me ease my anxiety. I settled with my rosary in hand and prayed not for me alone, but for all those in my immediate neighborhood whose houses were often destroyed after calamities of that nature. I was sleepless just like everyone in the area which is flood- prone.

There was no let up of the heavy downpour all night. The thought that another disaster was coming made me long for the break of day. It was the longest night. I thought of my Kuya Ben who was also alone in his house with only his helper. My sister-in-law left for Abu Dhabi to minister to their daughter Diana who was to deliver her first baby, a week ago before the floods . I was uneasy knowing that his place, Bacnono in Bautista, is a flood area, too. I felt so helpless, and I felt we were worlds apart.

At break of day I watched for signs that the water level was decreasing. But the waters seemed to stay put- neither rising nor falling. I learned that in the basement room of my parents' house, it was waist-deep. In the living room and the kitchen, it was knee-high. In the front yard outside I saw children cruising on a rubber boat in the thigh-high flood waters. The level of water stayed on for three days, increasing a little at high tides. It was the first time that the flood refused to recede toward the nearby river. I knew right then and there that more destructions happened the whole of Pangasinan. And I was right.

Why can't we raise our defiance over San Roque Dam? Why can't we question the NAPOCOR? Who will help the Pangasinenses air their gripes?

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  1. just followed blog very nice article visit my blog back

  2. mskshares,
    What happened 2 years ago today, is still the sad reality in my country and I'm sure elsewhere in this wide world. So many destructive typhoons and floods seem to have no end. This is an old post but today, it is a repeat of those enumerable disasters that are causing gross loss of lives and properties.
    I'm glad you came and your comment is much-appreciated. I'll make a visit to yours. Thanks!



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