Just a week ago, an unexpectedly strong typhoon hit Metro Manila and other areas close to it. I just read somewhere that Ondoy, which is more known as Ketsana internationally, meant little boy. They never had expected that Ondoy, though perceived as little, would bring such devastation to the archipelago's main area of commerce. Everybody was caught by surprise. Everybody expected it to be just one of those many storms that our country had been encountering every year. Everybody took the littleness of it for granted. Nobody ever thought that a little storm has that capability to end hundreds of lives and destroy thousands of houses, automobiles and properties in just a number of hours, which I think should be at the most bottom of our worries list at this moment. Sabi nga nila, gamit lang yan mapapalitan, e ang buhay hindi na.
It has been 40 years since a same incident happened to the metro and in my five years of staying along Taft, zero visibility perceived from our window's view brought about by a heavy downpour and a shaking glass window brought about by strong winds had already grown into me so really, it would be very unlikely that someone would foresee that this could happen again. Of course, unless PAGASA had beforehand acquired that equipment which could calculate the amount of rainfall that will pour, maybe we could have predicted that this would happen and maybe we could have done something about it. But hey, government or non-government, the damage has already been done and passing the blame from a sector to another sector would not solve and accomplish much.
The consistency of events made us complacent. And rationally, how could someone be not complacent when that someone thinks he could already handle the situation? If we thought that being anxious might have prevented the catastrophe from occurring, I am quite positive that all of us will undoubtedly decide to be anxious for the sake of humanity. Surely, nobody wanted that to happen to themselves or to anybody else.
It is in these times when we truly express our sympathy to those people who had experienced firsthand nature's conspiracy. Everybody either seems to be involved or want to get involved. It warms my heart to see that everybody, foreign or local, is extending whatever help they can extend to the victims. We had, beyond doubt, imbibed and reflectedBayanihan in its truest sense. With this, viewing the catastrophe locally made me think that after Ondoy we are now, little by little, coping up. Are we not?
Even before Ondoy left, it was already announced by PAGASA that two other typhoons, Pepeng (Parma) and Quedan (Melor), will enter the Philippine Islands pretty much soon after Ondoy. We really had not fully recovered yet from the previous typhoon but somehow here they are again. With one being labeled as a huge super typhoon and is predicted to again bring havoc to Metro Manila and other areas close to it, it was apparent last Friday that panic from the people had again arose. A good number of people in my floor had not reported for work. Some who came in have not really concentrated on the tasks at hand and were just tuning in and following religiously the whereabouts of Parma through news updates and reports uploaded to the world wide web. One by one they left until, at around 4 pm last Friday, only four people, including me, were left in our floor. I am not trying to be hard-headed or anything, because I, for once, never wanted to get stranded. Hello?! Who would want that? I would have had left early like them if I do not have anything to do in the area afterwards but unfortunately, I have. Maunahan ko pa silang lahat umuwi kung wala akong gagawin no. Well actually, the activity would not be that of a big deal if it wasn't for the money I already shelled out for it. I had contacted the coordinators earlier that day but they told me that as of that moment, the show that I will be watching was pushing through and they'll just going to update us if there will be any changes. Sayang naman if I would not go so I decided to stay and wait for the final notice.
Came around 5 pm, I received a text message from one of the coordinators saying that due to weather conditions, the night's Spring Awakening got cancelled and will be rescheduled to a later date. I was kind of relieved because of the bad weather that, according to the media, will be greeting us late in the evening and at the same time saddened by the fact that the play will be rescheduled but really, what's another week of waiting right? So upon reading the SMS, I immediately closed my office computer, and realizing I forgot to bring again an umbrella, grabbed the Marketing's sample umbrella lying on my desk and hailed a cab. Well, I am not sure if I could use outside a sample artwork with the company's logo in it but what can I do? I do not want to go home soaking wet naman. I am pretty much sure the boss will understand and I actually took good care of it. I had it dried up pretty good and placed it with our other umbrellas during the weekends and earlier today, I put it back in its plastic cover. I was extra careful not to leave any proof that I used it. So unless they'll going to test the umbrella for fingerprints or unless they'll gonna stumble upon this entry, I think I am quite safe.
The umbrella was put into good use since the rain was really pouring hard the whole time I was trying to get a cab. It took me over half an hour to get one which is typical on a Friday or when it's raining. At 'yung ibang drayber nagdudupang na naman kasi. One driver is trying to make a deal with me; twice of my usual fare because it was super traffic according to him. Come on! how much traffic could it get? Minus na sa may bandang Estrada at Taft, since there were no classes for the whole week for all levels. Since I am not that desperate about getting home quickly, I did not go with it. Twice?! Not reasonable.
