Saturday, October 3, 2009

Indomitable Spirit

Catastrophes can either make or unmake us.

I was 18 when Super Typhoon Sisang (designated Nina) slammed into the southern part of the Philippines, most especially the Bicol Region, where I was studying. It sustained winds of 275 mph as compared to Ketsana's 105 mph. Sisang/Nina was (at that time) reportedly the worst typhoon to have hit the Philippines in 20 years. I was in the dormitory, in bed, on the second floor, with no clue as to what was to come. Suddenly, I heard and saw girls screaming, doors slamming so hard, beds flying outside the window - yes, from the second floor. All of us who could pry our doors open ran downstairs, and huddled close as the winds continued to lash against the windows. Then the building shook. The piano in the corner slid to the other end. Other furniture followed. Broken glasses. More screaming. Flooding in. I remember hugging two of my friends and praying out loud, "Jesus, save us."

We stacked chairs and furniture one on top of the other as high as we could and perched on top, my fellow dormers and I. I helped remove shards of glasses from the arms and legs of the other girls who were unfortunate enough to have been by the windows when the winds lashed their fury.

We waited out the 'eye of the storm.' It was past midnight when the stillness engulfed us. Nobody slept, to say the least. Morning greeted us waist-deep in water. No breakfast, of course (I was mildly amused despite the situation), but everybody talked of going home, which was 60 km away (1 1/2 hours) for me. I packed whatever I could and started off with my friends. As the dormitory was inside the university campus, we had to walk through the maze of corridors in order to get out.

There was no university in site. One building was ground to a pulp. The rest was a sight to behold. Flood and debris everywhere. Hugging my belongings to my chest, I gasped when, thigh-deep in water, I saw a rat, about a foot away from me, swimming for dear life. It was then that reality sank in.

No transportation (we took buses). Landslides everywhere, buried bridges. We walked. Not the whole way, but miles and miles and miles of it just the same.

Home meant overlooking the moon at night as part of the roof was ripped off from my room. One friend joked he had to enter their house by the window. It was the only one open. Many more were worse off, as they had no houses left.

The whole thing meant no electricity (I think in the whole province) for 3 months. None. I do not know when we resumed classes (I was in my second year of Nursing) but when we did, it was in a modified building. No fish on the table. All sorts of stories like finding fingers and rings inside fishes' bodies circulated. And plenty of dead. I heard a story about a body floating from one town to another. And not enough coffins. The local priest had to minister benediction to bodies rolled in mats. And at least one woman went crazy looking for her dead. I heard these stories. And there were many more.

Ketsana's damage was in the unceasing rains, causing the 20 feet flooding, a catastrophe unheard of in more than 20 years. I perched scared and cold on top of chairs many years ago, while many of the recent typhoon survivors ENDURED hopeless days and nights on rooftops, not knowing if they would live or die. There is no fear like the fear of the unknown, and certainly the fear of death.

I am almost ashamed to admit that I do not know how I would have survived Ketsana with only the clothes on my back, and my undying faith.

Especially since my sister says the pedicab driver across the street continues to mindlessly ferry people to and fro while playing Christmas songs.

***

I thank everybody who has joined me and millions of others in the crusade of helping the calamity victims not only in the Philippines but also in Vietnam, Indonesia and the American Samoa. As we sleep tonight, many of them are still hungry or in search of their loved ones, or sick and injured. Let's keep them in our prayers. Many, many thanks, and God bless us all. ~~~ To those who still want to donate or help spread links to relief centers, please check out my older posts. Thank you for your kind heart.



29 comments:

Judy Sheldon-Walker said...

Yes, you have an indomitable spirit, and I hope others do too. I hope they will "build back better".

rainfield61 said...

It is so great to have survived from the Typhoon.
We watch photographs, we read news, we follow tv broadcasts, but we are still outisders.

May God bless them.

doroastig said...

napagdaanan mo na pala ang ganitong sitwasyon. ipanalangin na lang natin na we can give their smiles back sooner.

