photographs salvaged from the debris of the flood were left out to dry on clothes hangers. this collage welcomed us as we made our way into the house of my aunt in cainta on wednesday afternoon. my cousins and i came to cheer up the residents with cake and palabok, also since it was tito rene’s birthday. and there, fresh from a scrub of zonrox we stayed in the house eating and listening to stories of that trying saturday night when tita nida thought she’d be meeting God if the waters reached the ceiling.
earlier on tuesday i was texting tita nida in cainta if they needed help, supplies or what ever else i could bring to them. we werent sure if their phones were low on battery, if there was electricity in their area or if the flood waters have receded and we would have access to get there. got a reply middle of the afternoon, saying yes they were fine, theyd like off lotion, rubbing alcohol, energy drinks, coke if pwede. i said ok ill get supplies and will commute to their place.
after buying a few more stuff (garbage bags, toiletries, canned goods, alcohol, sanitary napkins, laundry detergent and other items), i took the jeep to cainta. passed by a lot of establishments on marcos highway en route to the junction cleaning out their houses of mud and items damaged by the flood. many of these items, including tv sets and motorcycles for sale were caked with mud. the roads have since dried up but it was dusty, and you could see the mud lines on the walls marking how high the waters rose that saturday.
tita nida, always on high spirits, maintained her optimism over things but her eyes were sad, tired and worried. even tito rene talked lengthily on how they had to perch on chairs placed on top of the kitchen sink just to keep off the freezing water in the dark. they couldnt find their candles and lost all the matches. the flashlight batteries later conked out and they stared into the dark, battling the cold and the roaches who wanted to share space to save themselves. they sang praise songs to comfort them throughout the night, even those they havent memorized they were able to sing complete.
nobody expected the flood and nobody was prepared. they sent off macky and denden to stay with tito’s sister’s family on the 2nd floor of a vacant apartment in the next block. the current was strong and chest high, walking through it against the current was a challenge and left tito rene shaken. his sister’s chowchow was placed on a basin and ferried across the street to the aparment. there they stayed the night, dry and safe.
back in the house, tito rene and tita nida decided to stay and keep their things out of the rising waters. every time the flood level rose, theyd rearrange some stuff just to save it. currently the computer, tv and other important items were stashed on macky’s double decker bed. the refrigerator, they said, should have been tied as it started to float and spill all its contents. even the huge wooden cabinets filled with heavy crockery started to float. the furniture made of cheap malaysian compressed boards bloated as it got soaked and later had to be thrown out, including the bed, mattresses and cabinets in the kids’ rooms.
packets of love letters during their courtship survived the storm
the experience, tito rene explains, is humbling. you realize you never needed all those items youve collected over the years. the pirated dvds just took space in their small house, all those plates they never use would probably need to go as well. everything else are really just excesses. they were willing to be stripped down to the basics: table, chair, food, clothes. and in the end, all you really needed was your family and God.
that evening i got emotional listening to tito rene and tita nida. aside from wanting to hear it from them, they needed to talk about it, too and let it out. i understood the dynamics of needing a release of all this grief. the experience not only changed the victims with lessons of a lifetime, i learned my lessons here as well.
by wednesday afternoon when i went back with manang dindin, kuya guy, denise and carlo, i would hear the stories again and somehow, in that fellowship of family, the sharing was more comforting and affirming. life goes on and despite the impending storm, we brace ourselves and say, life will go on.