Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lessons from a Storm

It was the worst storm in the last 50 years with a record 41.5 centimeters of rainfall in one day that caused a flood of chaos in the nation’s capital resulting to over two hundred of casualties, dozens of people missing, half a million displaced and a damage to crops and infrastructure that is estimated to reach P3 billion.  Sounds like a good synopsis for a disaster movie but unfortunately it is a real life story that will be remembered as one of the darkest days in our history.

For days, we have glued our eyes in front of our TV sets to wait for news updates and advisories about the devastation brought by typhoon Ondoy.  Every scene, video clip or snap shot flashed on screen is like a bitter pill that is hard to swallow.  “I thought I was just dreaming,” said by a woman in an evacuation center when asked by a reporter to describe how she feels that moment.  I’m sure many share the same sentiment.  I know because it really felt surreal to see our house soaked in dirty water with all our things cluttered just a few days after cleaning and arranging all our stuff before I left for the PMAP conference festivities. 

We have heard a lot of stories about that fateful day --- many were heartbreakers that can soften even the heart of stone.  But there were also tales that make us cheer in the midst of the tragedy from time to time.  Indeed, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Humbled by the storm, it will be easier for us to stand if we put in mind the lessons we can gain from the experience.   Here are some of those learning that I want to share:
If there’s a will, there’s a way Did you see the man on a wheelchair in the middle of a busy street wrestling against strong wind and rain to find a safe place to stay? How about the man trying to cross the ravaging flood walking on Meralco wires just to get home?  You can say things about their foolishness but you have to commend their heart and spirit.  They were not afraid to take what ever it takes to achieve their goals.  

Bayanihan still lives on Despite of the incidents of looting, overpricing of goods and alarming hoax text messages, the spirit of camaraderie finds its way to the hearts of the many.  It’s like Christmas where people become generous and ready to lend a helping hand.  But what really hit me was the story of two unsung heroes from Batasan, Quezon City. Muelmar Magallanes and Rolly Ignacio were already in a safe place when they saw neighbors drowning in the flood.  They were able to save many lives but did not survive the fury of the storm.  They who have almost nothing were the ones who gave everything they have for the sake of others. 

Even a click of a finger can save lives Forget the insensitive remarks of Facebook user Jacque Bermejo (Buti na lang am here in Dubai! Maybe so many sinners back there! So yeah deserving what happened), but we have to admit that being a little tech savvy these days is important if not a must.  I know some people who admitted that if not for a message posted in their Facebook and Twitter account, they might have been one of the many victims of Ondoy.  Members of such social network sites posted updates, notes and even videos online that made a lot of people aware of places or roads to avoid during the storm.  Now, text messaging has found a new partner in reaching out to people in the fastest way possible. 

There is life in after a tragedy Just like a promise of a rainbow after the rain, there is hope in every misfortune.  After two days on the rooftop of his house soaked in flood water, a man was finally rescued in the morning of his birthday.  It was drama yet joyful when his rescuers sang a happy birthday tune.  A female doctor of UERM hospital was inside his car when her vehicle was carried to nowhere by the flood.  Without hesitations, a security guard of the hospital jumped to save the terrified woman.  She lives another day and so does her patients.  A pregnant woman about to give birth was trapped in the second floor of a neighbor’s house.  He was saved by an American soldier who brought him to the nearest hospital.  The baby boy was named Jonathan in honor of his rescuer, Dr. Johnny Potter of the US Army.   
It’s not only the rain we should blame.  We can’t deny the fact that we could have also contributed to the enormous damage brought by the storm.  Garbage management has always been a problem in the past and we should be aware that even those little trashes that we just throw anywhere will return to us in bulks through floods and other calamities.  Be eco-friendly and maximize the use of every material at home or at the office.  We can get some inspiration from the people who created boats out of plastic containers, truck wheel’s rubber interiors, busted air bed and other things just to cope and survive the flood.

There is a thing called prayer to hang on to during desperate times.  I can’t remember when was the last time I prayed so hard for the rain to stop.  I usually devote minutes of prayer every morning to talk to God for all his blessings and wishes for my love ones but that Saturday morning during the wrath of Ondoy, I prayed the rosary with my wife asking for the weather to calm down.  I consider it a miracle to have saved all the important things in our home considering that we have no second floor and the flood outside was chest-deep.  Reminds me of a mother being interviewed on TV in an evacuation area.  She said (in tagalong), “We almost gave up because we really thought that no one can save us and we will all drown to death.  Then my daughter told us to pray and papa Jesus will save us.” 

 When you’re down, there’s no way to go but up.  Two years ago, tragedy struck our family.  Within the last quarter of 2007, we lost my first child Monique and younger brother Jimmy in two separate unfortunate incidents.  There was no devastating flood nor heavy rains but it felt like I was drowning.  Through the help of our friends, in their own little way, my family is learning to move on.  Now, this family is coping on how to live in a drenched house.  No, we’re not down because we’ve just been there and together we will all stand up to continue this journey called life.

We all have our own Ondoy story to tell.  Whether it’s a near-death experience, an unforgettable moment or a sad story, we should always remember that it is not only misery that we get from a tragedy.  Every obstacle in the roads we take can make us a better and stronger person.  We just have to learn from the lessons from a storm.

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