Habagat Awa

Was I missed?  Thank you to everyone who visited though I haven’t posted in the longest while.  I know I owe you part two of the baha (flood) story.  I couldn’t write it all.  I wanted to tell you everything (to first timers who visit, a caveat: my posts are not always “sunny”) but I found that I needed things to calm down somewhat, get myself together and put the house in order.  Have you ever had the feeling that writing something down, emotional bits included, creates a kind of unraveling.  I get depressed.
Last post I mentioned a tragedy.  That was all about my eight year old pit bull Pow dying from drowning.
These pictures were taken hours before the water rose to eight feet. I was not home, being stranded somewhere else.  Those were our dining chairs floating up the stairs.  
I still don’t understand why things happened the way they did, given that we’ve mapped out our own disaster preparedness plan and have been applying such the week Typhoon Gener came in.  By the time habagat stormed in, you could say we ought to be in control.
Not! For one, the brother and I were not home when the water rose too high too fast.  It didn’t occur to anyone left at home that flooding would reach our second floor, for the second time in three years.  
I won’t go into the details.  Suffice to say that the dog was left outside and they couldn’t get to her.  We couldn’t bury her either because there’s water everywhere.  I don’t know and don’t want to know where my dad took her.
On top of my grief (no, she is not “just a dog”) and imagining how she must have struggled, I have had to endure two days as evacuee in the house of a distant relative. We had power, the Boston terrier, my laptop, plenty of food and water.  The relative is welcoming and nice enough. 
Don’t get me wrong, we are fortunate than most. The problem was her brother and his family, themselves evacuees staying in the other wing of the house.  They are a neighbor (and we're kind of related) , waaay well off! On top of side comments that are downright insensitive, it pained me to have to hear them go on about Persian carpets and how many air conditioning units need fixing when we can’t even think about what state the house would be in when we do go home. I won’t burden you with it all, either.  
I was worried about the gaping window dad had to break to get onto the terrace roof when the rubber rescue boat came for them; and the Otterhound left on his own (on the second floor) for two days, with my dad unable to recall whether he placed the dog food within reach.  Turns out he didn’t.
When the water receded to knee deep, I insisted we go home, despite no electricity or phone line or working appliance for three weeks hence.
A few friends asked if we needed help.  A handful! Downright depressing to me.  It was as if the rest couldn’t care less because they are so used to us living in a flood prone area and the one who did ask shouldn’t have to.  Of course we need help but would not want to impose.  We hesitate to ask because logically, with money anything could be fixed, replaced, seen to.  Without, you make do.
We don’t qualify as destitute either, to whom a hand out is...well...natural.  So, if you want to extend help I suggest you do it in kind or volunteer some other way.
One friend offered her oven and kitchen for me to use, because ours gave out and there was still flooding a month after the big one (comes and goes with still swollen waterways).  It would be a burden (for now) to get a new one on credit, seeing that most of our appliances didn’t survive and need replacing.  We lived without a refrigerator for a month. 
Dianne gave us buckets full of staples and cleaning materials (we needed all the chlorox we can get and used up countless sponges, scrubbers and rags).  She and her officemates even gave us a box of clothes! Now those clothes were second hand but very clean and no mending necessary.  They fit fine too.  They are also a tad young and trend-ish, which I can tell you, I was surprised to learn I can pull off
I appreciated most Tita M sending me (from NY) a five kilo block of dark Callebaut! A neighbor, Mang Ruben (mang means mister) sent over his men to fix our warped front door and wiring (charged us a pittance).  Ruth took me shopping for basic foodstuff and hot chocolate mix plus lent us her spare gas stove to use.  A long lost friend ( I was rediscovered on FaceBook) kept sending me PMs asking how I was, consoling, offering to help clean muddy walls, and later taking me to lunch for a much needed break from the exhausting work.  That mini reunion got me on the road to normalcy.  My full recovery I owe to Millie and Nicole, who listened with empathy when I was finally able to talk about everything, over shared pasta, napoleones and coffee at a cafe upstairs from her Avon office. 
So now that the East Coast is experiencing what we have been dealing with for three years (since Ondoy), I write a wish list that I hope would help you decide what to give -for other future flood victims elsewhere or the next time I would need it. Bless you : )
Beyond cooked food, drinking water and used clothing, what we would appreciate most are volunteer groups who could offer free services or at minimal cost (because when you are paid by the day or your business is put on hold indefinitely, money is an issue - everything screams “priority”).  By this, I mean help with the basic fix ups - carpentry, plumbing, wiring, cleaning, hauling out broken stuff and trash – something the people at Clean House knows about!
I was looking for an air pressure hose thingy, like they use for power washing cars (maybe someone can rig something?) to water blast caked mud and oil sludge.  No joy: we had to scrub and rake away.  There was no help available – everyone else is cleaning up.  You won't find anyone even for pay.
I appreciate Eat Bulaga’s novel prize giving – sacks of rice, the makings of a small start up business, buckets of paint and sacks of cement. I'm not saying you do the same, just that you give what is actually needed.
You could also offer to do laundry (of course, unmentionables not included) or hold a neighborhood wash day – set out a washing machine and string up clotheslines (ours got muddied) for people bearing washloads; help out with pets (they’re not a priority for rescue and there’s no place to house them temporarily, at least not in my part of the world); help restore gardens; or organize a play or study group for neighborhood kids or the ones in evacuation centers; or mount a house painting party.  I add this last because I am painting the house again (sigh).

