Remembering Tropical Storm Ketsana (Ondoy)

Remembering Tropical Storm Ketsana (Ondoy)

Ketsana (locally named Ondoy) was one of the deadliest typhoons that ever hit a country.

I experienced the tropical cyclone’s wrath, but who was I to complain?  There were  a lot of people who even lost everything they had when “Ondoy” caused too much havoc in Southeast Asia. Still, I’d like to share my own story of what happened on that dreadful day because of the lessons I learned from the experience.

“Hey, let me go! I wanna go home!” I was really desperate to go home.

“You’ll just get stranded. The roads are now impassable. You have to go back to your boarding house NOW!” Aaron Bren, a friend of mine, was also desperate for me not to go home. He was holding my arm while I was almost in tears trying to be freed from his tight clutch.

We were creating quite a scene.

How could we not, when we were blocking the way of so many people who were also desperate to reach their destinations? Everybody was submerged in water. The whole city seemed to have turned into a river.  The flood was already waist-deep and it frighteningly continued to rise.  At that very hour, we had no idea that we were actually experiencing one of the most devastating typhoons to hit our country. We had no idea that many people had already lost their homes, properties and even lives.

As it turned out, I was really not able to go home to my family. Like so many people who were very much affected and shocked by the unexpected heavy rains and floods, I had to wade through the deep waters to be able to reach the boarding house. Hours afterwards, I was tucked in my bed, so far away from my family, but so glad to have made it through that apparently endless nightmare.

As I was lying in bed, my mind raced back to our experience with Typhoon Ondoy.

We were busy in the office that morning that we were oblivious to the heavy rains outside.  Had I not gone to the employees’ wash room, I wouldn’t have seen that people were already panicking to go home because of the rising flood.  We immediately left the office and got ready to walk against the pressure of deep water and mud.

There was this one instance when we were crossing the street, and we were to see a bus coming towards us.  Because of the flood, we could not immediately reach the other side of the street.

All of a sudden, the bus created a huge ripple which immediately poured down on us, making us more disheveled and wet.

Everybody screamed and laughed still, despite the difficulties we were experiencing. I was enlightened at that very moment. There we were, stranded, shivering, wet, tired, hungry, and in a very difficult situation, yet we could still joke about our condition and laugh at our own selves! I also saw people helping one another, offering food to those who were crying because of hunger, and giving encouragement to one another. On that stormy, tragic day, I amazingly found a burst of sunshine in my heart.

This “burst of sunshine” gave my friends and me the courage to create a team that would help people affected by this catastrophe.

We gathered clothes, food, bottled drinks, blankets, and other necessities for its victims. Our small office became some sort of an activity center. My friends meticulously placed the goods in plastic bags by my friends. And I would like to note that those bags were pretty special. Julie, one of my best friends, even wrote a  poem about proper garbage disposal.  We placed it on one side of the plastic bags.  While on the other side, Aaron Bren placed Bible verses with the intention of giving hope and strength to those affected by the typhoon.

All of us have learned something from this experience.

When calamity strikes, there is no distinction between the rich and the poor. We are all equal.  Every material thing we have acquired can just disappear or lose its value in just a blink of an eye.  The calamity taught us to think of others, care for them, shower them with encouragement and hope.  We have learned to value our lives and other people’s lives as well.

We have learned that the greatest things in life remain to be faith, hope and love.

And charity.