Monday, September 28, 2009


Manila was the subject of a massive deluge yesterday.

The rain started sometime in the wee hours of the morning on the 26th. From there, buckets of water filled the streets for what turned out to be the entire day, as though some divine entity turned on the bathtub faucet and let the whole thing run. In my corner of the woods, even the wind got into the act from time to time: sometimes it tore off a few pieces of the local flora, just for sport.

My brother and I were up at about 7:30 in the morning, deciding that our badminton gathering was not going to push through: One of our members had mentioned the threat of floodwaters; we stopped our other esteemed guest just as she was about to leave her house, a fact for which I was extremely thankful a few hours later.

At around ten in the morning, I was wondering if the rest of my Saturday schedule was going to push through. The torrents were falling, the wind was howling, and the Facebook posters were putting up evidence of just how bad it was out there. The streets outside my old university were practically submerged; someone put up a photo of how his own car had been half-flooded... while it was sitting in his garage.

A little after lunch, the power went out. That erased any doubt that this was more serious than your average storm, and cut us off from most of the news. None of us had charged our cellphones, and a subsequent search of the house noted that we didn't have much in the way of emergency lights available. Food, oddly enough, wasn't a concern — for some strange reason, my family stockpiles instant noodles like no tomorrow. Along with the fact that we live on a hill and thus have no issues with flooding whatsoever, we ended up having a comfortable time riding out the storm.

At about five in the afternoon, my brother elected to drop by the nearest supermarket and pick up some flashlights and a supply of batteries. My sister decided to come along, while I figured that I would hold the fort at home. It took them about an hour-and-a-half for a trip that would normally take fifteen minutes; in addition to the fact that the roads weren't as clear of vehicles as could be expected, it took them a while to fight the weather.

From there, it was dinner and bed. I slept before ten o'clock for the first time in ages, wondering exactly what was going on out there. We had some contact with some relatives and our closest friends, but had to hold off on extensive contact due to low battery levels; Fiber-optic landlines may be the latest thing in communications technology, but turn out to be utterly useless when it comes to power outages.

The cloudburst only ended at about two-thirty in the morning on the 27th. I know this because I was up at that time, listening to the rain as it got weaker and weaker.

Yes, world. That means that, for about twenty-four hours, we got non-stop rain.

We were out early the next morning, and noted that most of our neighborhood was unaffected. (It's the same set of hills, after all.) The nearest city hall, which was in a low-lying area, was still flooded in ankle-deep waters, and I felt that that somehow said something about our style of local government. The Pasig River had a remarkably high water level, and was rushing along at a rate of speed that would have made a good exercise in fluid mechanics. And most of the houses that we passed along the way were filled with people, all bailing out the accumulated water or cleaning the last vestiges of mud.

I talked to a few friends and acquaintances. Almost all of them either stayed home, or were out at one point or another the previous day... although each of them did get home safely the previous evening. They told stories of other people, however, who got the worst of it: Some ended up overnighting in offices. Others only reached home after midnight or early the same morning. One unfortunate fellow hitched a ride on a dump truck and went the rest of his journey — about twenty kilometers — on foot. In the rain, even.

And yet there are apparently still others, as evidenced by my walls on Facebook and Twitter. There are more than a few families still stuck on their roofs in the Pasig area, more than a few individuals who lost businesses and personal possessions, more than a few people who are sleeping somewhere other than their own beds tonight. There are so many places accepting donations and assistance right now that I'm wondering where to start.

Tomorrow is a workday, of course, and I figure that the right course of action involves holding the fort and mollifying the clients while allowing the rest of the office to recover. Alternatively, it might also involve leaving a message with our eminent clientele, and then moving on to the more humanitarian efforts. The second option sounds a lot better. But that still raises the question of where to start... which I'll probably ask by tomorrow morning.

It's difficult to read the updates that are being posted by the minute. It's even more difficult to look through the photos that people have uploaded regarding one remarkable rainy situation after another; these are photographic times, after all.

Years from now, I figure, we'll be telling stories of the record-breaking rainfall, the massive flooding that ensued, and the question of exactly what we were doing both during and after all this took place.

I suppose I should be preparing for that time, I think. You all take care now, and you all do what you can.

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