September 26, 2009 will be a date that many Filipinos will remember as the day it rained forever.
It started out like any ordinary rainy day, and, in my case, I made my way to the Ateneo that morning to give a teacher-training seminar to public school teachers. When I arrived at the high school campus, the rain had actually let up, making me think that it would be the end of it.
But, as the day progressed, it was clear that this wasn’t an ordinary rain, as it continued to rain in torrents, causing the drains to almost overflow, and deep puddles to form on the high school lawn.
By midday, we started hearing reports of huge traffic jams outside, and the participants began to worry and ask me whether the seminar would be cancelled, so that they could go home. However, I was told by our head that Katipunan Avenue outside was hopelessly gridlocked, and we might as well just finish the seminar sessions. All the while the rain pounded incessantly, a constant sheet of water.
By lunchtime, we started hearing horror stories of our co-teachers’ houses in Marikina and Cainta being flooded, almost up to the ceilings. My coordinator came in from the grade school fair with her family, and told us that there were a lot of stranded people there due to the traffic outside. Mr. Pagsanghan, my mentor, arrived from Miriam College, where he was giving a talk, and told us how the flood waters came into the covered courts and shorted out the electricity.
My own problem was that I had forgotten my cell phone at home, and I couldn’t contact people to find out what the conditions were outside. My call to my mom told me that my wife and her sister was somewhere out near the Delta area, and my sister, who was at the nearby Parco, couldn’t get to them because the floodwaters were too deep for the car to go through. Fortunately, my daughters were safe, albeit in different locations: my eldest was with my mom, whose house is on a hill, and my youngest was at our own house, which is elevated.
At the high school workroom, a part of the ceiling apparently gave way, and flooded the entire workroom; I’m not sure if part of the flood was due to the overflow from the drains, though. The last time that had happened was about a decade ago, when water came through the seams, and we had to frantically remove all of the computers from the computer room. Fortunately, the water only reached the edge of my cubicle, so I hurriedly shifted all of my boxes onto my desk and cabinet.
My co-facilitators and I wound up finishing the seminar an hour earlier than the given schedule, to allow the participants to try to get home. As for me, my co-teachers and I stayed at the workroom, and, while the internet was still working, we kept updated from the status posts of our friends on Facebook, some of whom had been stuck for hours in the traffic gridlock.
The brownout came at around three, so we relocated to the cafeteria, where we waited for news of the traffic easing up. That came around five, when the guard told us that traffic was free-flowing on Katipunan.
I decided to take the C.P. Garcia route, only to find out it was backed up just after the UP CS entrance. Fortunately, I managed to cut through UP, but, since Ylanan Road was backed up and not moving, I made my way to University Avenue, where the traffic was slow, but moving.
At the intersection with C.P. Garcia, traffic coming from that road was snarled because of cars turning left from University Ave. However, it made a great block to cross the intersection, and it was easy getting to Commonwealth Ave., where I had heard the traffic going home was light.
At Commonwealth, I saw this was the case. Several trucks and vans had attempted a counter-flow going to the Quezon Memorial Circle, thus causing a massive gridlock wherein only a few vehicles at a time were able to get through. As it was, there were dozens of people on the road, all walking towards Tandang Sora Ave.
The road was clear all the way to my parents’ house near the central temple of the Iglesia ni Kristo, so I made it home from Ateneo in less than an hour. For some, however, it would take hours to get home, and for many others, the storm had stranded them where they were.
The next day, the Philippine Star, in its headline, compared the storm, codenamed ‘Ondoy’, to hurricane ‘Katrina’, which devastated the Southeastern part of the United States a few years ago. Inside were pictures of trucks half-submerged and people stranded on rooftops. A news story reported that the amount of rain last Saturday was almost equivalent to the rainfall of the entire September. A good number of places across Metro Manila are without electricity, telephones, or potable water.
So far, despite the devastation wrought by the storm, casualties appear to be fairly light, although that might be because authorities are still collating data (I’m hoping, though that the number casualties are truly low). Among my friends and co-teachers, while there is a great amount of property damage, I don’t have any reports of casualties, for which I am very grateful. Doing a quick scan of Facebook posts show that a number of people are missing or out of contact. Hopefully, this is due to the lack of network coverage than anything else.
Still, there is a lot of work to be done. Many families have been rendered homeless due to the flood waters that engulfed their homes. Many are still stranded because flood waters haven't abated in their area. Food and clothing are needed, and donations are coming in from everywhere, which goes to show the goodness of man shining through in the darkest of hours.
The storm is a reminder once again for us not to forget the fury that nature is capable of releasing.