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Remembering Typhoon  Ondoy               

Alfred M. Deato

 

September 26, 2009, the whole country was shocked to see on TV the devastation caused by Typhoon Ondoy. There had been usual warnings on the possibility of flood and other negative effects of the typhoon. However, few people could have actually predicted the resulting flash flood, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, the death of hundreds of Filipinos in the various areas affected and the resulting damage to infrastructure and crops. This unexpectedness caught a lot of people unprepared, including government officials and agencies who were (and still are) criticized for their slowness in responding to the Filipinos who are in need.

My stomach turned when I saw the first images captured to show the devastation of the typhoon in the Philippines. My heart hurt when I realized just how much damage and pain another natural disaster has caused the already ailing country of my birth, and still the home of many family members and friends.

When I called my sister Dra. Miriam Deato to verify on how things are going, she assured me that our family is safe although Valenzuela City was also submerged by flood. So, I breathe with a slight bit of relief. My sister Cynthia Deato-Santiago later told me that the worst hit, are the areas of Marikina, Pasig, Cainta, and Antipolo. I know some friends and family live in those areas. But, I’m not sure who’s been affected. So, even though I’m thousands of miles away from it all, I still feel the whole thing hitting way too close to home.

The flood took everybody by surprise, even the Philippine Government and the local government units as well. In the past, the country was used to taking care of one city or two or a province or two whenever a calamity such as this arises. But, with Typhoon Ondoy, many cities and provinces were affected and devastated all at the same time. The government's resources were just not enough to quickly deliver emergency measures or even rescue all the people who were stranded

More than the statistics given by the different agencies, I'll never forget seeing my countrymen wading in neck-deep water carrying their prized possessions. Or a father holding his child's crib (which acted as a life boat for the sleeping baby) while walking along flooded streets. Or dead bodies being found on the streets once the flood subsided. These images stay with you even after you have turned off the TV and after the flood has subsided. This flood will always be remembered for it is the worst ever experienced by the country

.Through all these, it is encouraging to see the Filipinos’ bayanihan spirit rising again. Filipinos who were not affected by the flood rushed to the aid of their countrymen to help them. Private Citizens volunteered the use of their rubber boats to save those who were stranded in the flood. Donations, in cash or in kind, are pouring from all over the country and even abroad to help out those in need.


The Valenzuelans from Southern and Northern California collectively pooled their resources together to aid the affected families in Valenzuela City. With the efforts and leadership of Romy D. Cruz and me, the collected donations in cash and used clothing were immediately wired and shipped to the Philippines through the help of Mr. Manny Paez.


Recognizing the immediate needs of our affected kababayans, the cash donations were equated with 35 sacks of rice which were later on re-packed and distributed by my sister Dra. Miriam Deato and her staff from the City Health Office to our kababayans in Valenzuela City.


Truly, in times of crisis and calamities, the Filipinos from abroad become the government’s saving factor. Individuals, private citizens became unsung heroes for their selfless acts to save the needy. What the government lacked in terms of manpower and resources, the Filipinos from abroad are making up by contributing whatever they can. These are the times when you can really see how Filipinos (here and abroad) help each other in times of need.


It is my fervent prayer that our beloved country, the home where I have built my dreams from and will re-create my future will be sheltered by GOD from such kind of disaster.