CAGAYAN DE ORO

Dark Hours

I LOOK around, and a tear fell on my cheek. As I try to wipe the tear away, I found myself looking at my hands painted with brown wet soil. I look around me, and I saw that everything was painted with mud. It was as if color left our barangay and all was left is the quietly screaming fear inside our hearts. I moved my right shoulder near my face before my mama can see me crying. With one deep breath, I closed my eyes and thought of how those seven hours changed my whole perspective on life.

December 16 was supposed to be a day of rejoicing for us graduating students as that was our last foundation day in high school. It was a day where we get to savor our last taste of childishness before we embark on a new journey, which is college. I could still remember how busy I was, running back and forth in the hallways, doing rounding—since I was student government’s year level representative—and preparing our class gimmick. Everyone was in high spirits. We were enjoying the celebration not until mid-afternoon when the water began pouring from the heavens and the wind blew harder than usual.

The students were not able to go home immediately. Some had to wait until the rain subsides a little and when public utility jeepneys could move in the busy traffic. I stayed with my parents and younger sister in my mother’s classroom as we wait for the harsh wind to calm down. When my father decided to go home, we saw trees being uprooted—blocking a portion of the roads. I sighed and close my eyes and allowed darkness to swallow me as it lulled me to sleep.

“Yan! Yan! Bangon na!” I jolted out of the bed when I heard the urgency in my father’s voice. He opened the door wide, and I saw how the water came rushing through. I was unable to move. I stood there watching as the level of the water grows higher by the second. I snapped out of my reverie when I heard my mom said, “nak, pag-empakena!” I immediately took my bag and threw all the clothes that I could find. When my clothes no longer fit inside, I went out and saw how fast the water flowed inside the house. I was frozen. My heart was beating faster. One second the water level was right on my ankles and when I got out, it was knee-deep.

Our dogs are freed from their chains and was swimming their way inside the house. It made me feel sad knowing that our female dog just gave birth and her cute, little puppies are crying endlessly. A tear escaped my eyes, thinking it might be the last time I will see my dogs. I told myself it wasn’t the right time to drown in the situation. As I walk towards the old shoe rock, I watched my soiled clothes for the week float before I took my pink crocs and wore it.

I was beyond shocked that the water level outside of our elevated house was already chest-deep. It was sea-like—only that instead of corals, there are houses; instead of fishes, there are people. I kept on repeating “in Jesus’s name” as we slowly made our way outside the house. As the cold wind blew to my face, I momentarily thought of my impending death. Is this going to be my last night? Am I not going to live to see another day? Was I contented on how I lived my life? These kinds of thoughts went through my head as we slowly trod our way towards the covered court.

Papa led us to the open field when I suddenly stepped on a hole. I lost balance. I held the things I was carrying higher so that it wouldn’t get wet. “Papa, tabang!” I shouted. The water was on my neck already, and I was beyond terrified. My father yelled, “padayonlang!” without looking back. Gathering all the strength that was left, I balanced myself and caught up with him. We were our saviors—that I realized during that time. Our sense of survival will kick in when the code of danger was switched on.

We stayed on the stage together with other families. Everything was cold and dark as electricity was cut off. One jeepney headlight was switched on so that we could see the flow and level of the water. I stared at the rushing caramel water, flowing towards the deep canal going to the Cagayan River. It was terrifying whenever the water level increases. I closed my eyes and prayed for this nightmare to be over, and that all of this was just a dream.

When I opened my eyes, I was greeted with the engine noise and the occasional humping due to road cracks. We were rescued in the afternoon by a family friend who heard about our situation. Out of all the things we possessed, we were only able to bring with us some of our clothes, some gadgets, and some necessary documents.

As we leave our barangay, I looked away when I saw on the side of the road a long line of dead bodies, covered with white cloth. People were crying, looking for their lost relatives. I shivered when I saw how a car smashed right into my friend’s house. It was a sight I never thought I would ever experience. However, those seven hours taught me that this life can be easily taken away from us. Our death cannot be foreseen. It’s only a matter of when, where and how.

(This article is based on the writer’s experience during the deadly typhoon Sendong which ravaged Cagayan de Oro City on December 16, 2011.)


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