After the storm

It has been seven days since typhoon Milenyo passed through the Philippines. We in the Manila area are among those who have been the hardest hit. For five whole days, my family and I had to bear the lack of electricity – uncomfortable heat during the day (our hands can only do so much back and forth motions with the paper fans) and warding off mosquitoes at night (I can’t remember anymore how much mosquito coils we used up). My husband and I were particularly distressed to see our kids suffering the lack of comfort that our electric fans normally provide.

We felt cut off from the world as our landline phone has been dead three days even before the storm came. We can’t call Meralco to ask for updates nor request PLDT to repair our line. Our mobile phones have been running low on batteries while our water supply dwindled because the water company couldn’t pump the precious liquid into the pipes without electricity. I feared for the food we have in the refrigerator that would eventually spoil if we weren’t able to buy ice soon enough.

That first night of darkness, we almost ran out of candles. I was so glad that the day before, hubby and I went home to Laguna to get some stuff from my mom’s house that we left behind when we moved here to Alabang last April. Among the loot I brought were my collection of souvenir candles and tea lights that I have been using with my oil burner. Those little sources of light have been our salvation for two nights.

You see, there is nowhere near where one can buy candles anymore. My husband had to drive about four towns away just to find ice and candles, and at exorbitant prices at that! Sadly, it is during these kinds of crises when we encounter the best and worst in people. Some do take advantage of their fellowmen just to pad their own pockets and fill their greed.

By the third day, all our stored water was almost gone. All the water delivery services are no longer taking orders because even they ran out of supply. I texted my sister, who now lives 45 minutes away, if we can take a bath at their house and get drinking water. Fortunately, her husband was in their old house (being put up for sale right now) two blocks away from ours, where he and their houseboy were cleaning the debris. We were informed that the tank there was still full and we can get water there instead.

All of us, our three boys, the maid, hubby and myself, took turns going there to bathe. James took his bath here at home when hubby already got several drums-full of water from the other house.

Despite the aggravations, we have a lot of things to be thankful for. We still have a roof over our heads when the turbulence was over although our kitchen did have its share of flooding.

We were able to listen to the news (and despair when it seems that our area was the only one left without electricity when everywhere else was already bathed in light) and be entertained by my son’s favorite jazz station thanks to my decade-old walkman that still runs on two AA batteries and the passive speakers that I originally bought a few months ago for my mp3 player.

Our water tanks (we have two) up beside the roof had their own spring-cleaning day courtesy of my beloved husband. When he called me to climb the metal stairs and take a peek, I was appalled at all the dirt that has accumulated inside during the course of several months. On a side note, I also got scared at the height I got to and had rubbery legs when I was able to finally climb down the ladder.

The blasted bags of ice and candles that cost the earth (imagine, we spent about P1000 on diesel alone just so these items can be bought!) still served their purpose albeit causing us heavy dents on the pockets.

My sister-in-law’s van, which hubby used to literally search high and low for supplies, was also useful in replenishing at least some of our mobile phones’ battery capacities. Problem was, even with two bars of power, the phones were useless when the service providers’ signals became intermittent, at times disappearing for hours on end. Tsk, I regret that I wasn’t able to capitalize on the unlimited texting I enrolled my phone to. It expired without me being able to send out a lot of text messages due to fear of battery failure, ergo total cut-off from civilization.

These past few days, there are a lot of things I was reminded of such as valuing things we usually take for granted in the course of our daily, normal lives. It’s important that we get to appreciate them more so that in the coming days, we will not be as wasteful nor indifferent as before.

Mostly, I am glad that my family and I have been able to spend a lot of time together. By God’s grace, we were sustained. The kids had a blast having such an extended vacation and although my head sometimes throbs at their constant chatter and petty arguments over toys and stuff, I am thankful that we are all here, complete and yes, still utterly blessed to have each other.
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