Dorothy said...

I can't even imagine that kind of devastation and living to talk about it.

Winds of 275 miles are unbelievable what a hard time to recover so I'm sending prayers and good thoughts and hope to all who are just trying to survive.

Dorothy from grammology
grammology.com

cherie said...

i was thinking more of the pedicab driver, juds. i think he has more pluck and spirit than i ever did or would have had i been in his shoes now (as a survivor of Ketsana). but i thank you for thinking of me so. i hope he same thing.

i know, rain, i still get teary-eyed, i don't know. i guess i get affected more than most. my sisters who are in the philippines are the ones more cheerful!~~~may God bless the victims indeed.

ay, opo, hindi na po bago ang lindol, nagyo, pati po pagsabog ng bulkan (Mayon and others) sa akin. thnak you po, manoy doro. we will.

thank you for coming by, ms. dorothy. you said it all.

Icy BC said...

Cherie,

You live to tell the amazing story of surviving. It shows your spirit, courage, and inspiring others to do the same.

May God bless those victims, and bring them help!

Cher said...

Che, your story brought me back to a scenario (when i was about 7 or 8 years old, can't remember the exact year) where we woke up after a supertyphoon and saw the roof of our barangay chapel landed in front of our house. can't imagine if it landed on top of our house...

yes, there are more disheartening stories to be heard and told but Filipinos are known for having a strong fighting spirit. it is inspiring to hear the Typhoon Ondoy victims say how thankful they are for being alive despite losing almost their everything... the pedicab driver is just one of them. may God bless their hearts and continue to give them the strength to carry on with their lives. let us never stop praying and giving help to those who continue to suffer the devastating aftermath of all the calamities that passed.

Jesusa said...

lain ko aram kay kun magibo ko ina kay kun ako yadto. grabe talaga an blessings naton didi. my prayers are with them....

Aliceson said...

What a terrifying experience. Glad you made it out alive!

betchai said...

Hi Che, I really admire your efforts for this awareness, and for your strength in sharing your story of survival.

I by the way linked your previous post in my recent post, Brown Visits Pink, but you can find the discussion of the recent calamity at the bottom of the post.

DebbieDana said...

Made me very sad reading this kind of news, but at the same time, made me happy that we all managed to survive and smile after the storm.

I will continue to pray for all of our countrymen who are victims and up to now, still suffering from the typhoon. May God bless them and give them strength in these times of their lives.

cherie said...

my dear Icy, your people are amazing for even still donating rice to the philippines WHILE waiting for ketsana. i hope your family in vietnam is well. i live/d in a province of active volcanoes (Mayon, Bulusan), and coastal areas (typhoon pathways), and such. many filipinos accept natural disasters as part of life, and most of us have grown to withstand hardships. but this recent one is a true test of faith! i pray for all the victims in vietnam, indonesia, and the samoa as well. amid all the international crises, these calamities may be our wake-up call.~~~hugs to you, dear Icy!

cher! what an experience! good thing nobody was in the yard when that happened! flying galvanized irons are indeed one of the most frightening causes of accidents during typhoons/storms.~~~i meant to ask you pala to give me your address again as, in matthew's excitement, he tore off the envelope of your and kyla's letters on your name side. his letter is ready for mailing tomorrow (monday). we both got excited so he sealed it off without mine. haay naku.~~~thank you so much for the Christmas card and all the greetings. i will email you in a few. take care, cher, and kisses to kyla. hugs to all three of you!~~~how's the weather in singapore?

aysus, ka-mga init na siguro san ulo san mga tawo, i'm sure may nag-aaraway na na family members and such. haaay. we truly are fortunate. i am hoping there is enough manpower or supplies or both at least to contain the health conditions, to avoid epidemics. i am sure that is a tough call.

thank you, aliceson. many have more telling stories, mine pales compared to theirs. i especially cherish the heroic tales.

i am grateful for your friendship, beth, above all. thank you for posting the links. i admire you for having a goal and 'chasing' it. there are more stories out there, mine is really nothing, but i am glad to share the little bit of experience i had with typhoon sisang. take care, beth!

cherie said...

thank you, mommy deb. i will head on over to your site in a few, i am sorry that i hadn't been there for a while.~~hope the pregnancy's going well!!

