Happy Ondoy-niversary: A Flood of Learnings

Marikina River, September 26, 2010, One Year After Ondoy, even this bamboo did not managed to bend but new shoots sprouts from where it stood. it has to live again.

Never in my history have i experienced a whole city waking up to the same dream every night and sharing it on people they dont even know on the sari-sari store on their streets, on their rides to their work, on the coffee shops where they share a seat and win a friend, until these same dates of a year ago when Marikina tried to stand up and move on from the horror of Ondoy.

Though to some, it was not that horrifying. Some took it as an opportunity to become more than what they are. I remember my reply when asked about it for the first time, “it was an opportunity to be strong!”

people started coming out of their houses through their roofs for their doors and windows were devoured by the flood

It was a rude opportunity that knocked doors down, welcoming itself and drenching whatever it ran into. The common question then was, “Gaano kataas ang inabot sa inyo?” and i would answer “Isang metro… Isang metro na lang kisame na.” and our ceiling was among the highest ceiling in the neighborhood.

Before the flood rose, my mother told me to bring my wife and my then two year old son to my in-laws. We prepared our stuff, but when we reached the door, the street outside was flooded chest high. The river, which was a little more than a hundred meters away from our house overflowed.

It wasn’t actually new. It happened every eight to ten years and i was then happy to show my wife that spectacle. Yet, the spectacle lasted for not more an hour. The flood was breaking its personal record, reaching the second floor of our house. I saw my mother praying in the ladder holding her candles, but her witchcraft did not worked. Mother nature showed who was more powerful.

Hasmin, Euan and I were in our room. We came out when the flood touched our bed. We then saw several of our neighbors, finding refuge in our house. Part of our ceiling and roof were opened so we could come out. We saw all of our neighbors in their roofs, too. some trying to move to a higher roof as theirs were devoured by the rampaging flood.

people improvised with ropes and hose to help them cross houses.
that's our pet, Hany, we have no idea how she found her way to the top.
look for this house in the previous photo.

We stayed on top of our houses watching the river showed who’s the boss. All connections were gone. And even the gods were sure busy from the calls and prayers of their followers. Mine was simple. “Lord, please, Okay na, natatakot na po ako.”

Yet, the Filipino in everyone kicked in. Everyone were smiling, keeping the horror, the fear, the weakness behind. Cries were heard only from the babies whose tummies could be aching from almost a day long of fasting.

Of course, i wouldn’t let my baby suffer that fate. The first thing i saved was his water, milk and feeding bottles. And that was Euan’s first act of sharing, some of his water and milk were given to the other young ones.

A lot spent the night with stories and jokes on the roof, while my family slept on our ceiling. Our ceiling was a meter high, and the next meter was dry, which gave the table an opportunity to become a bed. at before the sunrise of the next morning, the flood had subsided.

that's the spirit, better have high spirits now, cause anytime, we can be spirits and be spirited away
our ceiling was roughly a meter high, which is roughly a meter high away from the flood
the water started to subside, people went down to scavenge what's left of their homes.
some spent the night in shanties built on their houses
walking away from the disaster and towards the light
to a safer place for my family. stay happy!

I decided to bring my family to my in-laws, to stay there until our house recovers from the damages. Treacherous mountains of dirt, mud, garbage, furniture, houses were on the street. Different items and barricades but all were colored brown. Exodus followed. As we walked on them, more people were coming out of their houses, walking with us on the street, all of us, having no idea of where we were actually going.

our laundry area filled with more than clothes to clean
our compound. after two weeks, things were clearing up not that smoothly.

Ondoy, as a tropical storm was fine. the flood was okay, it even kept Mesopotamia and the crescent fertile. However, it was the aftermath that was devastating. I would not go to the deaths, for I lost no one, I am thankful to say. Even our dog survived on his own instinct. The mud and dirt that covered the city was unforgivable. The cleaning up was hell. It took a whole month to clear it, and almost three months before the houses became totally habitable. The Christmas that followed was saddest. Not because of the celebration, but because a few were left to celebrate.

Yet this year, on that same day, September 26, a lot celebrated. some said it was to thank the lord for helping them survive, while some, just to have something to celebrate. However, a year after the storm, what had we really learned? I, myself discovered that such a thing was possible. to others, that it could happen again. And from this learnings, what have we done? Sadly, nothing is worth celebrating still.

a year after the storm

Until now, i am still unclear of what caused the great flood. The dam issue was a usual but i heard that it was the unopened floodgate that kept the flood from rising on the banks of the river to the roofs and the houses of more than 70% of Marikina. Why was the damn gate close? Is it because of the fisheries in the Laguna Lake allegedly owned by certain governors or senators? This is but a speculation. But speculating is better that preparing the people on what to do in case the thing happened again. showing them floating device to use in case of such a flood. it is rubbish. What if a kid panicked and jump on the flood thinking he is safe with the device? wouldn’t it be better for the kid to have a high place to stay on until the flood subsides?

Of course, it is rude of me to say that preparing these people is useless. It is not. But i believe that more than preparing these people to survive, preventing things that would put these people in a test of survival should be first.

Of course we could not compete with nature. Even PAGASA is hopeless in predicting it. But I haven’t heard of a clear action to prevent this great floods. Some said that the rivers, Pasig and Marikina together with Laguna de Bay could not accommodate such volume of rain. That is a fact. But what has the government done with that knowledge? Has a drain or a canal been built so this much water would flow from this rivers and lake to the seas? See, rain is water, it flows, it takes the shape of its container, but if it isn’t contained, it would continue to flow and would not be stuck causing the senseless lost of precious time, properties and lives.

Sad to say, history is not like the master whose motto is “I don’t want to repeat myself.” This great flood has marked its place in the news archives and would be a reference to a similar calamity one day. We can still be a Filipino and be positive thinking that, that could be another moment to be strong, a day to test our humanity. But that opportunity is open even now. We can start making history that is worth repeating, now.

marked the date!

From our subdivision, here are some picture of Marikina river exactly one year after it overflowed

the marikina river, peaceful to date
houses used to stand here. the branch still hangs on the line one year after Ondoy left it there.
the bank, food for the river
San Mateo Batasan Bridge.
the bridge that wasn't high enough during that day
Marikina River as viewed from San Mateo/Batasan Bridge

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