After waiting again for about half an hour, I finally got one. The driver who tried to make a deal with me was right, it was really traffic but not the EDSA or Alabang type of traffic where the cars are most of the time literally not moving. I think the traffic was mainly caused by the panic. People just wanted to get home as early and as quickly as possible as to not get stranded if ever the typhoon comes in. Even the roads that did not get much traffic before got congested by cars big time. My sibling also told me that the supermarket, where he and my mom did grocery shopping, had already ran out of instant noodles supply. People are basically stacking up their carts with food that will last long and will make them full instantly. It is a natural instinct for people to get defensive and panic-buy. Well, because of what happened a week earlier, it was a no-brainer that people were then preparing for something worse than Ondoy.
During the weekend, it was said that Pepeng changed its course, saving the whole of Metro Manila and other areas close to it from another devastation. Nonetheless, Pepeng did not left our country untouched. He did not allow that the Philippines will never know about its destructive greatness; Pepeng made a beeline for the Northern Part of Luzon. Casualties had again been reported, crops had been swept away in an instant, thousands of people had been stranded because of the inaccessible roads brought about by the typhoon and the list goes on. Yes, another typhoon had again beaten our country to a pulp and to make matters worse, Pepeng is expected to make a U-turn towards the same area because apparently, Quedan, the next typhoon, is sucking it back in.
Seriously, what's happening with the world? I could not help but feel like one of the Baudelaire orphans of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events with all the things that are happening to us right now. The Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, dust storm in Sydney, earthquake in Indonesia, tsunami in Samoa and countless typhoons which had took thousands of lives to date globally do sound apocalyptic enough for us, right? They do.
But instead of frightening us, I believe that God is trying to tell us something. I am always a believer that everything happens for a reason and I am, in actuality, viewing the said series of unfortunate events as a wake up call or a simple nudge rather than an outright threat to all humanity.
Whenever catastrophe like that of Ondoy surfaces, my mom always tells us the things she had to endure during the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. She always describes it as Exodus. What was happening right there and then felt like something that came out from the pages of the infamous book of the Bible. It felt like it was the end of the world for her. Every minute there would be an earthquake. Instead of rainwater pouring, what was pouring down that time were mud and sand. Once in a while, they would hear roofs and tree branches collapsing because of the pressure exerted by the accumulated mud and sand on top of the houses and branches. Frequent shoveling of the said mud and sand on the roofs was needed to ensure that our roof would not fall down. A huge white sheet seemed to be capping up the whole surrounding. It would already be dark by 3 pm in the afternoon. People are basically breathing in dust and what was supposed to be a 20-minute drive from our place to the city became hours' worth of driving because of the sand. Grocery stores and market places are not operating since they also have no goods to sell. Good thing my mom and lolastock up food and canned goods.
Because of the proximity of the said volcano to our place compared to my mom's hometown, my mom decided for us to go to Ilocos Norte that time but then again there were no bus available that could take us to our destination. All of the bus could not get through and we have to go to Pampanga that time, which is quite impossible without a bus, for us to just get a ride to Ilocos. Maybe you were asking why have we not thought about going to Ilocos even before the volcano was expected to erupt. Good point. Actually, all people had known that it will going to erupt soon but they were informed that only those areas that are within the 25-km radius of the volcano will be affected. And the distance between Mount Pinatubo and our town is way beyond 25 kilometers. Akin to Ondoy, nobody expected it would be that of a big deal. I know I was already there when the volcano erupted but because I was still too oblivious to remember clearly and too young to care, all the stories I heard from my mom were all that I have. But I know that all of those are just bits and pieces of the whole picture and I am just thankful that we had overcome it despite our defenselessness and more thankful to God for taking over. For my mom, her experience during the Mount Pinatubo eruption was the perfect manifestation of the saying "Money isn't everything". Because even though my mom was holding an enough amount of hard cash that time, she can not use it at all. She can not use it anywhere. And I believe that the same goes to all the people who had been in the same situation and who had directly experienced a calamity like that. People had grown to be very materialistic through the years. We are so caught up on having that new bag, that new model of cellphone, that new pair of shoes etc. that we tend to forget the important things in life... basically, what life is really about. We always find ourselves trying to nourish the wrong things instead of nurturing the vital ones and it is only in these difficult of times that we regain our sensibility about how we are living our lives. These circumstances are like light taps on the shoulder which are meant to wake each one of us from our own version of reality; much like a limb-jerk during a slumber. At the end of the day, it is the closeness of your family that matters, the memories with your lover that will flutter your heart, a good night out with your friends that will stick in your mind, a one great love that will make you feel stable and contented, the realization that your life is on track that will make you smile, and not at all the number of high-end cars you got, the innumerable townhouses you have, your collection of designer shoes and bags and the like. So why bother putting too much focus on those things when you can enjoy life with just enough? Life is absolutely more than what we know. We do not need another tragedy to come to a full realization that our life is definitely finite and surely, we do not want it to end thinking that we actually lived a life full of regrets. Truthfully, if we had lived a full, guiltless and irreproachable life, there is nothing we should worry about. God is much bigger than our fears and worries. These devastating calamities that we know are just a speck of His greatness. If we just learn to entrust things that what we could not control to Him, I think we will definitely be okay.
October 5, 2009. Written by Lav Acacio.