The Long Walk Home (3 of 3)

Indeed the immediate area near our place was pitch black with occasional candles lit. What was surprising was the activeness of a lot of people past that time of the night. Something definitely wasn’t right. And I’m not yet talking of the knee-length water on the streets yet.

Why did things have to be hard for the past 24 hours?

Warm Coffee, Please

My wrist watch read some minutes before 2 AM when I reached home and found my wife scooping out water using a dustpan. Water in the streets were starting to rise. They said that with the dams releasing water to ease out the pressure within its walls, it was only a matter of time before water would enter the houses.

In the midst of the frustration, all I wanted was just a nice hot cup of coffee. I was cold and wet from the experience starting from the morning that I just needed to warm a bit.

Lo and behold, there was no cooking gas! Thankfully a well-meaning neighbor offered a cup of hot water or I would have blown to bits then. A few sips of coffee was all I needed to break off from the mounting chaos.

Who Needed Weights Anyway?

Then it was on to lifting stuff. My wife understandably could only do so much in carrying up stuff to the second floor of the place. Important documents, food, medicine and other such lighter articles. All while checking on the kids and the water level outside from time to time.

Thankfully I reached home with just the right amount of time to allow me to move the heavier ones to higher ground. So while she was scooping water and all, I was moving appliances– TV, washing machine, dryer, ref, microwave– to the second floor. The situation didn’t afford me to take my time doing so because water was rising fast outside. I had to help my wife then.

A few minutes later, I relieved her from the chore as she made a last swoop of things to move upstairs in preparation for water coming in. It was only a few inches before the waters outside breached the level of the apartment entrance outside. It was routinary in the first minutes then tiring the next minutes that followed. Neighbors from nearby households were doing the same just to keep the water from filling their places.

It looked like fighting a losing battle when the rise of water outside went on. It was one thing to keep seeping water from accumulating; it was another to have water gushing inwards.

Here it comes

A few minutes before 3 AM when water broke through. We left the scooping chore when it happened. It covered the floors at first before rising slowly. It turned from a question of whether water would get in to how much we’ll get inundated.

I gave up and had to lie down somewhere upstairs. Water was rising anyway and there’s nothing much we can do for now. My wife took watch downstairs as I rested while waiting for the water level outside to recede. Then there will be clean up.

As I was lying, I recalled how lucky I was to be there. It definitely wasn’t a joke but it wasn’t that hard to figure out in some sort of a mishap in that day’s worth of hardships either.

My sister-in-law arrived with her daughters by the time I was getting sleepy. It was waist-deep in their house when they left from what I heard. She and my wife was talking about stuff when I actually fell asleep.

The next thing I knew it was already morning. It was a gloomy but definitely a welcome for one who had to spent that night awake. My wife told me that it went up to knee-level inside the house before the waters stopped rising outside.

The Aftermath

It was clean-up that morning. Scooping out water, washing and disinfecting stuff and scrubbing, disinfecting floors and placing back moved appliances were in fashion among households then. We had the place clean by afternoon.

We were not without damages. Luckily ours were relatively minor ones. Apart from our water pump, we saw a TV rack, a corner cabinet and some minor articles thrown away.

We had to wait until Monday afternoon for electricity though. Prior to it being restored, I had to actually content myself with reading (and actually finishing) Freakonomics and cigarettes.

It was so much a welcome to have electricity back as my daughter needed to be nebulized regularly because of asthmatic attacks starting from that Sunday. And there was definitely so much the lack of electricity hampers. It was only then that I got to inform people elsewhere that we were alright here. It was the signal to have us organize the smaller stuff around the house. It was also only then that we got to see TV news coverages of the extent of damage the typhoon brought.

Despite what I had to go through, it would be modest to say I’m still lucky. It was all over for us in a matter of hours but not so for other people even after some days. We were affected, yes, but a lot of other people were even more devastated. Among others, we had water inside the house but a lot of other people had to deal with mud. We didn’t have to deal with more than knee-length flooding inside the house. We didn’t have to wait for more than around 2 days to get electricity back.

I’m quite sure my story doesn’t even register a blink among the rough snapshots others had that fateful day.

The whole ordeal had me missing work for 2 working days in the week that followed. That was all the time I needed to get myself back in condition.

