I remember Sendong

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013


LAST December 17, 2011, the Typhoon Sendong ravaged Cagayan de Oro city and claimed at least several thousands of lives.

I so remember my activities the day before Sendong’s visit.

It was a typical Friday when people were jittery for the week to end only that it was cloudier and windy than usual.

Furthermore, most people were merrily preparing to celebrate their school or company Christmas parties and exchanges of gifts as it had been the tradition for so long a time immemorial.

At that time I was so busy with the many paper requirements I had for my graduate studies while struggling to survive the demands of my profession as a nurse-educator.

Despite the national and local weather forecast of an incoming storm, I never had the slightest idea of the imminent midnight grinch that awaited to steal neither candies nor things but innocent lives of those who were most vulnerable.

By late afternoon, the rain began to shower.

It was not really strong, just mild enough to require one to be under raincoats and umbrellas.

For reasons that I could not quite figure, by 6 p.m., a great number of commuters—students, professionals and laborers alike—were stranded along the roofed streets and alleys of Divisoria.

I too was one of them.

Luckily my mom called me up on my mobile phone to inform me that she would fetch me from Xavier University.

Minutes prior to her arrival, the power was out and darkness covered the bustling Divisoria.

As we headed home I saw the magnitude of people lining up the streets waiting for an empty jeepney to pass by.

But there was none, not even an empty cab was available.

At Iponan, where my home was, the wind was somehow peripatetic. It was so dark and so cold.

But all the thoughts that were racing my head were the prelim exam in qualitative/anthropologic research methods that I would have the following day.

I even texted Alex, a classmate who was living at Balulang and sharing her sentiments about how the storm was not letting me review the material for the exam.

That night I also remembered how restless the dogs were in the neighborhood.

They were howling like wolves as if trying to give us a hint of what was to happen.

Feeling stuck in the circumstance, I decided to lay my minute worries to sleep and leave everything to luck and stored knowledge to answer the exam the following day.

For reasons that were beyond my comprehension that time, I kept waking up in the middle of the night. I woke up at 1 a.m., 2:30 a.m. and then at 4:00 a.m.

And then suddenly, by 5:30 a.m., I was awakened by the hollering voice of my mom.

She was telling me to prepare for the murky flood water was already at our door steps.

In a deep sense of disbelief, I told myself I was just dreaming.

I mean, hey, we never had floods before, so why worry?

And then she held my jaw and told me that at the new bridge at Carmen, hundreds of dead people had been piled up and that certain areas at Carmen and Balulang had been washed out.

Now I was totally awake.

As I ran to the windows to check, I realized the water was climbing its way inside the house and that the entire neighborhood was panicking for their lives.

We hurriedly packed our important belongings and placed some electronic appliances to higher areas of the home like the top of the cabinets before we left without really any particular direction other than uptown.

But we have not really made it that far as the flood water started to naturally drained itself back to the river.

As we drove around the city, we saw hundreds of dead bodies lining up the streets with their loved ones crying their hearts out. It was horrible.

Of those who have survived, their homes have been washed out completely.

I tried to contact my classmate who was in Balulang but was she was already out of reach.

I also realized that morning was the Nurse Licensure Examination and I saw a good number of examinees not wearing a complete uniform due to the flood.

Power was out for several days but water supply was cut off for almost a month.

I remember we had to drive with two huge barrel drums somewhere in upper Bulua to fetch water from a deep well.

Occasionally, a fire truck would drop by our streets to give us a ration of water but it was barely enough.

As weeks passed by, I realized the magnitude of lives that was claimed by Sendong, which was according to experts a combination of typhoon, high tide and storm surge.

There was no one who has not lost someone due to Sendong in Cagayan de Oro.

At least a friend or acquaintance died in the flood.

I was relieved though that Alex was not one of them.

Two years has passed but the memories of such a natural disaster has remained in the hearts and minds of every Kagay-anon like a wound that has turned into scar to remind us of the horrors once Mother Nature is upset.

*****

[Email: polo.medical.sociologist@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 17, 2013.

Lifestyle

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