In the Philippines, flooding after heavy rains is close to normal. But this August’s monsoon rains and floods taught me a lot on emergency preparedness, finding joy in awful circumstances and waiting.
August 7, 2012 (4:15 am)
“Ma, nasa garahe na yung tubig. Malapit na pumasok na sa loob ng bahay!” (Ma, the water has reached the garage. It’s almost inside the house!”) my youngest brother Nikolai blurted out at the wee hours of that rainy morning.
I heard him in the middle of dreams and wakefulness. I bolted up from my bed and ran to the front door. I saw slippers swimming in the garage and knew he wasn’t over-reacting.
One of the things I learned from the Emergency Preparedness and Response Training I attended at Victory Greenhills last month is this: Keep a whistle on-hand.
In terms of emergency response, a whistle is used to call attention to lead a group of people to safety or a team to act in behalf of the victims. It’s also for calling attention if you’re the one who needs rescue. Remember Rose was rescued at the end of the movie?
As for me, I used this to wake up the whole household. 😉
In split seconds, my family, in our zombies-out-of-bed-looks, was all standing at the sala watching as flood water licked our doorstep. And you want to know what was our first move in times like that?
Pray. With the moment’s level of urgency, we could have ran back to our rooms to ransack our closets. But the most important thing one must do is to pray and ask for God’s protection from harm, wisdom to act and faith to believe that everything will be fine.
After approximately one hour of evacuating our belongings to the second floor, we — my mother, my sister, my two brothers, my two pamangkins (my neice and my nephew), my yaya (okay, Neil’s yaya) and I — we’re huddled at the second floor, watching news. Our basic needs like food, water, medicines, clothes and candles were all secured with us.
Another lesson from the training is to ALWAYS stock up on your emergency kit. The kit contains:
1. Food supply good for one week for the whole family – these are instant and canned goods, we’re not sure if we’d be able to cook. And frozen goods will only last for maximum of 2 days in room temp
2. Drinking water – a normal human being can last up to 3 weeks without food but die of thirst in 3 days
3. First aid kit – self-explanatory; I also suggest to stock up on Vitamin C to help boost immune system. Sodium ascorbate is safe to take on an empty stomach.
4. Clothes – for hygiene purposes; of course, you need to change just in case you get soaked in the rain
5. Flash light (with extra batteries) and/or candles – in times of heavy rains and flooding, don’t take the risk of NOT pulling down your power breaker; water is a good conductor of electricity
6. Protective gears – examples are boots, rain coats, umbrella, etc.; just in case you really have to go through the flood
Did we have all these? Shamefully, no. Thankfully, though, we have school children and with that, the most responsible thing every household head must do is to stock up food supplies.
Will these guarantee our safety and survival? No. But God is calling is to break our Pinoy bahala-na mindsets and act responsibly.
Joy in all circumstances
With no electricity, rain pouring, flood getting higher every hour, our activities consisted of eating, sleeping, meditating on God’s word, praying, waiting and we go back to eating.
You might be wondering, where is Neil? The day before the flood crept all over Metro Manila, I receive a call from Neil’s grandparents. Classes were suspended so they picked him up from school, brought him home and picked him up again to attend a classmate’s birthday party. Night fell and it was still raining cats and dogs, so they called again to inform me that Neil would be staying with them for the night.
One thing in my mind: “Thank God Neil is not here.”
Even if things don’t go as we expected, God still has our best in His mind.
The most beautiful thing that happened during the three days out-pour was our family’s bond got tighter. With nothing but the candle light to illuminate our storm-sick faces, my siblings and I reminisced about our wacky childhood adventures and misadventures. Our stomachs ached in laughter as we played games like “Dugtungan-ng-Kanta”, “P.A.N.T.S.” and our made-up game “Random Signages”.
|My sister with the flood scenario as background|
If you’re familiar with these games, you know how hilarious it can get. In PANTS, you have to come up with Places, Animals, Name, Things and (we added) Veggies/Fruits that start with the given letter. Two game highlights:
1. Veggies/Fruits starting with N: Nabubulok na Saging
2. Animal starting with P: Patay na daga
My brothers are crazy and weird to some extent, but I learned to love them more after this experience.
I also want to honor my Kuya Vladimir who acted as leader during the evacuation period.
c/o Bgy. Dela Paz Kagawads
On our second day, our neighbours were crying out for relief goods. We thought, “buti na lang may supplies pa tayo” (Good thing, we still have supplies here).
But rain kept on pouring that day so by night, we were running low. Kuya braved through the murky chest-deep flood to get out and buy more food.
Before, I always thought he was stoic and apathetic but his words echoed in my heart. “Tingin niyo papayag ako na magkaganyan tayo?” (Do you think I’d let that happen to us?) Pertaining to our neighbour crying out for food.
|My Hero Kuya|
Waiting on Jesus
I’ll always remember that midnight when the candle lights are out and the family has gone to our cots.
Rain was pounding on the roof like there’s no tomorrow. It was pitch black outside. I strained to assess the flood level. It has gone up! And with this kind of torrent, I thought, water may get higher overnight.
What if we’re not safe on the second floor anymore? Do I need to call for rescue now? Can we climb up the roof? We have enough umbrellas to cover our heads until rescue comes.
These are the desperate thoughts racing through my fear-stricken mind. I went back to bed, trying to drown out the roars of thunder. I heard some sniffling. It’s my younger brother, Nikolai. He was panicking, too. Mama sat up on her bed when she sensed that we’re agitated. She reassured us that Jesus is covering us under His wings of protection. But I was still afraid. I, who was so brave to lead the prayer and evacuation, who posted in my Facebook status that God is in control earlier that day, was trembling in fear.
I remembered when Jesus’ disciples woke Him up as huge waves slapped every sides of the boat. Like they did, I panicked close to desperation. I imagined Jesus telling me, “You, of little faith. Why did you doubt?”
It’s okay to be afraid and tell God. He wants us to run to Him for comfort. I cried out. Tears choked back the words so Mama continued the prayer. Together, we asked for His divine intervention and declared that He is sovereign. I asked that He would increase my dwindling faith. Then, like a warm blanket on a freezing night, the peace that transcends all understanding pacified my terrified soul.
In a tiny, broken voice, I began singing:
“When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm. Father, You are King over the flood. I will be still, know You are God.”
Mama and Nikolai joined me in singing. In the dark, water rising outside every minute, we sang praises to the only one God of the universe, to Jesus, the name above all other names.
After five minutes, we heard the rain hushing down to stop.
When we see the sun shining, it’s easy to praise Jesus and say He is good. But in dark and stormy nights, are you willing to trust Him to bring you through?
In our life, we will encounter many storms, be it literal or not. Learn to depend on God’s grace. Ask and believe for Him to show us that He is mighty and sovereign. Let Him be the anchor that will hold you safe and secure in stormy seasons.
Faith believes that beyond these relentless dark clouds the Son is waiting to pierce through with His Light.