For the first time since the last week of September, I’m finally able to find some time off to blog. As you may have noticed, most (if not all) of my blogs are on hiatus. “Been busy” is an understatement. You see, client projects and volunteer work weren’t the only ones that kept me on my toes for more than a month. If that was only the case, I don’t think I’d lose the drive to blog or struggle with my designs. I’ve been used to that kind of pressure (how many times have you heard me complain about the buttload of things I needed to do?).

Backyard mess

This time, it’s different. Because this time, my family and I also needed to pick up the pieces and move on from a tragedy brought about by the destructive side of Mother Nature: Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana).

As you can see in my previous post, our bungalow in Cainta was flooded. But the photos in that post were taken before the worst happened. About an hour after that Marc, my dad, and I were already running on adrenaline trying to save and secure important items before evacuating to a neighbor’s two-story house. Both cars were submerged in the flood — Marc and my dad could only look on sadly from our neighbor’s window, hoping against hope that maybe (just maybe) the cars would miraculously remain undamaged even if the essential parts were helplessly drowning in murky water.

More nerve-wracking was having to leave our dogs behind. We weren’t the only family our kind neighbor took in, so we could only take with us the two tiny dogs not part of our canine pack. We left our other dogs on floating airbeds and secured viable exits for escape in case they needed to. Having a bit of knowledge on our pets’ pack behavior on taking care of each other when the going gets tough was little assurance — not knowing what might happen to our pets was just pure torture.

Water reached chest-deep by early morning and subsided by the afternoon of the next day.

Flood aftermath - Our House :(
Early Sunday (27 Sept 2009) afternoon, people are going back to their houses. My dad surveys flood damage to our home.

I slept off the rest of the afternoon waiting for the water to subside, but partly I also wanted to prolong the time before I had to face our ruined belongings. My sister warned me of the disarray I would face, but I was not prepared for the mess I saw. Unlike our neighbors, we aren’t fortunate enough to have maids and house boys to our advantage — it was only me, my dad, Marc and my sister against a muddy, flood-stricken house. My mom, being half-immobile due to a stroke she suffered about three to four years ago, still tried her best to move things around to help us clean up the mess we called our home.

We didn’t want to trouble our neighbor further — their hospitality and kindness of taking us in for two days were more than we could ask for — so we did our best to make the dirty house at least livable. From the bedrooms to the kitchen, to the living room, the home office, then the yard. It took us more than a week to clean things up and let the gravity of the situation sink in.

Flood aftermath - Kitchen

You see, cleaning up wasn’t just physically tiring — it was emotionally draining as well. Apart from scrubbing floors, walls, and tabletops, we also had to sort through our things ruined by the flood, and that includes having to throw away now-useless memorabilia and priceless treasures of sentimental value. By the time we finished cleaning, we were numb both physically and emotionally.

Indeed, this flood was one of the most difficult ordeals my family had to go through. But strangely enough, such tradegy is also a paradox of sorts. Typhoon Ondoy brought disaster to our relatively peaceful community, and yet it also fostered new friendships and strengthened ties between neighbors, friends and family. We will forever be grateful to our neighbor who lived right across our home and took us in, as well as all our friends and relatives who braved the heavy traffic and disaster-stricken streets to bring us food and drinking water when we had no means of travel to get essentials outside the disaster zone. Even those whom we did not expect to help our family did. Strangers became friends, and a community that used to meet only at Christmas bonded together to pick up the pieces and move on.

My only link to the online world that week was a choppy, grounded DSL cable connecting me to the web for a maximum of two minutes before shutting me off. It wasn’t much to go on with. Luckily, good friends were patient enough to update me in the on-goings of things through text and an awfully noisy phone line.

The third Philippine Blog Awards was also held in October. Being in such a desperate situation, I could not help but feel frustrated at the idea of possibly not being able to see the fruits of a year-long series of events I co-organized due to important yet unfinished tasks I could no longer accomplish in such a state. Thank goodness for my fellow organizers who have unselfishly made sure that the Awards Night pushed through. Without them, this year’s PBA would not be possible. You know who you are 😀

Though Marc and I nearly canceled our trip to Cebu for the Visayas leg of the Blog Awards, I’m glad we didn’t. Spending time with good friends (albeit the PBA work involved) really helped alleviate the emotional and mental stress the Typhoon brought.

I also celebrated my birthday on the 8th of October, but it was different this year. I foregone my usual tradition of blogging on my birthday for fear of being too emotional, having wounds from Ondoy still a bit too fresh in my memory. My family only had a simple take-out dinner for five in our still-a-bit-dirty home, but I couldn’t be any happier. No need for gifts or expensive new gadgets. I was lucky — we were lucky.

Having my family (both human and canine) alive and well for my birthday is something I am forever grateful for. We survived. Thinking of things that could have been made me realize just how lucky we are. And for me, being gifted with another year (and hopefully, many more to come) is probably the best birthday gift ever 🙂

More Ondoy aftermath photos here