Monday, September 28, 2009

Ondoy: The Tragedy and The Aftermath

Nearly a month’s worth of rain fell in just six hours over Metro Manila last Saturday, September 26, 2009, triggering the worst flood in nearly 40 years. The unexpectedly massive flood turned extensive areas of the metropolis virtually into a sea. Cars stood at a standstill, people were left stranded on rooftops, wide-spread blackouts were experienced all over and at least 100 people were killed, and many more are missing.

They say that death and tragedy are the greatest equalizers, and this is none more true than during the calamity last weekend. Families from various economic sectors were not spared from the flash floods entering their homes, many were forced to retreat to their roofs, until rescuers came. The moneyed inhabitants of Forbes Park and Dasmarinas Village, the middle class living in gated villages, as well as the squatters living near the "estero" had their homes violated by the sudden, uninvited gush of murky floodwater.

One person shared his testimony at church yesterday, testifiying how he had two vehicles with a combined worth of PHP ten million submerged in flood water. One of C's good buddy from La Salle who had just moved into a brand new nome in Loyola Grand Villas with her husband and young daughter found themselves homeless, although temporarily, as floodwater flowed into the house's first floor; destroying the new and expensive furniture.

Just as I was checking my inbox this morning, I received an email informing me that a grade two co-parent at my daughters' school was one of those unfortunate victims of the flash flood, as well. Details are not clear, but from what was relayed to me, as water quickly engulfed the vehicle he was in, he moved out and held on to a tree or lamp post; it was at the same time that a nearby wall or post got knocked out and fell on him, pinning him to his untimely death.

My own brother-in-law was stuck in the gridlocked area of Buendia, in the vicinity of the Cash and Carry from the early afternoon of Saturday up to the early morning of Sunday. Flood water had risen neck-deep rendering the road impassable to motorists. My sister-in-law, was likewise stuck in traffic. After not moving an inch for an two hours, she sensibly decided to head to their ancestral house to spend the night. Leaving her two young daughters, one still an infant, at home alone with just the yayas.

I saw many videos posted on YouYube taken during the typhoon; but none scared me more than this. The UERM students, who were stranded inside the campus, shot this video using a mobile phone. It scared me because of two things: first, seeing the dangerous extent of nature's wrath; second, that one of the spectator had the capacity to laugh while being witness to this harrowing event.

A slideshow taken also from YouTube that shows the many faces of the tragedy that is Ondoy.

A biblical passage to lift up our spirits during this depressing times.
Taken from the book of Psalms, chapter 40, verses 1 - 3:

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our GOD.

The Day Ondoy Went To Town

I remember going to sleep Friday evening, the sound of the heavy rain gently lulling me to sleep, a persistent white noise. My thoughts turned to XS’s soccer field; if the rains continue unabated, the field will be unplayable again for the fourth Saturday in a row.

I woke up Saturday morning still hearing the same sound that lulled me to sleep the night before. Only now, the force of the water that pounded on our windows had a furious beat to it. Tropical storms, and the heavy rains and strong winds that come with them, are nothing new this part of the world, where there are about 20, more or less, typhoons and tropical storms that lash out at the country annually.

Moreso, PAGASA has only raised signal number one over the metro. I have a full day planned… pay a quick visit to the pediatrician, then off to buy a nice birthday gift for a friend whose son was celebrating his first birthday, head back home for the requisite afternoon nap ( for me, really, more than the kids), and then go to Makati for a kiddie birthday party at 4pm.

First off, bring B to the pediatrician to find a way to treat the rashes that have started to develop on her body. Initially, we all thought they were nasty mosquito bites until the spots started growing all over her body. Doctor said nothing to worry about, just rashes secondary to a viral infection. Viral exanthema, is what he called them.

I continued to go to Megamall to shop for the gift. Violent reactions were made by the 2 girls, who wanted to go to Shangri-la Plaza, instead. But I had a few errands to run, and no one can beat SM with the diversity of choices that their department store provides. As the mall’s slogan says… “we’ve got it all for you!” And they truly do!

There was a slight feeling of uneasiness as I saw the 2nd floor deck parking filled with numerous puddles. I remember thinking that the mall should have their flawed sewerage fixed. I hurriedly went about to do my errands, buy some hose nozzle and sprayer, new eco-friendly non-stick pans, muffin pans, yada-yada-yada. After lunch and doing the last task on hand, I finally noticed that the mall was missing its usual throng of shoppers.

While choosing a gift for the birthday boy in the toys department, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation that the two sales staff were having.

Girl 1: nilusob ko na ang baha kahit na hanggang dito ang tubig (points to her waist), buti na lang may dala akong extra na pampalit. Tuloy-tuloy ang ulan!

