Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Marikina flooding: At ground zero of Olandes

At ground zero of Olandes


Right before Wednesday noon, the rains stopped for a good one hour. The waters in the Olandes area (next to the road leading to Libis) subsided and the people quickly made their way back to their homes. The water levels weren’t close to the Ondoy levels but it was pretty high enough.

I guess we as a people should be thankful (for what it’s worth) that the flooding happened during the daytime and not at night. Think of the difficulty of getting out safely with no light.

I went down the area to organize a soup kitchen with a friend of mine and one of my kids. I sought out one of our former househelpers and we quickly got hold of the barangay captain. Once that was out of the way (and while waiting for the soup to brought to the area), I went around to get a closer picture of the devastation to this community that is perennially hit by water overflows from the river. There were a few stalls in the market place were already open selling what food was not spoiled by the flood. Many were cleaning their homes. The water was at most seven to eight feet high in some areas and much higher in places closer to the river.

Through the devastation, some people managed a pained smile. Others were more practical as they were wondering how to bounce back from all of this. It took a while to bounce back from Ondoy and one wonders how long so this time around?

One man was crying out at the top of his voice. Not every one can handle this. I can totally empathize with him over his loss.

Eventually I found my way to the riverside. I saw people cleaning their muddied appliances and furniture in the light rain. A few paces further, I saw some people toss the trash from their home into the river! Incredible. Some people never learn!

Dismayed and unable to do anything, I trudged on further until I cam to the abandoned tricycle terminal. I saw this janitor fish desperately trying to reach the water. I wanted to go over and give it a push but the mud was a foot and a half deep. My third pair of flip flops gave way and I had to hoof it barefoot. I was nervous that I would step on some nail or piece of metal so it took longer to get to the road that leads to Libis.

Incredibly, a portion of the road had been washed of the mud and it was easier for me to walk barefoot (at this point my son and my friend had stayed behind). There were people by the riverside scavenging the flotsam and junk that was washed up on the side. One had found a lady’s wallet. He opened and pulled out a couple of hundred pesos that were soaking wet. “Ang pera ay nasa basura,” he pronounced. Others saw this and quickly redoubled their efforts hoping to find another wallet or some such. One nearly fell into the river and we had to help him up. I made the mistake of the going close to the edge that a strong wave hit me and sent me backwards. I was lucky or else the wave didn’t pull me outwards to the middle of the river and God knows where I would have ended.  

I took a moment sitting in the muddy riverbanks and said a prayer. Lucky lucky devil. Curiosity killed the cat but not on this day.

I picked myself up (people immediately went back to scavenging) and walked on. I checked my camera and it was still working.

I made my way down further towards Marikina Riverbanks. The waters receded but it was plenty frightening. As the waters crashed towards the Riverbanks, it made an awful gurgling noise. I saw some fish on the road and realized they were janitor fish.

On the sidewalk some men placed a bunch of them. I snapped a couple of pictures of one of them trying to impale one of the fish. Unable to crack its strong shell, he took a rock and pounded on it. One gouged another fish’s eye with a rusty nail. Another pounded on the fish. I couldn’t hold it back any longer and told them to cut it out. The man whose picture I took spat and kicked the fish. I started to push them towards the river. One boy who was also out taking pictures began to help me. Then one of the men who was earlier torturing the fish got mad at me. “Who was I to tell them to stop?” he yelled. “You don’t own the fish or the river.”

He stomped on one fish and cussed me out. I cussed him back and prepared to defend myself. A barangay tanod who was nearby saw this and came between us. I was riled up. I know it’s a fish but still I couldn’t stand for anything like that.

We drew a crowd. There was this Caucasian lady nearby saw the commotion. She came over and said that it was brave thing to do. Especially since I was outnumbered six to one. I nodded not knowing what else to say.

As the rains began to fall harder, I decided it was time to head back. This time I went the opposite way not wanting to go back through the muddy riverbanks. This was through the public park that was buried under a foot of mud. As I sloshed through I was nervous once more. What the hell was I thinking? I could seriously get hurt out here.

It took me an agonizing and slow 20 minutes just to traverse 100 meters. And I did it while reciting the Lord Prayer (the waters were also flowing back inland towards me).

As soon as I got home, I washed up making sure that I scrubbed myself clean. Now I’m waiting for the next soup kitchen run. And the rains have come pouring down again.

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