It’s been two weeks since Ondoy’s (Ketsana) onslaught and a week since Pepeng (Parma) gave us a scare. And we’re just about returning to normal life. While we’re thankful that the flood didn’t reach the 2nd floor and that none of us were harmed, the flood nonetheless was devasting to our house.

Flood At the Gate

Flood At the Gate

It was about lunch time when I got up from working on the computer. My brother went out early to go to school, and our maid, also in college, spent the night out finishing their thesis. I went down to feed our 2 shih tzus when my mom called me outside. She asked me to relocate the cars because surprisingly the flood had just touched the line of our gate in our driveway! Normally, when there were heavy rains, the flood usually only reached the bottom of our drive. So I moved my Astra and my mom’s city about two houses uphill. Problem solved.

I was quite sure the rain was unusually strong to reach the gate line, but that it was about to be over. But the water kept rising and started filling our garage. Soon we decided that it would be wise to move the cars further up the street to the corner, where it was at least 6 feet higher. I had to wade in the now knee-deep water that flooded our driveway. We sprayed insecticide on cockroaches which were scampering up drain pipes to drier places.

Ankle-high Water in the House

Ankle-high Water in the House

We retreated to the house and I went back up to the computer. The power started fluctuating so I shut it down and went back downstairs. The garage was more than ankle-deep know and the water was slowly creeping towards our main door. Seeing that it would seen be level in a few minutes and start coming inside the house, I told mom that we had to get the rugs in the living room. We lifted our white narra chairs to get it out and placed the rug on top of some stairs. We moved to the 2nd living room and did the same. While the water started creeping in, we also took the thick, heavy rug in the dining room and placed it on the table.

About an hour since I first moved the cars, the water was rising quite fast. The water level outside the house was higher by about half a foot than in the inside because the doors were shut. Water was gushing through the spaces of the doors. We had started moving things up on the chairs and tables, including the sofas. One sofa, we propped up on to the counter top, thinking that it couldn’t get worse than this. After all, floods never reached our gate before.

Chest-high in Water

Chest-high in Water

But it still rose. We were now moving what we could upstairs: a televison, stereo, electric fan, whatever ornaments we had. But we couldn’t move much. They were heavy and we were underpowered and couldn’t get any more help. Knee-deep in water, we heard a loud splash. The refrigerators have fallen. Buoyant because of their hollowness, what we couldn’t normally lift easily was sent afloat by the flood with impunity. I told my mom, “we have to turn off the electricity, the water’s almost to the sockets.” My mom was arguing that it would get dark and we wouldn’t be able to see. Of course, I still shut down the circuit breaker for safety. Now we were moving the rugs we put on the chairs and tables up to the second floor. All that we had put up on the tables had to be moved up to the second floor because the water had no signs of stopping. Books, magazines, CDs, vases, anything we could grab and lift. When the water was already waist high, the chairs and sofas were also floating. I decided to get my grandmother, who lived in a detached one-floor unit behind our house, up to the second floor for safety. The water outside was higher than on the inside, and merely opening the doors was a struggle. My grandmother was clearly confused what she was going to save. I tried getting her TV, but couldn’t manage to get it in the house because of the water pressure on the door. Eventually, I had to leave it on her sink while we entered the main house and I led her upstairs. My mom got all the bread she could get her hands on.

Our Street Becomes A Lake

Our Street Becomes A Lake

The embroidered silk flowers in a photo from one of my shoots

I noticed that the water was almost near the bottom edge of the largest framed pieces we had on our walls…

I noticed that the water was almost near the bottom edge of the largest framed pieces we had on our walls, which I lifted up single-handedly upstairs. The dining room rug we placed on the dining table, which was already heavy to begin with, became even heavier when one of its end became soaked in water, and we struggled to bring it up the stairs.

More cabinets toppled and floated. With the water chest-high, I decided that the cars needed to be moved further up. I got my underwater camera case and plopped the keys and cellphone inside, and swam across my living room. Another struggle to open the main door, and I was outside the house in water that was as high as my head. The water had almost reached the spikes on our gate, so I estimate the water to be around 7-8 feet deep in our garage. Never in my life did I imagine that I’d be swimming in the murky waters of a flood. Swimming the breast stroke with my head out of the water at all times, and a stick to clear my way, I made my way to dry land around 3-4 houses uphill. I called up my mother’s cellphone to report on how the cars were and got the cars at the end of the street and moved it to the next street which was the highest place I could bring them to. By the time I got back, the previously still-dry houses were already ankle deep in water. Again I swam towards my house, but our wooden main door had expanded and jammed, the side door was locked, and I had no choice but to swim to our kitchen door where the cockroaches we sprayed earlier were now floating. Inside, the kitchen was a mess. The rice dispenser, refrigerators and sofas floated and made navigation even more difficult.

