30 September 2009

life update, with the richard gutierrez subplot thrown in somewhere

this is an update of my previous post.

it's nearly 5pm on a wednesday afternoon as i type this. i am still taking advantage of the generous free wifi at the pan de amerikana marikina here in molave street (forgot the new name of the street but growing up, we knew this street as molave). i am seated right smack in the middle of the middle area of this humongous picturesque resto cozily hidden here in the heart of marikina. there's a children's party about to start to my left, where colorful balloons are painstakingly taped around the back rest portion of the batibot chairs in that covered section (i am at the sun-roofed section where the TV is). i'm glad that in other parts of marikina like this part, life goes on, and people are actually happy. that's good to know.

most of those not heavily affected are back, anyway, back to normal, back in business, like concepcion area, bay tree, and this area. and that's great. only the bayan area and, i assume, the bonifacio road and areas leading outside, passing provident village and barangka, are not yet operational. jeepney drivers say there is still heavy traffic there. so i'm staying put here and won't leave the city for now.


-- tita coring in parang are now being helped by people clean up their muddy house. her daughter, cousin rona who works for WHO, is already there along with her french hubby, cousin-in-law xavier. they were actually the first casualty among us linsangan folks, for as early as 11am, their ref already started floating in flood water already inside their house. so that takes care of the santos brood on that side.

-- on the other side, in provident village, the other part of the santos brood, doc ricco's family, was rescued right around the time when cousin rey and cousin-in-law edward started their rescue mission to save the remaining gabriel brood in provident. okay na rin iyon.

-- as for the gabriels, cousin gerry filled us in yesterday morning on what happened to them. he passed by my parents house yesterday morning and we listened to his story. an initial account is already up on the web when a manila bulletin newspaper writer wrote their story via an interview with gerry's brother rey's wife monique, who posted this link in facebook. read about that here.

but it was gerry's account that got to me. he recounted how his brother, cousin rey, who already resides in bicutan, searched for a rubber boat and bought one to rescue their father, tito manuel, who was like 80+years old already, and gerry's family which included his wife syndie, my nephews teenager kurt and 8-year old joshua, and gerry's older sister, my cousin angie.

i'm sure by now that the kapuso actor richard gutierrez' story is known all over when he came with his speedboat and rescued co-actress cristine reyes who also lives in provident village. but richard was not alone. he arrived at the same time my cousin rey arrived with their self-bought rubberboat. richard and rey both entered provident village at the same time, and they were actually talking as to how they should approach this rescue and all, making small talk to ease the tension of their looming task ahead of them, i suppose. my cousins also said that richard brought the wrong kind of boat in this effort, as his was the hard wood type ba or something like that, which was hard to lift and all. but it got the job done, so i guess that was well and good for him. my cousin rey even joked that had he known that cristine reyes needed rescuing, he would have gone to fetch her himself hehe. of course this was in jest. i think linsangans are like that -- we still find humor in the direst of circumstances. or maybe it's a filipino trait. whatever. we're just glad they all made it out there.

but gerry narrated that it wasn't easy for them. his son kurt was already badgering them to leave when the waters were just thigh-high. since the gabriels were already used to their first floor being flooded, they just move stuff up on the second floor and wait for the water to subside. every so often, especially earlier in our marikina lives when the city was not yet a city and it was still under shitty leadership, provident would always be flooded a bit because it was near the wall near the marikina river or something like that. so my cousin gerry was unfazed, until the water rose as fast as an oil price hike in the philippine stock exchange or something. next thing they knew, they were already up there on the roof of the second floor, with my tito manuel and the rest of gerry's family.

good thing they were able to contact cousins rey and liza, their sister, who was married to edward. they were the ones who took turns riding the rubberboat to rescue the stranded gabriels on the roof, cutting up tree branches and even cables that were on the way. but when the water rose up higher, there was no need to cut wires. there was just a need to protect the boat. and this is where it gets all lord of the flies-ish/the beach-ish for me, when gerry shared that edward and rey had to carry a gun to protect their boat, just in case other trapped people started grabbing their boat away from them. true enough, as they entered the pitch black submerged village, man, people started to call on them and asked to be rescued, so they tried to steer away from the sides in case people started grabbing onto their boat and all. this is the real harrowing survival mode, where the line "it's every man to himself" was coined, i think. times like these, we all turn savage to save our own lives. good thing they found no need to use the gun.

i think this was like saturday evening already. there were still no rescuers in sight, and people were already trapped, cold and helpless. they actually went back several times daw to rescue others after keeping the gabriels safe. across their house is actress tessie tomas' house where her actress mother laura hermosa lived. i don't know who else lived there or if she still lived there (sometimes we see tessie crossing over to the gabriels' house to use the phone during the pre-cellphone days of the philippines) but her family members also asked my cousin gerry if they could stay there at my cousins' rooftop, as their house is not that high enough; it was submerged totally. so my cousin helped them and all in all, they were like 20 people atop that roof that were rescued. gerry tied bedsheets and curtains as makeshift ropes so that the others could hold on and cross over to where they were. but he found out that curtains and bedsheets get heavy when wet, so he snagged their cable TV cables and used that to make sturdier makeshift ropes, and that worked. they were able to hoist over people.

but he was actually disappointed at the younger people with him. i am 36 so gerry is about a decade or so older than me, i think, so he was like the uncle figure of some twentysomething people there, some of which were mega-buffed guys who spend more time at the gym than in the church. and these gym bunnies turned out to be scaredy cats because they can't swim!!! they were asking my cousin "tito gerry, ano gagawin natin 'pag tumaas pa ang tubig?" gerry had to pretend that he also didn't know how to swim in case these useless chunks of pseudo hunks clung onto him when they got scared. "ang lalaki ng katawan, baka malunod pa ko 'pag kumapit sila sa 'kin, 'no." we laughed at this. hay...

grabe din ang surroundings daw nung dumilim. they had a neighbor who bred dogs, and when the waters started to rise, their neighbor locked their seven dogs in a second floor room or something. but the water rose higher, and gerry could hear the frantic sound of dogs barking. as the waters didn't stop rising, the dogs' barks started to lessen, as one by one, they died, drowned. poor dogs. but many who were let loose survived. they saw several dogs swimming to save their own lives, or dogs clinging onto treetops daw. panalo ang man's best friend's instincts. natuwa kami sa kuwentong ito...

gerry showed me and my parents the beating he got from helping out others. he had huge palm-sized deep purple bruises on his leg, his back and elsewhere that he looked like a fraternity hazing victim. but he said he didn't feel anything during that time. it was when they were all safe and sound in his sister liza's house in valle verde (where they are still stationed) that he felt the tiredness, the ache, and all that. i think our cousin ricco and his family is also staying there at valle verde up to now. i'm not sure about this, but since it was also the gabriels that rescued them, they stayed there at valle verde din daw initially.

-- tita boochie and the orfinadas naman are all fine naman pala in vista verde in cainta, as they finally texted my mom yesterday afternoon. we never heard from them since this all started, and cousin gerry wanted to drive their truck there to check up on the orfinadas, which included my tito bong and their son hugo and hugo's wife and kulang-sa-family-planning brood of kids. good thing their house, which had a second storey, was located so far towards the end of the village that the harrowing floods didn't reach them anymore. but like the others, they were just as trapped inside the village. i was supposed to go with gerry for this mission visit but my father dissuaded us, saying it might be impossible for us to plow through the mud, even with that more than 6-wheeler truck gerry brought with him, so we scrapped the plan.

so that's all for the linsangans. we're fine. and oh yeah, monique just gave birth na. so rey is a dad times two na. yey. binyagan soon.


as for me, it's day four of having no working utilities in my condominium unit in marikina's bayan area. i pity my neighbors, especially those who don't have other relatives nearby. at least i have my parents' house to go to during the daytime where i can take a bath, eat hot meals and just rest, as the power in their area was immediately restored back (the area was minimally damaged). good thing the management was able to establish some sort of shower area near the swimming pool area where residents take their baths. since there is no electricity, no power powers the water pumps of our buildings. this is the reason why some of the ground floor units are still helpless in cleaning their units. as my girlfriend goldstar and i pass by their opened doors, we could see furniture, plasma flat screen TVs, matching fancy dishes, cute throw pillows and other things covered in murky brown. the official color of marikina is now murky brown. there are still muddy wet areas on the ground floor, and it's disheartening to see people lug water jars and mineral water liter bottles up several flights of stairs to get water from the water tank stationed downstairs at the driveway.

of course, that's the middle class story. upper middle class, if you will, and i'm sure some righteous makabayan activits, artists or scholars might look down upon these/our plight as "having it easier" than the rest of the poorer folks who got damaged by this typhoon just because we live in a condo. but i don't care about them now. let them intellectualize about this for their career all they want. i'm just writing this down as an experiential thing and, knowing that we are all humans, hope that others who are merely onlookers of this event actually start growing a heart and start caring for others, for once.

as my cousin gerry said, it was a good thing that he had well-off relatives, people who could buy a rubberboat just like that and help. money comes in handy, let's face it. he is grateful, as we all are, that everyone is safe. we just wish that more people had money din, so that they could help. and i'm actually happy that those who don't have much just come and volunteer their efforts. students have told me of their efforts to help in collecting relief goods, volunteering left and right, and all that. times like these that i am glad i am a teacher; i am proud to teach kids who have the brains and have the sense and humanity to use them for the good of all. times like these, i am assured that i went to the right career, so never mind the negativity that i see in academic politicking. i am there for the students, always for the students. and i am glad they are shaping up well. i have high hopes for these kids. i am so proud of them.

so with all these on my mind, heart and person right now, i don't think i could go back to my regular work routine as yet. times like these that i hate being in the media, too, as we were all asked to bump off our regularly scheduled stuff to give way to ondoy-related stuff. even the narartive plot of happy land, the children's tv show i write every week, will bump off a shoot to make way for a newer shoot of a newer script which involves an ondoy story and teaching kids how to be prepared in a disaster like this and all that. i told my executive producer that i am not yet in any manner able to write about this fictionally, as you could see from my blogs, with a very very tight window to write a full script to be shot in three days' time. she offered to write it for now, and i took her offer and thanked her. i don't think she is aware of what happened to me here, so she might see me as just a maarte diva writer. natawa rin ako sa isang text na nakuha ko from UP, where the librarian was asking me for updates on the library committee work. in times of disaster, they ask me about university committee work, after i told them earlier that i am still affected by this flood disaster? winner. later, they texted me and wanted to know what happened to me, so i filled them in. they will use the info for a report daw of what happened to masscomm people affected by this. i still don't know what the report is for.

hay... buti na lang walang pasok buong linggo. just saw in facebook from wendell that there is already a readjustment in the first sem sked of things. buti naman at umaksyon agad ang akademya. times like this, my sinking idealism for UP is kept afloat pa rin. buti naman.

no pictures for now, folks. the camera of my mind is already full of rolls to develop, but i don't think i have the heart to print them out, if you know what i mean. sure, i could sit here at pan and wifi all i want, but life is still not back to normal for me. maybe next week. we'll see. tonight, i decided to sleep over at my parent's house and not go back to my condo in bayan for now. i think my parents want it that way, too, so they could stop worrying about me and my girlfriend for now. so we're staying put.

it's half past six as i wrap this up, and the children's birthday party already ran out of parlor games and food. the cake was already cut and some guests are starting to leave. i may as well leave, too, in a while, and catch up on the news of the day later.

stay safe, everyone. thanks to those who messaged and texted. happy to know that you care.

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