People working so hard at restoring normalcy are often too tired to fix sandwiches.  I had to make an effort to go out and buy food and snacks for us.  Meals are eaten more to force a break in the work. You find it hard to stop because everywhere you look, you see mud, mud, mud. You are too tired to raise a fork.

We ate mostly cooked food from Jack’s, a neighborhood carinderia (eatery) where we bought tapa (dried meat), liempo (roast pork belly) at Chook’s to Go, and cooked Palm corned beef (from a friend) and SeaKing Cream Dory with Ponzu sauce (my new favorite).
You could bring snacks!
I bought turon saging (fried sweet banana rolls), turon munggo (sweetened mung bean roll), halo halo of beans and langka (jackfruit), fried cassava cakes (my favorite and the most dramatic picture I ever took of a lowly street food hehe).
I also got what my dad calls tinudok (Ilocano for tinusok or speared – I took out the stick when I shot this).  Tinudok are deep fried balls of malagkit or sticky rice cloaked in caramelized, crusty brown sugar (those small misshapen spheres on either side of the long turon roll below and here).

A side story: dad said in his hometown, San Estebantinudok is a popular snack on cockfighting day.  He said in small towns such as his, markets used to sell kakanin variants (or rice cakes) twice a week, so my ten peso tinudok would have been a kind of luxe snack then.
Give a gift of condiments and cooking stuff (these things are too “everyday”, but these are practically staples and add up.
Give out spare pillows or bedding or a room to sleep in.  I for one appreciates a clean bed in a room that does not look like an obstacle course of boxes and stuff to sort out. Mine still looks like one to this day.
Lastly, do what my friend did, take me out of my misery (am not dead yet so that’s not what I mean, though there were days I felt dead on my feet -just try washing stuff all day with water up to your knees.  Regular rain boots are only knee high but you have to wear them even when water gets into them - I was picking up knives and broken stuff off the floor.
Take me some place far from my damp, cold, watery, muddy world and give me dessert I did not bake.  Oh, and if you could, a spa day would be just the thing! I know, I'm super demanding blehhh : )
Again, don’t ask if you could help, just do it! Coincidentally, the gist of this post has been percolating in my head since August but couldn't get around to doing it.  I'm happy to see this and I am awed that in the states there are a lot of volunteer groups doing a world of good.  Wish there are more here.

P.s.: Habagat Awa is a play of words.  Habagat is what we call the monsoon hereabouts and awa is mercy.  Habag, on the other hand, is the Tagalog word for pity.  Now why do we name our monsoons such?   A call to the Universe? Hmmm... 


Popular Posts