Droomvla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Droomvla said...

Kaya ngani grabe an sangop ko kay grabe na naman an minatay samantalang pirme man bagyo an kalamidad na nagba bater san Pilipinas pero hanggang niyan, wara man gin hihimo an gobierno na programa para ma prevent an mga unnecessary accidents baga. Pareho san flooding. Dili man kuta mabaha kun gin limpya san DPWH an sewage system san Manila.

An DHO, kun may programa sinda na mayad sa waste management kunta. Maski sa saraday na bagay pareho san pagrecycle san plastic. Lain man mga patal an Pilipino. Wara lang talaga sin mayad na preventive measures.

cherie said...

maris, bagan ka nanggayud si lily magsurmaton, sige ko didi an ngarakngak, hahaha! saktuhunon nanggayud an sinabi niya saakun pagtawag ko. mala, payt kuno niya an tabo sa ATUP kay baha na kuno nan sigurado kuno siya basi an banyo na an masunod, hahaha! on a good note, nag-work an pag-tabo niya, dili na-clog an inodoro, hahahaha!!!~~~haay, thank you for making me laugh today.

betchai said...

HI Che, thank you so much for the message you left in my post. it really means a lot to me that though you do not actively attach your name anymore to our group that you founded, yet you still silently support the group's wishes and goals, and I am glad to know that you still keep abreast with the real goings-on in the site. Though I miss you there, but I fully respect your silence, I know we all have our reasons. I am happy however to know that I still continue to hear your thoughts and I sincerely enjoy your writings. And again, I admire you for the time and energy you put to this noble cause of helping the recent victims.

God bless you and your family Che.

Whitemist said...

This is always tough. I endured Hurricane Carla with 160 mile an hour winds, but we were far from shore an did not get the flooding, just the wind damage and rain. I blocked most of it out because i was 7 and very afraid. The power was only out for days, not weeks or months and there were no land slides because the area is flat, but the sight of the destruction and the power of the storm were visible years later.
5 years after Buela struck the south Texas town of Port Islable, we went there on a fishing trip. The only thing left standing from the storm was the light house and the only thing rebuilt in the town was the boat dock.
Storms of this nature are natures worse and yet many of us do survive on go on and that is what it is all about isn't it?

cherie said...

you know where to reach me, bethsky.

you are right, sir, we survive and we go on.~~~ i hope you're doing okay? be over at your site soon.

Thinking out loud said...

how sad that we are faced with such challenges, but then again, who are we to question God's reasons. let's just continue to keep the faith and keep praying. In the goodness of God, i am sure, he will take care of us all.
I join you in thanking all those who prayed for us.

cherie said...

thank you, des, and i am truly thankful that ralph and you are safe, too.

Mel said...

this is so poignant che. i was crying while reading your blog...

cherie said...

oh, mel, i have no words. thank you for coming by. hugs for you across the miles. take care, dear.

Ricardo said...

What a terrible experience e that must have been!! Don't worry about how you made it out of that one. Just be glad you did. You have a great family, good job and you now have a chance to help these new victims as a result. It all works out.

diane said...

You really know how the victims feel. A great post of a horrible experience. Thinking of all those affected.

Ayie said...

i pray or all those people who got affected by ketsana...

the worse i encountered was being stranded in university and walking on flooded streets to get home since my parents can not make it to get me, cars won't definitely make it

cherie said...

i know, aying. while leaving in san juan, QC, our apartment got flooded in twice, we were stranded on the second floor, for two days each time. floods are a terrible thing.

Ayie said...

i heard my cousin's stuck too...they are near san juan within pasig area. bad place for floods right?

cherie said...

terrible! and the scrubbing and disinfecting afterwards - walls, furniture, every nook and cranny! horrible place for floods.

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