These typhoons locally codenamed Ondoy and Pepeng, respectively, hit the Philippines one after the other in a matter of a few days recently. Pepeng is somewhat still lurking around northern Luzon island, Philippines, as of this writing, and it was deemed a “super-typhoon” with a speed that reached 24 kilometers per hour at noontime last Saturday. Although it wrought much damage in that part of the country, mercifully it pretty much spared the areas around the center of Luzon (cities in Metro Manila and nearby towns and provinces) that were inundated with rainfall brought on by Ondoy and where the victims are still suffering in the aftermath. Twelve hours of Ondoy’s continuous rain managed to give the country a month’s worth of rain. As a result, waters from rampaging overflowed rivers and clogged drainage submerged houses even two-stories high, leaving residents stranded for hours on their roofs while their possessions were left in the floods or carried away by the strong current. Their long wait for rescue by mainly military vehicles, rubber boats and other amphibious devices was delayed by hundreds of stranded vehicles that littered the flooded streets leading to the affected areas. Helicopters couldn’t fly and pick them up either because of zero visibility. Plus the fact that the sheer number of people in different localities seemed to have outnumbered rescue teams.
A few days after catastrophe struck, there were still areas with floods or tons of mud or both (with residents in a quandary on how or where to begin cleaning up or rebuilding), houses severely damaged or swept away, thousands of evacuees located to different evacuation centers or crying of hunger or in shock in the streets, people found dead or were still missing, families separated, garbage spread out and threatening to further clog drainage in case of another heavy rain. But amid the pain, there were also stories of heroes who saved lives and sometimes lost their own, neighbors helping each others, strangers reaching out to assist, goods and cash donations flowing in to relief centers for distribution to the victims.
It may take a while—perhaps a long while for many—for the victims of Ondoy and also of Pepeng to rise from their suffering. But Filipinos are a resilient lot, hardworking, patient, and determined—coupled with a smile that never fades amid adversities. As one of the victims interviewed on television said, as long as they were alive, which is the most important he said, there was always hope to rebuild their lives, and trust in God will help them through. (Thanks also to God that our own place and that of my sister’s in Quezon City were spared by floods. Two of my cousins and their families though in Marikina weren’t so lucky though, but they are now slowly getting up to face life again. Photo shows a cousin's home brought down by floods and mud. He and family stayed on the roof and transferred roof to roof for 17 hours straight until they could reach the flooded highway and walk some more to save themselves. They eventually reached a relative in another city where they are now staying temporarily.)