Thursday, September 12, 2013

Evacuees in our village during storm "Maring"

I live in San Mateo area near San Mateo River which is connected to Marikina River.

A few weeks back, I was enjoying my recent vacation when storm "Maring" entered the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR). Though the typhoon was quite far from MM, it strengthened the monsoon rain for several days. For two nights our neighbors and I were sleepless since we were monitoring the level of San Mateo River. In fact, the water was about to reach our village road when the monsoon rains stopped. We were elated since it saved us from the arduous task of relocating our household items and cleaning our houses.


The flood water reached our ceiling in 2009

We have been living in the same place since 1992 but recently the flood has started invading our community. It all started in September 2009 when storm "Ondoy" inundated Metro Manila. Our bungalow type house was entirely submerged by floodwater. Luckily I was on vacation thus I was able to park our car in higher place and saved it from getting damaged; some of my neighbors were not lucky.

Last year, due to heavy monsoon rains, knee-deep flood water again entered our house. Fortunately, after "Ondoy" I was able to renovate our house and convert it into a 3-storey structure thus the damage caused by the flood last year was very minimal though my family was very exhausted relocating our belongings to upper floors and cleaning the entire ground floor; I was in Yemen at that time.

San Mateo River (back of our village) during monsoon rains caused by storm "Maring" - August 2013

Whenever San Mateo River swells and reaches its critical level, many of our neighbors living along its banks evacuate to our area and nearby roads. They put up make-shift tents and others who work as drivers park their vehicles such as jeepneys and trucks along the main road outside our village; their families live in those vehicles while waiting for the water to subside. They bring with them their meager belongings including their pets and animals.

outside our village along the river bank

It was a pity seeing them exposed to cold nights and dripping tents. However, as typical Filipinos, I can see their kids playing around while the adults were indulging in chit chats. Sometimes the guys even have the time and resources to have some drinking bouts along the road. The mood was festive, actually. Well, you can't blame them, poor as they are, they need to find comfort with each other and release their stress through whatever means.

It is not surprising therefore to see our local government handling relief goods to these people immediately after each flooding. In fact, after "Ondoy" in 2009, while I was walking outside our village I saw some good Samaritans handling some pre-packed foods. I fell in line and asked for two packs. Upon reaching our home, I gave them to those poor kids who I contracted to help me clean our house after the flood; my family stayed in my brother-in-law's house in Quezon City until our house was thoroughly cleaned.

evacuees lining up for relief goods

vehicles with make-shift tents where some of the evacuees were staying

Recently, the evacuees were back while in our case we keep monitoring the level of the river. As usual, the local government distributed relief goods the following day. I even saw our laundry woman in queue hoping to receive some of these goods. When she reported back to work after 2 days, I gave her some cash since she lost 1 day salary due to this incident.

After the level of the river has gone down, the evacuees started returning back to their homes. Leaving their homes for their own safety and returning back when the flood has subsided has become a part of their lives. They are familiar sight whenever the river swells and I believe, given a chance they would prefer living in a safer place where they can sleep well even when the perennial monsoon rains batter our place. Nevertheless, what impresses me is how they cope-up with this kind of calamity and their determination to move-on.

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