Girl 2: Naku! Bakit di pa nila tayo pinapauwi? May announcement na ba?

Hearing this exchange… Panic! Safely ensconced in the mall’s massive structure, we were ignorantly unaware of the fact that the storm had quickly dumped unusually high amounts of rainfall all over the whole of Metro Manila, and in fact, the whole Central Luzon island.

A few seconds later, I got a SMS from my friend informing me that they were postponing the birthday party. This SMS confirmed that the situation outside has gone worse, and that the best thing to do would be to head home ASAP!

Alas! What was normally a 30-minute drive along EDSA turned into a three-hour journey, as we negotiated the few remaining roads that were still passable. We made a few u-turns as we witnessed how the floodwater reach neck-high in certain areas.

We got home to find the house pitch-dark, owing to the electricity being cut-off since early afternoon. The emergency light in the stairs, although still working, was dimly lit, showing signs of its batteries shutting down anytime soon. No sooner had I climbed a few steps than the faint light went out completely, and I find myself walking in absolute darkness. Then I felt my steps grow heavy, and then heard the splish-splash as my feet walked. WTF! Is this rain water???

The OC-ness in me wouldn’t let this pass. Flashlight on hand, I hunted down the source of water. Turns out, water seeped in through an opening that was left by a vacated a/c at the third floor entertainment room. Water slowly cascaded down the third floor onto the stairs. The half-done renovation of the windows on the third and second floor landing contributed to the water leak, as well. And they all together formed a waterfall on our wooden stairs. Thankfully, the water that gathered inside the house is just rain water, and not flood water. Whew!

We would not know the full ramifications of the storm until the day after, when electricity has been restored and we are finally online to see the full effect of the damage that Ondoy has brought.

Still and all, we remain thankful that all we had to endure from this is tragedy is coming home to a dark house full of puddles. Our possessions remain intact, our family complete.

Psalm 46:1-3
God is our strength and refuge, a helper ever near.
While resting in His shelter, no evil will we fear—
Not if the mountains crumble into the angry sea,
Nor if the surging ocean exceeds its boundary.

photo credits: Flickr photos uploaded by Simon Meisinger, Erwin Jason Mendoza and Cha Mercado

Thursday, September 24, 2009

{ I heart mamon }

I grew up in love with the Goldilocks mamon during the entire duration of my childhood. I remember my parents would painstakingly hand-carry bags filled with these delectable, soft pillows of heaven back to Davao everytime they would go on a trip to Manila. My siblings and I considered these goodies luxurious items since these were not readily available in the province during those times.

The spongy cake is bitten into ever so carefully, and if we wanted to indulge our taste buds, we would let it melt in our mouths - savoring the buttery good taste.

It is with this tender memory that I set out to bake a mamon that’s as close to the original as possible.

And so off to the kitchen I went to do my experiment, with quite an armful of recipes. Some hand written, a few torn off from magazines, still a few from the back of the boxes of baking supplies. I carefully noted down the techniques of the different recipes, and finally came up with one that I call my own.

Everyone who tasted them, loved them!

They were soft, buttery, and with the perfect mixture of vanilla and lemon.

I made sure to put a spin to it by adding some grated cheese on top. In Goldilocks parlance, it is the grated cheese that makes it “espesyal”.

fresh off the oven...

brushed with butter...

dipped in sugar...


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Following my writing dreams, Finding my writer's voice

My mornings start early, as in very early. The kids start waking up at 5:45, so I have to be up a few minutes before that. Things are very hectic up to the time the kids leave for school. A few days of the week, I try to run 3k after I bring them to school. On the days that I feel lazy, I do tae-bo or other aero activity for 30 minutes to an hour.

Mid-morning is usually the time that I can put my feet up and take it easy. It’s chill time. I check my inbox, surf the net, or start a new blog post, keep in touch with friends, read, clean my desk... oh well, you get the drift.

It was one of these relaxing mornings a few days ago. I received the usual bunch of email messages; a few from friends; some from Facebook informing me of a new comment to a thread I commented on; yet another from People magazine giving me my daily dose of celebrity gossip; one from Martha giving me my cookie recipe of the day, et cetera, et cetera. Then again, one stood out from the rest. It came from someone named Kat von Einsiedel. The European sounding name intrigued me, so I passed over the rest and clicked on this particular message first.

What great news! Turns out Kat is the managing editor for Good Housekeeping, informing me that:
Hi Tina! I'm not sure if Jing mentioned that we'll be printing your Bee article in our September issue.
Here it is, my very first published work: