A Nightmare

(My Sendong Experienced)
July 12, 2012

It only took one night for our family to experience a tragic event. Sometimes such events paralyze us and leave us broken and fragile. Many were devastated by the tragic floods caused by Typhoon Sendong. Houses were washed away, lives lost. Thousands, including my family, were victims of the floods. We are all alive, my husband, my 17-year old twins, 25-year old son and me. This is our story.

16 December 2011, Dep.Ed Night . . . I was one of the awardees of the Search for the Ten Most Outstanding Public School Teachers in Iligan City. Though earlier in the night the rain was very heavy the Dep.Ed night celebration continued, the presentations were great, everybody was dancing and joyously exchanging pleasantries with one another. Me? As an awardee I felt proud as did my husband. After the awarding we immediately went home and arrived at our house at Orchid Homes Subdivision, Brgy. Santiago, Iligan City, at 9:20.

I noticed that the rain wasn’t too heavy but the wind was very strong. We went to sleep. I was awakened by the noise outside our house. As I went out to see what was going on I glanced at clock. It was 12:20 midnight, 17 December. I saw no one on the street, so I went back to our bedroom and lay down, but again heard noise all over the neighborhood and a siren. So I hurriedly stood up to check what the commotion all about.

I was shocked. Water was rushing in like a devil ready to take our lives. I called my husband and woke up our sons.  In just a few seconds the water was already at knee level. My mind was disturbed with many questions and thoughts. ‘What will I do? What will I do first? Can we be saved? Will we be saved? I have to be strong for my children .I should have presence of mind.’

I told myself, ‘Don’t panic! Everything will be OK’.

But it wasn’t OK. The water now reached my waist. Despite my desire to save important things I had no time to do so. We have to vacate the house because everything inside was already floating. I just grabbed my bag with my wallet inside, my cellphone and my glasses. My husband ordered us to settle in my neighbor’s house with a second floor. But it was 20 meters away and the current was very strong. We had no choice but to climb onto the roof of our own house. The water was still rising very fast and reached our roof. So we had to transfer to the higher roof of a neighbor’s house at the back, with my cousin’s family and two other neighbors, crawling because it was very slippery.
Then very big logs entered the picture, destroying and washing away some of the houses in the subdivision. I can still clearly remember neighbors shouting for help on rooftops when logs crashed into their houses. Then the cries for help just vanished. That was when I cried because I knew that my neighbors, my friends were gone. I could no longer heard their voices or the crying of the children.

Then a deep silence, with only the sound of logs crashing into houses to be heard. I thought it would also be the end of us.

My husband was trying to find a way for us to jump to the other side of the road. I gave instructions to my sons: ‘If mabungkag ning balay atong gitindugan (if our house is destroyed), save yourselves. Don’t think about me kay dako pa kaayo inyong chance mabuhi mo (because you have a better chance of surviving), I know ug unsa man gani mahitabo sa ako ug sa inyong Daddy dili jud mopasagdan sa inyong mga auntie (Whatever happens to me or Daddy, don’t neglect your aunties) both sides. Be good and responsible’.

The side story of this tragedy was that my then 16-year-old twins hadn’t been on good terms for four years, never speaking to each other, I’d tried so many times to patch up their differences but to my dismay nothing worked. So I just waited for the right time where they might be friends again and I never thought, even in my wildest dreams, that a destructive storm would be that right time. In the midst of our fear and anxiety they really showed how much they cared for each other by thinking about each other’s safety. I asked them, ‘Kinahanglan diay mahitabo ni aron magamigo mo ug balik?’ (Does it take something like this for you to be friends again?) And I added, ‘Whatever happens ug mamatay ko or kami sa inyong Daddy (If I or your Daddy and I die), don’t stop loving and caring for each other. You should draw from each other’s strength so that you will survive

Everybody was  praying so hard I even wanted to shout my prayers to make sure I could be heard by God. Thinking that night would be my end, I asked forgiveness for my sins and from those I had sinned against. And I forgave those who had caused me pain, heartaches and trouble. What I thought might be my last words were, ‘Thy will be done.

It seemed that we were just waiting for our deaths. At 2:00 to 3:00 in the morning of 17 December - I was constantly checking the time on my cellphone - the water was still rising but the current wasn’t so fast anymore. But we didn’t know when the water would subside. And if it didn’t we were trapped on the roof where the water was already at ankle level. My husband decided that we should cross to the other side of the road by the electric wire connecting posts. (Electricity had by then been totally shut off). But I strongly disagreed with him because I knew it wouldn’t work. I said to him, ‘Kung mangamatay man gani ta karon dinh dili na to tagbuon atong kamatayon, atong hulaton’ (If we die here nowlet’s not avoid it, let’s wait for it).
So we just stayed where we were and prayed, prayed and prayed because I strongly believed  at that time that the only weapon we had was to pray and trust in God and whatever plans He had for us.

And a miracle happened . . . at 4:30 the water started to subside slowly but surely. Praise God, He answered our prayers. All our family were alive, destined to live longer.

The  next thing I knew was that the  3-year-old daughter of my close friend and neighbor and the 31-year-old special child of another close friend and neighbor were missing. Their bodies were never found. So many bodies were found trapped in their houses, and others were drowned.

Our house was totally damaged, and everything in it, including appliances, destroyed, I had nothing left. Back to Zero. But still I have to be thankful that God gave us another chance to live. And most importantly, my twins are now friends, talking to each other sharing their  ideas. For me that was the best thing that happened toour family, because of the Typhoon Sendong tragedy.