THAT TYPHOON POWER IN THE NAME OF "ONDOY" ONE SEPTEMBER WEEK-END
"Ketsana " in English;" Ondoy" in Tagalog
On Saturday, September 26th was just any ordinary rainy week-ender in Metropolitan Manila. All of a sudden, a typhoon named, Ondoy, came rushing. At first reluctantly, an on and off pitter-pattering on the Manila roofs, brick or non-brick the dropping that grew strong and stronger that it drowned the eardrums while my mother was in the kitchen, making lunch for my nephew, Xud who was looking for grandma and grandpa that day in his life. It didn't take ten minutes that she noticed that the water on her feet leveled a few inches, getting higher and higher that when it was up to the knee, she started her first step up to the stairs. My dad was reading the morning paper while Xud was tinkering with his Thomas, the train video game. My sister was sorting her stuff, trying to figure what other clothes she can place in my parent's luggages which they were supposed to bring back to California. Omar, my brother-in-law was in the garage looking at his four-wheeled toys while Jenny was busy in the kitchen, cutting and slicing ingredients for the sinigang na butu-buto. Trini was out in the back hanging just-washed clothes, that she knew wouldn't dry anyway because of the oncoming heavy rain. And it did.
It wasn't just a typhoon, nor a storm, nor a combination of a little cyclone of whirlwind of water precipitation from the dark clouds that hovered above Pasig and nearby towns. It was Mr. Cloud, yes, but he had that fury with him as he whipped and slashed, together with Mrs. Cloud, Sister and Brother Cloud and Claudette that part of the Philippines. Mr. Wind was not very busy nor Mr. Sun- he had nothing to do with it. Evidently, Cloud just outpoured his fury and poured overwhelmingly without doubt all that he had to make an enormous pool of whatever-you'll-expect from metropolis garbage and urban commodities and properties. And then there was no Light. It was not catastrophic in the Philippines to have power interruptions, yet prolonged silence because of telecommunications via any means were insignificant without electricity.
It was Thursday morning when I last talked to Mother on the telephone courtesy of Magic Jack. It was a miracle. She elatedly related to me her trip to the church in Baclaran the day before and some more stories about her meeting up with old friends and relatives. She also told me about how Xud was missing her and his Lolo. That day they were at my brother's house in Alabang. The plan was they were going back to my sister Maria in Pasig and will stay there until Sunday. Joemond (my brother who lives in Alabang) will get them and that they will start packing for their flight back home on Wednesday, the 30th of September. Maria will take a leave from work to be with our parents on their last leg of their trip. That was the plan. Some of them did materialize. But most of them didn't because of Ondoy.
The last message I heard from my sister was last Friday, the day before Ondoy arrived. I called up my brother Jose who lives in Northern California to see whether Maria had called her. He said that he wasn't able to talk to her but her message was to pray for them, their house half-submerged in unwanted ocean of unmentionable debris. Of course, it was a mixture of floating essentials and non-essentials and unimaginable stuff that should not and must not go together but it did, and they did.
On my end, I couldn't bear the thought of just waiting, and trying to squeeze stories from my relatives around Metro Manila whose feet or legs may have experienced Ondoy's flooding. It was a normal everyday occurrence for them to see puddles and puddles of unwanted water on the roads. But my waiting was intolerable. I concentrated in the news of the Philippines through cable channels TFC and GMA and get all the phone numbers possible just to come in contact with the village where my sister lives. I called Red Cross and NDC just to get some images or a hint of how I am able to get a feel of the situation. Hours passed by. I saw bits and bits and pieces of which areas were mostly hit by Ondoy . I checked with my brother Joemond in Alabang if he has heard anything and it was always negative.
Then, I saw rows of rubber boats, rescuing victims of this flood on television. Devastating news and constantly prodding of the typhoon had lead me to think that the worst was yet to come. The more rains it poured and the longer the blackout of anything close to flickering just suggested that there was nothing you can do but anticipate, be anxious, and wait and wait , and wait.
My sister and her family had to relocate for the time being to a higher ground. Lucky for her that our brother lives on the other side of the suburb, and that there was plenty of room for the whole family.
In lieu of the narration of this incident, I am fortunate enough to live and actively opened my eyes and my ears to the never-ending sharing of my parents about that three dreadful days of being trapped on the second floor with no power at all. At that time of Ondoy’s visit, my parents were in the Philippines visiting my brother and sister, and their other relatives and old friends. They came back here on September 30th, only a couple of days from that tragic reverse “Titanic” experience.
Now, just very recently, Sister and her family returned to their house in Pasig. She was a scrapbooker saving all the little things that she had gathered from childhood days. Old pictures that didn’t see the DVD’s for storage and books that were parts of special sets that neither Wikepedia nor answer.com would comprehensively explain the subject matter.
The chore of laundry took a week and a half just to re-wash most of the clothes. The cars in the garage had portrayed floating matchboxes that did not stand prolonged submersion in dirty foul water. The computer and laptop were not saved, miraculously or not, the walls and rugs and carpets all seemed like they been shampooed with dark-coffeed beverage. Wooden floor that was set on the ground so neatly had unevenly revealed different shades of patches that Picasso would have patterned after for lack of abstract form to come up on a canvass.
At this point in time, the business that garnered much action were the boat-builders, candle factories, and ever ready batteries. Funeral parlors did not make a lot of business because bodies were just swept away by sudden gush of fiercely strong currents. Funeral ceremonies were not possible. Make-shift coffins for the recovered bodies of those who drowned were provided by the municipality officials.
As expected, the local governments and other charitable organizations had set up shelters and clothings to those who have been hit the most. Donations from the administration as well as the friendly countries from all over the world have expressed their sentiments and willingly delivered their support in form of food, medicines, and money. Politicians had found a way to capitalize on the situation to help the already poor and now had become poorer because of “Ondoy..”
Dry-clean business, laundry services, and factories that manufacture cleaning supplies such as cleanser, Lysol, acid/chemical solutions, Febreze, vacuum bags, trashbag, sponges, and steel wools are for the most part the in-demand products at that time.
The body shop of automobiles as well as the other vehicle repair shops have surprisingly refused business because of an overwhelming demand to diagnose the cars whether they are drivable or not. Sad to say that the automobile insurance companies would not honor any claims at all.
September 26, 2009 was just an ordinary day in California and in most parts of the world. Yet this date to the Fiipinos, especially to those who had first-hand experience of being trapped for three days and three nights on second-storeys of any houses that were submerged in floodwater, to those who had to sit and wait and pray for help on rooftops for the ten-feet flood level covered their aptly-unfinished constructed housing projects; to those who were away from their homes and stuck somewhere, wondering what was their houses’ fate and how the children were and other family members left in the house coping.
It will just be a memory but a very unforgettable, inundated, and an ugly dream of survival. The Philipines had not had this worst experience the last 40 years. Six hundred people were dead and a few more are missing. The outpouring of the rainwater for 9 hours was equal to a month’s supply of regular raining. If Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (US) was estimated to be 350 millimeters rainfall, Ondoy was way way more than its speed of 412 millimeters of rainfall. Ketsana, Ondoy- Paalam (Good-bye in Tagalog)