Sunday, October 04, 2009

Luck in the midst of Ondoy's fury

I felt so lucky last weekend.

By now, everybody might have already heard about Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) and what was probably the worst flooding in the history of Metro Manila. That Saturday morning, I was supposed to attend a birthday celebration of a friend in Makati. By 9AM I had just finished eating breakfast in McDonalds with another friend who was also going to the birthday lunch. Vehicular traffic was starting to get heavy at Quezon Avenue and the rain was steadily pouring down in buckets with no sign of abating. We received word that the get together was cancelled due to the weather and that Makati was starting to flood. My friend and I decided to turn right in EDSA to go to Trinoma Mall perhaps watch a movie before heading back home. I parked my car in the open parking lot (I vowed never to park in Trinoma's covered parking ever again - but that's another story) and we noticed some localized accumulation of rainwater in the parking area. At the mall, we observed the weather only get worse. I felt agitated about leaving my car in the low parking grounds and would not have enjoyed watching a movie with that thought at the back of my mind. So I decided that we should just try to go home. We only got as far as the Quezon Memorial Circle. Traffic was at a standstill and the entire Circle was starting to look like a lake. After about an hour of staying in one spot, the cars at the back started to counter flow so we were able to get out of the gridlock. We went back to North Avenue but decided to go to SM North this time where we parked at the higher open parking at the back of what used to be the Super Sales Club building. SM North was in worse shape than Trinoma with some of the inner roads flooded and the entire basement where the food court is located underwater. They also suffered intermittent blackouts in the main building. We were soaked when we crossed to the main mall using only a small umbrella (which I started to call RoboPayong because it opens and closes with a push of a button) so we bought new shirts. The main department store was closed but the new Annex building (where the new CyberZone is located) had electricity and the restaurants were open. We were stuck there until closing time and I was complaining all the time that all we did was sit around and eat.

Traffic was flowing (albeit very slowly) by the time I went home at 10PM. Parts of Commonwealth Avenue was still flooded and only a few car lanes were passable in some areas. When I finally arrived home, I was shocked to learn that the flood waters reached up to neck level in our area. Our place was in a relatively high elevation, but since LaMesa Eco park and the Dam was just at the back, the area quickly became flooded when they released water when the Dam reached critical level. The flood water quickly subsided but this was enough to ruin the 1st floor units in our compound of low rise condominiums. The cars in the parking spaces were also not spared. I saw a lady pulling out a soaked travel pillow at the back of her SUV. Mud and garbage brought by the flood water were everywhere. The 2nd floor common area was filled with stuff from the first floor units that they were able to save from getting soaked. These were mostly appliances and some small furniture. My unit is located in the 2nd floor and was not touched by the flood. Had I stayed at home, I would have been in the same predicament as my other neighbors. i could just imagine their frustration as they were looking out of their windows to their cars slowly being swallowed by the flood water. Watching the news later that night, I realized just how lucky I was. I saw people spending the night in the rain on top of their roofs fearing that the flood water might rise higher. I heard stories about entire families getting trapped inside their house because of landslides. Of people getting trapped inside their ceiling and finally drowning when the flood water rose higher and higher and there were nowhere to go to. Somehow all of my frustrations and complaints when I was stuck inside a mall with nothing to do but sit and eat at the restaurants seems so trivial. Right now I am just happy that all of my family members and friends are safe.

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