Surviving the deluge


Finally I’m back blogging. Pardon the lull out here, I actually started this entry last weekend, but I’ve been out of the country for the past week and upon our return I was floored at the chaos left by the floods to actually finish this entry.

My Filipino readers need not ask what I’m referring to, I’m sure we were all affected by typhoon  Ondoy (international name Ketsana) in some way.  To my readers outside the country, you’ve probably heard in the world news that there’s been a bad patch of natural calamities in this part of the world (including the tsunami in Samoa and the earthquake in Indonesia, which was felt all the way to Singapore and nearby areas).

Here’s my story:

Saturday started out innocently — it had rained a fair amount the night before and was still raining when my cousin Dianne came to pick me up for the perfume making workshop we had scheduled as a pre-discussion activity for the Flips Flipping Pages’ September book discussion, which I was supposed to moderate.

Dianne and I went over to Jupiter St., to the company conducting our workshop to reschedule our reservation, as the roads were getting flooded and Flippers from all over the metro were reporting their status. We met Flipper Andrea who was already there, and just decided to have breakfast at a nearby Starbucks.

Click on photo to check out the Time magazine photo gallery... (Sorry, I had a memory card debacle in Singapore that wiped out the flood photos)
Click on photo to check out the Time magazine photo gallery... (Sorry, I had a memory card debacle in Singapore that wiped out the flood photos in my camera... rats!)


We were waiting for the rain to stop at Starbucks, but after an hour, it was clearly not letting up so I had to cancel the discussion. We decided to go we could not get to my house, which is about ten minutes away from Jupiter, so I decided to go home with Dianne to her house a couple of villages away…

We tried Pasong Tamo but it was blocked, so we detoured to the Amorsolo Skyway entrance and counterflowed down to SS highway near Buendia, but buses were halfway submerged at it was totally impassable. We had to go up the skyway all the way to Villamor Air Base, power through the waters down airport road, brave the traffic along Roxas Blvd until we could get through the flood along Buendia-Taft to get to her house.

Ironically, we had to park on a bridge a couple of streets away, as the flood was already waist deep. The radio was on and we kept hearing reports of kids drowning, families stuck up on their roofs or trapped on their upper storeys — it was heartbreaking.

We waited it out some more in the car (and I had to, er, do creative things with a cup in the back area), but the rain just wouldn’t stop pouring and we didn’t want to wait until dark to get home. So Kuya Mike had to wait it out in the car while Dianne and I decided to plunge in, so to speak.

The floodwater was murky, stank something awful, and I didn’t even want to think about what was in that water. And then we realized we couldn’t stay on the sidewalk because it was uneven (driveways and plant boxes and such) so we made our way to the center of the road,  plastic-wrapped cellphones held over our heads, with water reaching chest level and up to the neck in most areas, taking us a good hour for what would have been a five minute walk.

We finally reached the house six hours later, wet and tired, dirty and hungry.

more photos on this site
more photos on this site


Back at my house, water had risen rapidly to knee-level, and with only my mom and sister home, they had their hands full bailing out the stuff downstairs. Aside from our home theater (the dvd player and the bottom speakers), one of our computer CPUs and a printer, our fridge,  our stove, (the gas tank was floating!)  all the stuff stored under my desk, our padded storage bench, and practically the whole downstairs area,  the books on the bottom row of my TBR shelf went under – easily some fifty books down there.

To make matters worse, we had a flight to catch at 6 am the next day and the airline did not give a cancellation advisory. My sister had to pack my clothes for me as I couldn’t get home. By 2 am, water still hadn’t gone down on Dianne’s street and I (still sleepless at that point) had to make my way home if we had any hopes of getting to the airport in time.  So I walked, again, in the flood, all the way home (some fifteen blocks, maybe), as vehicles were haphazardly scattered down the roads and the Coast Guard was still trying to untangle the knots.

The water had gone down a few inches but there were still parts that were thigh-deep in water (at least this time the floodwater I walked through was clear).  Somehow, I managed to make it home in under half an hour (sheer willpower).  The water inside  the house cleared out already, and I saw my books in damp piles on the tabletops. I avoided looking at them, as I knew it would take all my strength for my sister and I to hurdle the next challenge — getting to the airport.

Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated (although we had to carry the suitcase through a patch of calf-length flood), as the roads to the airport had cleared and we found a cabbie who was willing to take us to the airport. On the way there, we passed by a guy standing in the rain with a large suitcase , clearly on the way to the airport too and unable to find a cab. We backtracked and took him aboard, and we all got to the airport  (where dozens of stranded passengers were camped out) in time for our flights.

The morning after…

We landed Sunday morning in sunny Singapore, and the first thing we did was to go to mass, to say a prayer of thanks that our family pulled through, and that we were all safe. We also prayed for all those families who were more severely affected by the floods.

Even in Singapore, as our phones were on so we could get updates from our mom and brother, we couldn’t help worrying about the situation at home — the thousands of Filipinos that lost their family members, homes, and possessions; the news of another oncoming storm classified as a type 5 hurricane; and the ongoing relief efforts for the victims.

We returned home two days ago, and I haven’t had the time to take full stock yet, but surveying the damage when I got home, I think I lost a couple dozen books already, including several Umberto Ecos.

While I was gone, my mom already threw out some unsalvageable books already (those that practically melted)  and I have yet to figure out what they were.


I still have a stack of books drying by the fridge; some are getting moldy so I’m planning on throwing them out, as it’s probably easier to just replace them. My books are also in chaos — there are still books off the shelves, TBRs mixed with the books I’ve read, and the books I still haven’t covered, and I don’t have the energy to reclassify them just yet.

More heartbreaking for me is the loss of  a bunch of illustration spreads for the children’s book I’m working on for a local publisher, and i can’t help groaning at the thought of all those  months of work down the drain   I’m delayed enough for that project as it is, and at this point, I think I only have a couple of usable spreads left. Two others were badly warped and the rest just disintegrated (watercolor pencils on illustration boards, sigh!). If I’d been home those were the first things I’d have saved, but in the confusion they were overlooked leaning against my work desk until it was too late.

Sigh. I’m not complaining. They’re just things, after all, and I’m thankful it wasn’t much worse. I have friends who lost their whole libraries, their homes, and some even lost family members, and  while I was traumatized by this catastrophe, I can only imagine how difficult the situation is for them.

But for all of us, life goes on, much harder for some more than others, especially as there are still parts up north of the country still suffering from the storm Pepeng that came in the wake of Ondoy.

A particular passage in the Bible comes to mind:

Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 1112 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Relief efforts are still ongoing for Ondoy (and Pepeng) victims, so if you’d like to pitch in, there’s a comprehensive list of places to donate posted online. International donations are very much welcome — there are still a lot of areas submerged in flood, and communities that haven’t been touched by relief operations, and they need all the help they can get.

24 thoughts on “Surviving the deluge”

  1. I know we have already spoken due to our Bookmooch connection, but I just wanted to reiterate here that my thoughts are with you.

    What an experience for life to have thrown at everyone.

  2. My family and I (Wife, 4 daughters, and two cats) live in Quezon City-through sheer luck our area had no flooding-though the streets in front of our Village were flooded-one of the homes of my wives cousin was flooded out almost head high on the first floor-they carried the refridgerator and tvs and computers and stereo upstairs-I tried to tell my daughters we should reflect on what happened and not be totally caught up in consumerism-

    Your write up on the storm is very well done-

  3. Hi, Blooey! Your experience sounds very traumatic! But it’s a good thing that you and your family are safe. I was actually at home during that day working and chatting with someone in Facebook. We were joking that we couldn’t get out because of the darn rain. We only knew that it was bad when I turned on the TV and saw the news. Sometimes, I just can’t believe what happened.

  4. Blooey, oh gosh, I do feel for your losses although, yes, it cannot compare to other people’s. Still, it must be painful. That was a beautiful passage you chose to quote and reminds me that I should read this one to my son.

  5. @Mel – Thank you. Am glad to hear your family is safe. Our home theater went under, I think. At least the washing machine and fridge are running

  6. @Peter- I almost wish I’d stayed home, but I think watching our downstairs filling up with water would have been more traumatic for me.

  7. @Jo- I’ve always loved that passage, ever since I was a schoolgirl. It’s a prayer I always turn to for trying times.

  8. OMGOMGOM! it’s really painful to experience losing books we’ve loved and treasured. Yet I’d be happy to salvage what I could from a flood rather than from a fire or an earthquake(deadlier)! So let’s be thankful we came through. You’ve got a great thing between your ears and the thoughts and lessons from books are encoded in in your mind so in a way they remain tangible. Haha, peace.

  9. Hi Kathlyn :) Thankfully I hadn’t read the books that were flooded yet so I can afford to be a bit detached from them. And thankfully my Harry Potter collection was nowhere near the flood!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *