Photo Essay

Waiting Through Ketsana

Rain bath

No one in Metro Manila knew what was in store for them on Saturday, September 26, 2009.

We woke up to a dreary gray morning and incessant rain, and realized that Tropical Storm Ketsana had finally arrived. Since it was just a tropical storm, not even a tropical depression much less a typhoon, no one seemed to be concerned much about it. We expected it to blow over and be out of the country the next day, leaving things normal again.

I decided not to render overtime work that Saturday because the rain showed no sign of letting up and the little alley in front of the house where I shared a small third-floor room with two friends was already calf-deep in water. Not wanting to risk getting the flu, as well as other diseases from the flood waters, I turned over and went back to sleep.

Hours later, I was surprised to find out it was past noon and the rain still hadn't stopped. My friends had braved the flood to go out and buy food. They said the water was already knee deep outside, which was deeper than it had ever got since we started living there. Concerned, I logged on to Plurk and received news that parts of the metropolis was already over six feet deep in water and hundreds of people were stranded in the flood.

Meanwhile, the neighbors across the street didn't seem to be too concerned. While some of them bailed flood water out of their ground floor, one even decided to take a bath. He drew water from the pump by the door, and, concerned about stepping in the flood, stood on a bench in the alley while he poured water over himself.

Inside our room, we had realized that the rain was so strong our windows, although shut, were leaking. We found out only when one of my roommates thought to get some dry clothes, only to find out that the bag in which she kept her clothes, which she kept under her bed, was soaking wet. We spent the rest of the day pulling everything out from under our beds, wringing out wet clothes and blankets, moving electronics to places where they wouldn't get wet, and trying to keep the floor dry. We didn't know that in other places the flood had gotten so bad people were on the roofs of their houses..

In the evening, the lights suddenly went out and we had to use candles. The power failure lasted till late afternoon of the next day, Sunday. When we finally recharged our cellphone batteries, we got deluged by frantic messages from our families demanding to know if we were all right, because footage of the flood was shown on national TV. That was when we realized that we were incredibly lucky. Just a block away to the south and the west, flood waters had submerged entire buildings. All we had to worry about was mopping the floor and drying out our wet clothes... other people had lost everything including their lives.

I went out on the roof and hung my clothes to dry. In the distance I saw a stray cat making its way slowly along the roof of a house as the sun finally came out on a city that had been changed in many ways in just 48 very short hours.

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