Remembering Ondoy.

Browsing through an old blog, I came across a post I wrote almost 3 years ago. This was written in light of the typhoon Ketsana (locally known in the Philippines as Ondoy), which reaked havoc and severe damage all over Metro Manila. This was one of the rare instances that the country’s capital was badly damaged by a typhoon; it is usually the neighbouring coastal areas and provinces (the Visayas islands, the Quezon region) that are destroyed almost each and every time. Nobody predicted this one, not even the guys that were supposed to.

This was me 3 years ago, writing to nobody in particular, reeling from the experience of being right smack in the eye of the storm, realising that maybe I could’ve also died that day but more overwhelmed by the kindness and positive spirit I saw from the hundreds (or thousands) of other fellow Filipinos marching on the streets with me.

Barefoot with broken umbrellas but never, ever their spirit.    



16 September 2009

I came out of my French class to find N.Garcia Street (formerly Reposo) flowing like a river. Without a clue if the rain would cease, we waited it out for over an hour. Eventually we all decided to make a run for it. Plowing through the muddy water, we reached Buendia only to find it deserted. Not a single car, cab, or jeep. 

It was eerie. 

And in desperate times you do find strangers converging in such public spaces, whereas under normal circumstances we would give each other no more than a mere glance, brushing past each other as we rush through the human traffic, impatience thick in the air. 

We all asked one another what was happening. Some shared status reports, informing us that there was no accessible public transportation until some kilometers away. Some offered directions and passage ways to curb the inconvenience. We shared umbrellas and shelter space under roofs and sheds. 

Then we all went our own ways and walked. And walked. And walked. And walked. 
For me it was a total of 13 kilometres. 

That wasn’t the plan, but that was pretty much the only way I could transport myself anywhere. It also clearly portrayed my impatience. My impatience and dread of being stuck. Walking nonstop until my feet bled seemed a far less arduous feat than sitting in traffic for 10 hours. Honestly my heart goes out for those in this unfortunate situation. Vehicles were in a standstill for over 12 hours and many had to leave their card, marching along EDSA like a pilgrimage. I couldn’t blame them for being frustrated and hot headed, to say the least. But noticing most, something struck me though: people didn’t cease being kind, pleasant and helpful. Throughout the stretch, people were still smiling, sharing their umbrellas, and cracking jokes about their broken ones or lost shoes. 

I only learned of the extent of the damage brought on by the typhoon, when I finally accessed television. The rest of the week was an avalanche of relief efforts and volunteer work. 

Filipinos. Chin up, head high, always smiling.


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