Our family albums drying out while we monitor the flood level

Our family albums drying out while we monitor the flood level

Our escape raft

Our escape raft

I got to the stairs and went to the bathroom to cleanse myself and put on some dry clothes. The day was getting late, and the water was really cold. By this time, I had already started thinking of escape if the water was going to reach the 2nd floor. I searched for one of our inflatable boats: a two-seater rubber boat that was meant for only the swimming pool. I got the paddle, some rope, and put it inside. Meanwhile, what was I to do with my camera gear bag? Still with it’s rain cover, I opened it and got the only 4 ziploc bags inside and placed 2 SpeedLites each in their own bags, my 70-300mm and 50mm I put in another. I connected my kit 18-135mm to my camera and put it in the underwater case, and with the last ziploc I put my portable HDD, my thumb drive, watch, iPod, calling cards, cellphone charger, and keys (with whistle). I wouldn’t be able to save my backup HDD anymore so I put in the top-most shelf.

It was now a waiting game. If the water continued to rise, my mom and grandma would ride the boat and I would swim behind. I’d put my gear, which I could use to make money later on, in a batya (a plastic bathtub).

My time in the water was not yet over. Nighttime came, and my mother realized we had not yet saved our family albums. On the way to our study/maid’s quarters, I picked up a bundle of bananas floating. The water was now above the head inside our house. With only a small flashlight I was keeping above water, the house felt like the Titanic because of the darkness and the frigid cold water. Propping myself on shelves, door jambs, and anything I could hold on to, I struggled to keep the albums from getting wet while I transported them and handed to my mom waiting at the stairs. At one time, I lost my grip and my head was submerged while still holding the album up over the water. One by one, until I now had to get the ones that were already on a submerged shelf. Thankfully, albums float, and these were easier to transport. These were one of the most precious things we had that were damaged by Ondoy. I took another bath and had the most vigorous tooth brushing in my life.

Dinner is Served

Dinner is Served

Dinner was a loaf of Gardenia and canned vienna sausages which we ate with plastic straws. And for drinks we had a bottle of soya milk. We were saving our strength and occasionally monitoring the water level, which now covered the first floor and was a foot and a half shy from the ceiling. We could hear glass breaking, and we imagined they were the glasses on the wine rack being crushed by a sofa or something. It was about 9 in the evening when it stopped rising.

Aquarium survivors; Others died on the floor

Aquarium survivors; Others died on the floor

The next day was a heart-wrenching sight. All the sofas and chairs were wet and muddy. The cabinets housing precious ornaments were toppled down, the tiles came off the floor, even our large aquarium was on the floor, cracked and devoid of fish. Outside was a muddy mess, where we found a small snake on the window.

My two brothers were finally able to come to our aid. The first thing my older brother bought was a stove, without which we couldn’t even boil water. We had to rely on others for food for the first day. My girlfriend, dad, and brother all brought us some food. A sack of rice was no longer edible, as well as the water in our dispenser and the food in our pantry. Being a weekend, our newly-washed clothes were also covered in mud, and while we did bring them to the laundromat, they were also swamped with customers so their turn-around time was at least 3 days. An icebox I got from AWS a few Christmases ago served as our refrigerator; we replenish its ice each day from the convenience store. The main door is still stuck to this day. We opened the sliding doors; the first order of business was to clean up the house section-by-section. Over the past week, we have been working to restore all our basic necessities and bring some sense of normalcy to our house, which is a lot roomier now. We bought new rice, new water, and we have gotten back our laundry.

Main living room the day after Ondoy

Main living room the day after Ondoy

Main living room and parlor after Ondoy

Main and 2nd living rooms after Ondoy

Parlor after Ondoy

Parlor after Ondoy

Dining room after Ondoy

Dining room after Ondoy

Mud-covered driveway

Mud-covered driveway

Mud-covered driveway

Mud-covered driveway

Cleanup operations underway

Cleanup operations underway

Tiles bubbled up after the flood

Tiles bubbled up after the flood

Categories: Musings, Philippines

4 Responses so far.

  1. ellecross says:

    “At one time, I lost my grip and my head was submerged while still holding the album up over the water”

    DEAR GOD.. -__-

  2. Les says:

    Wow! I’m sorry to hear about your losses. But I’m glad you and your family are safe. It’s a lucky thing you know how to swim (breast stroke pa–the hardest style for me! heheh).

  3. Bea says:

    naalala ko tuloy yung swimming classes namin ni ma’am hazel! ito pala yung use nun! hehe.. kidding aside, thank God you’re all safe! :)

  4. typhoon onody really messed up the filipinos, i wish that all is well in the philippines .

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