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Lessons from Ondoy

October 3, 2009 2 comments

For the first time in my life, my family and I became victims of a natural disaster.

Last Saturday, Sept. 26, my home for the last sixteen years was flooded for the first and only time I could remember. It was unexpected and we were so unprepared for what happened. All of us could only watch in shock when water started seeping through our front doors that evening. When the flood reached waist-level less than two hours later, we decided to leave our home and seek help. My parents, my two brothers, our helper and I, each took a bag of our belongings and waded through the chest-high flood waters outside. This was at around 8pm. We sought shelter at the second floor of our neighbor’s house next door along with two other families. I made two trips back to get our dogs and my laptop; the water was ice-cold and the current was so strong that I had to keep one hand clinging to our neighbor’s fence to make sure I won’t be swept away.

The next day, we went back to survey the damage. The entire house was filled with mud. Needless to say, we lost a lot of our belongings–stuff that my parents had collected in their 30+ years of marriage.

It’s been a whole week since Ondoy hit. My body’s aching from cleaning up and today, our house is starting to look “normal” again.  Yes, we lost a lot but we keep telling ourselves that everything we lost can be replaced. In trying to stay true to the promise I made myself to focus on the the positive, I am indeed quite blessed that despite the experience, I still have a lot to be thankful for.

My family’s okay–no one was hurt. This is the worst crisis we’ve had to go through and I’m proud to say we’re surviving with flying colors. During this past week I realized that my younger brothers aren’t boys anymore–they’re reliable young men.

My boyfriend really loves me. Mac was in Cubao working on a project when everything happened. When he couldn’t contact us anymore (mobile phone signals were almost non-existent), he found a way to come to us. He rode a cab to Katipunan, took the LRT to Santolan station then walked in waist deep flood water to get to us. If that’s not love then I don’t know what is.

I am extremely blessed to have great friends.  I’ve been receiving text messages and calls from friends near and far.  Thank you guys! Your messages and phone calls kept me strong.

I have the best office mates. 🙂 I know a lot of them had to adjust in our absence (a couple more of my colleagues’ homes were also flooded) just to make sure operations ran smoothly. Thanks for the prayers, the messages and the help you sent. It was overwhelming…!

I believe that we live in a great community. Our homes were all flooded but my neighbors were more than willing to help each other out. My family and I are so grateful to have a roof over our heads that fateful night. There were rides to the supermarket and simple sharing of much needed information when we were closed off from the rest of the world. My neighbors didn’t act like victims–they were heroes.

This last week made me realize how I took everything for granted. The material things I took so much care for looked so irrelevant in the muddy aftermath of Ondoy.  The shoes, the bags, the furniture and the other stuff we lost can be replaced but I don’t know what I could have done if anyone I cared for got hurt. I’m leaving this experience with the knowledge that nothing in life is permanent–that everything you’ve worked for can disappear in an instant. It’s a scary thought but at least I now know what to prioritize in my life.

What happened with Ondoy was a traumatic experience that I do not EVER want to go through again. Indeed, some of life’s lessons should be learned the hard way.

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