All praises to God that I am actually writing this. The past three days was all about a test of faith. And I’ve held on, as always. God is merciful and faithful all the time.
As early as 4:00 PM, July 15, we have been preparing for the onslaught that Glenda would bring. I was on the phone with my mother who is alone in Mindoro. The storm signal was up at #2. I was checking her emergency kit: food, water, flashlight, extra batteries, her meds, fully charged cell phone…
At around 6:00 PM, I was assured she was going to be okay. My family had dinner early, and settled in to watch the updates on TV. At 11:00 PM, I started to hear the wind pick up in intensity. I already knew at that time that Bicol was getting a beating. At 12 midnight, I texted my mother once again just to check in on her before I go to bed, and was surprised to receive a response. I wanted her to be asleep, but she was too worried to rest.
It’s been pouring, and the wind was starting to scare me. We did a check around the house and noticed that the water was seeping in through the windows in our upstairs bedroom. We had some rags out and started to mop out water. Hubby brought a basin upstairs to collect water. After a half hour, the leak seemed to have been contained.
Hubby asked if I was going to bed. Told him I was still on an adrenaline rush. I’d stay up and watch the news. He said he’d take a nap, and to wake him up at 2:00 AM to check again on the windows.
I did my routine check upstairs and noticed that the water was coming in faster. I did what I could to keep the water from completely flooding the room, using more rags, frantically wringing out water into the basin. After I have collected about a couple of gallons, I took out more rags, positioned them like a barrier in a semi circular fashion to protect the rest of the room from getting wet. By this time, water was also coming in through the sliding doors leading to the terrace.
I went down to my office and saw that water has been coming in through the windows, as well. I got more rags to mop out water from there, too, and another basin for water collection.
The power went off. I finally decided that it was time to wake up the hubby. I could no longer contain the water coming in from both the upstairs bedroom and the office downstairs. The wind outside sounded like a pitiful cry of an old woman. A wailing that asks for mercy. The downpour was relentless. I’ve been praying non-stop. Praying that the storm would pass quickly. Praying for the elderly neighbour who was alone just right across the street. There was no sign that he was even awake. Not a glimmer of light coming from the direction of his house. I hoped that he remembered to close his upstairs windows. They’ve always been open.
I was upstairs, while the hubby took care of the water downstairs. We did our best trying to contain the water. But the wind just kept on getting stronger. I started to hear the roof being torn at the upstairs bedroom. I kept praying that I was just hearing things. That it was actually not our roof, but just the sound of the wind. But the banging was too close, too real for comfort. I uttered a prayer for it to hold. My mind was moving forward to how we would secure the kids should the ceiling cave in.
I was feeling so tired. While I continue to mop, wring, mop, wring, mop, wring. I’ve lost count of the number of trips I had to the upstairs bathroom, disposing of water I collected. I continued to pray. I focused on how we are still dry, thinking of the people who were in worse condition than we were. I offered a prayer for them. I could only imagine how it would feel to be wet and scared in the dark. But I was feeling tired, I was starting to lose sensation in my hands. They were numb from being in the water for so long already, and my calloused palms could feel the punishment of the non-stop rag-wringing. It was nearly the time that my eldest daughter would be due to wake up on a regular school day. So I asked hubby if we could wake her up and ask her to help. The perimeter I have built upstairs was getting bigger. The water was reaching almost the middle of the room already, and I could no longer swing from the windows to the sliding doors as agilely as I did earlier. We needed more hands.
Xia had been with us for an hour, and I felt sorry for her. I kept saying, “I’m sorry baby, we had to wake you up.” And she would just reply, “You should have called me earlier. I could have helped earlier.” That’s my sweet child. She took responsibility of the windows, while I continued to man the sliding doors. Hubby remained downstairs in my office. I wanted him down there to also watch the water level on the street. My office also has sliding doors, but thankfully, the direction of the wind spared it from the onslaught. The banging of the torn roof was deafening, and I kept on looking up the ceiling. Afraid that the water build up inside would cause it to cave in. I asked Xia to pray with me, that the ceiling would hold. And that the storm would leave already. Flying debris had started to build up on the terrace, and they were now clogging the drain. Water was building up, and if it continues, there was no way we could stop the water from coming in, and it would definitely flood the whole room, down the stairs, to the rest of the house. We could not even open the sliding doors, let alone go out and clear the drain, as the wind goes smack dab to us. We tried to open it an inch, and we were soaked in seconds.
Bea and Jude were up, and I asked hubby if it’s okay to have them help also. I had Bea help Xia, and hubby gave instructions to Jude on how he should watch over the water level on the terrace. It was getting light. We could now see outside, and praises to God, the wind somehow changed directions. It was now going north, instead of going east, as it had been all night. I noticed the water was no longer coming in as fast as before. And the howling of the wind was not as bad. The storm was finally starting to show signs of weakening. Or may just be leaving our area to go wreak havoc somewhere else.
This video was taken at 5:42 AM. Its strength now just about half of how it was between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM.
I continued to encourage the kids to say prayers of gratitude. I kept saying: “Let’s be thankful that we still have the roof attached, that we are dry, that we are together.” And Jude went on with his litany of questions: When was your last experience of a storm this strong? When was the first time you experienced a flood? What was the date? Where were you? Who was with you?
There was a yelp from the hubby downstairs. The area where the stove is at the kitchen was suddenly flooded. The kitchen is facing south. With the wind now going north, the water is now coming in through the kitchen windows. The water had started to get into the kitchen cabinets below the counter, so the cavalry from upstairs were called down. The space leading to the laundry area, although covered, was also semi flooded, and all the shoes we have there were now soaking wet.
I declared that we need to have breakfast. As part of our preparation for Glenda, we had pan de sal for breakfast bought the previous day. We badly needed coffee, but because the power has been off, the coffee maker was of no use. Hubby has never been the instant coffee type, so he boiled water on the gas stove, measured coffee into the filter, and poured boiling water into the coffee maker. Brewed coffee, the Aberásturi way.
It was down to a light rain, so we went out to survey the damage in the perimeter. Our roof was definitely partially torn and folded. Our neighbour fronting the main road had water in their house nearly knee-deep. They had to bore a hole on their wall to get the water out. The neighbor obliquely to our left across the village road had their roof on the west part of the house completely torn off. We could see them taking out furniture and mattress to dry. I offered a silent prayer for them again.
I’ve made calls to our go-to guy for carpentry work, and the guy who contracted the installation of our roof. Both were good enough to say they’d come by after lunch. They, too, have been badly affected and they needed to put some order in their respective houses first.
I went to lie down for a while. Just a few minutes, I said. I just need to get over the shaking. I didn’t notice it during the height of the typhoon. In my mind, I was calm, but my body was now telling me otherwise. I couldn’t stop shaking.
I was awakened by Jude’s frantic whispering in my ear. “Mommy, the Pentagon is submerged in water.” Whoa! What? Where are we? Pentagon?
Then I realized that he was talking about his project outside. He built his own version of the Pentagon using real cement. He said he’s going to be a construction engineer when he grows up, so he’s been mixing cement and building structures using molds that he himself made.
Then there was a phone call. The kids, resilient as they are, have been playing in the living room, reliving the excitement from the wee hours of the morning. The caller was my brother in the US. He’s always watching the news on TFC, and he wanted to know how we were. Connection was bad, so all I could tell him was we were okay, although the roof was damaged. I asked that if he was going to call our mother, not to tell her what happened to us. I didn’t want her to worry.
As they promised, the guys I called for help arrived after lunch. Lunch for us was rice, cooked over the stove, and scrambled eggs. That was all we could manage to prepare. No energy to prepare something else.
A temporary fix was made on the roof. They’ll be needing electricity to fix the rivets, so they’ll come back as soon as the power is back. They also dried down the water inside the ceiling. We are so blessed that the only casualty was one pillow, which was left on the part of the room where the water from the ceiling dripped.
At 12:30 PM, I sent a text message to my client that I’d be off the grid for a while, not really elaborating on what happened. He must be watching the news anyway. He always does.
We spent the afternoon clearing up debris on the street in front of us and getting back the upstairs bedroom in order. I rinsed the pile of rags that we used, belatedly realizing that they were not all rags. There were four pieces of hubby’s t-shirts in the mix. He must have gotten them from the laundry basket when he needed more rags. Although the sun was up, there was still a bit of a shower.
My phone was already supported by the power bank. I have subscription to three network providers, but only one has a signal by afternoon.
That night, the kids and I tried to put in a little school time by sharing with each other random thoughts that came to mind while the storm was going on. The hubby shared his thoughts to be: Which window will be next?
I was feeling feverish. I was in pain. Somehow, I managed to stub my thumb on something, leaving it with an open cut. I started to notice the pain toward the afternoon. At that time, my right thumb was already swollen and I could feel the throbbing pain. I also noticed that going up and down the stairs was painful on my thighs and legs. By evening, I could not walk straight. The pain on my thumb reminded me of my pain when I gave birth to Bea; 15 hours of painful labor that left me hallucinating. I was feeling the sweat at the back of my neck, and yet, I was shivering with cold. I must have an infection already.
Dinner was by candlelight, and we found ourselves playing with shadows. It was a lively meal, as usual. The only difference was the lack of light.
Bedtime came earlier than usual. There was nothing else we could do, except pray that there would be power the next day. I asked the kids to also offer a prayer for those who were hit worse than we were. At this time, my most fervent prayer was that my client would understand.
Xia got ready for school, and hubby took her as usual, only to find out that classes remained suspended. No cell phone, no internet, no TV, no radio. We were clueless as to what had been happening outside the four corners of our home. It was the first time that hubby drove to the town proper after the storm passed, and it was only then that he had a glimpse of the extent of the damage that Glenda left. He saw fire trucks distributing water in the barangays. In our municipality, only the poblacion gets water from the municipal water system. All the other barangays have each their own water cooperatives. Without electricity, water supply is cut, because all these water tanks were powered by motorized pumps. In our barangay, there is no cooperative. So each house has its own deep well. We are fortunate that we had the foresight to have made our pump detachable from the motor so we could actually manually pump water should there be a power outage. Hubby and his little assistant were in charge of our water supply.
I was feeling good enough to go out. My thumb was still swollen, but the pain was more manageable. I thank God for making me ambidextrous. Losing dexterity in my right hand has not been much of a concern.
We went to the city to buy more supplies. The road to the city was a scene of utter devastation. We passed big trunks of uprooted trees, dropwires hanging limp in the middle of the road, debris all over, and a long queue of people lining up for water. They were waiting for the fire trucks for their water supply. We also passed at least three cellphone charging stations, the entrepreneurial spirit very much alive in the aftermath of a storm. Along the zigzag road, we passed by a police car, a funeral car, an ambulance with a stretcher on the side of the road with people milling about. We slowed down to ask one of the men near the ravine what the crowd was about. He said a body has been found down the ravine. Such is a usual occurrence on that part of the road. Either that body was of a murder victim, or someone who was swept away by the river’s current. I’d bet on the first.
Today, July 19
We finally have power back on, but no internet service still. I typed this blog entry from a handwritten note, so I could simply copy and paste when connectivity is restored.
It’s raining again, and there is a slight wind. I know I’ll never feel the same about rain ever again. The trauma will stay with me for a long, long time.
Another prayer… I hope that I still have a job to go back to. It’s the first time I’ve ever taken a vacation, if you can call it that. With me as the breadwinner now, the worry will always stay with me. So my goals for this year are being rewritten now. I think it’s time I invested on a portable power generator, and then a solar panel.