October 13, 2009 · Posted in: General

Memories lost to Ondoy

by Aura Marie Dagcutan

WATCHING and reading reports of the devastation caused by Typhoon Pepeng up north is giving me an unpleasant bout of déjà vu.

At exactly 11:40 am last September 26, my family had found themselves trapped in our house that was fast filling up with water. I was out at the time. But back home in Malanday, Marikina, my mother and other relatives were frantically seeking a way out of the house as the flood rose to the second floor and Typhoon Ondoy showed no signs of relenting.

It’s a good thing everyone in the family knows how to swim. One of my uncles had to destroy part of our roof, where my mother, cousin, and grandmothers clambered out and headed for my other uncle’s house, which is just behind ours. But that house also soon began taking in water at the second level. My family then decided to climb out of a window to go to the roof.

That’s where they were when I was finally able to contact one of my cousins at eight in the evening, after I tried calling everyone of them the entire day (and failing). According to my cousin, they hadn’t had anything to eat and were all cold. All told, there were 10 members of my family shivering and hungry on the roof, plus my uncle’s househelp. My cousin asked me to stay where I was because there was no way I could make my way home.

I spent a listless night at the office with Ma’am Weng Paraan, praying that my family would be safe and that the rain would stop soon. At nine the next morning, Ma’am Weng and I decided to go home.

From Katipunan Ave., I had to walk to enter Marikina. At the flyover, I saw families walking barefooted, carrying mud-spattered bags. As I took videos for documentation, I kept on worrying about my family. I had lost contact with my cousin. I had no idea whether or not they had already been rescued and were safe. I passed the now infamous Provident Village, stopping for a bit to take more videos. Military trucks lumbered past, conducting relief-and-rescue operations.

It took me an hour to reach our house, which I found drenched in knee-level mudwater. But it was with great relief that I saw my mother – hanging photos on a makeshift clothesline on the second floor of my uncle’s house. They were photos from my childhood. For my mother, these were the most valuable among our possessions, and she had managed to grab some of the family albums before fleeing our house. These were the only things we were able to save from the flood.

It could take months before we would be able to go back to our house, which is still soaked in mud and trash. But we’ve been blessed with friends and relatives who are helping us bounce back from tragedy. My classmates and friends from college and colleagues from the UST-Varsitarian gave us food, clothes, and medicines. One of my classmates, Joy Marribay, even let my mother and I sleep and bathe a bath at her apartment. Another friend, Kat Apostol from the UST-College of Medicine, gave us pairs of boots. Levine Lao, Josseine Ignacio, Lester Babiera and Kacelyn Paje, my colleagues from the Varsitarian brought hoses and cleaning tools to our now-filthy house. To my PCIJ family, thank you for being understanding after I failed to work for an entire week. Thanks to Ma’am Weng, Ma’am Justine, Ma’am Tita, and Ate Karol, for helping even though I told them I’m already okay.

Marikina the once “model city” has been turned into a virtual ghost town, its streets all muddy and stinking with trash. To date, there are still power and water supply outages in some parts of the city that my family and I had called home for the last two decades. .

For now, my mother and I are renting an apartment in Quezon City. But I’m hopeful that one day, we would be looking through our family albums in the house and city where I grew up. – PCIJ, October 2009

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