The Long Walk Home (2 of 3)

If memory serves me right, it was before 7 in the evening when I made my push to Monumento. Yes it was quite early but the terrible weather made it look discouraging to take the option. I was getting more and more worried. The stillness of traffic along with the gusts of the wind and bursts of the rain made it all the more difficult for me to stay put. My daughter, wife and her niece were the only ones at home and should the weather get worse, it was certain they would be needing the extra hand to keep the situation at bay.

So I joined the flock who were making their way along EDSA by foot. My umbrella sported a broken rib by then but it had to do against the rain. It wasn’t as exhausting as I thought anyway. With a great number of stranded souls doing the same, I had nothing to lose with the decision anyway. I passed through Project 7 then Munoz within minutes. Remaining flood waters along the way were the least of my worries as the one thing I had my mind focused on was to get home.

Same with the sight of those who decided to climb the abandoned scaffolds of the MRT under construction to buy themselves some leverage over the floods along the way. It was somewhat scary and had me thinking how fragile we all were right there.

But came the Ford building past Monumento.

I wondered what’s with the hesitation of those who went for the trek right there. It then became apparent that past the landmark was still a flood basin still somewhere around waist-level when I got there. It was hard for me to recognize what lay waiting farther because it was dark already. So I had to stop and eat a cracker.

And wait.

It was there that I overheard a woman who came from Monumento tell her tale to her friend. She told her horrible ordeal to get past the Balintawak area just before the fork to the North Diversion Road. It was waist-deep she said and she had to hold on to a rope somewhere along the stretch as the flood waters carried beneath them strong currents from the then-overflowing creeks. And she tried her best to discourage people like me from pushing on.

At least not yet.

Moving On

It was past 8 when I decided to push onwards. A lot of those people who chose to wait, after all, were starting to push forward again. Bigger vehicles deciding to move might have provided just enough encouragement then.

It was still knee-deep as I got to realize later. The water rose to at least a few inches at times but it was generally within knee-level. One thing going the way of those who braved the waters like me was that we had the freedom to easily switch to the southbound stretch of EDSA. Unfortunately that meant our feet were vulnerable to the fallen MMDA fences and construction debris submerged in the waters.

The next flood basin after that was even deeper. Waist-deep if I remember it right.

There was no turning back at that point though. Amidst women screaming because they nearly slipped, hapless parents carrying children and scores of others treading the floods, I had to move on.

Thank God it was a pretty straightforward walk after those two flooded areas of the highway.

The Lesser Evil

I was at Monumento around 9. It’s funny how worrying how to actually get there took more time than actually getting there. Yup, I was a mess to understate things but I was there at last. That’s all that mattered. It was a strategic starting point for me homebound if I were to actually get home that night.

Ironically I had to wait again for another couple of hours. I recall having barkers tell me how impossible it is for transportation to pass through then chest-deep roads leading to our place. Hence the utter absence of jeepneys.

I had a choice of two poisons really. One is the usual jeepney I take but will only get me as far as Francis. Or the then rarer Letre jeepneys which gets me somewhere guaranteed to be flooded even during just weak typhoons or substantially lengthy rains.

I don’t know what made me choose the latter. It was not the easier jeep to take for sure but something told me to take that one. Looking back, I know I made the right choice as I overheard people who chose the first recount how a lot of them got stuck there. The contrarian insight did pay off I guess.

But it wasn’t really exactly easy at Letre too.

Stuck in an Island

I got to Letre past 11 after I got to take a jeepney there. The place was a mirror image of the Ford stake-out. Only this time, things looked bleaker.

I saw a lot of people try to make way through the higher floods there. Something told me to wait again however. Maybe it was the fact that I can’t see farther into the bridge over the river that got me hesitant. That and the fact that even busses and fuel trucks found it hard to pass through that stretch.

People around me were just as tired and restless. I can overhear parents this time talk to someone else about how they and their children still haven’t had dinner because of all the trouble Ondoy brought. I can hear teens and workers grumble about their own difficulties. I can hear a mother tell her son to wear the slippers because they were going to brave the floods to get home.

So again I waited. My feet were tired so I had sit in the middle of the island far from the flood’s reaches. I ate another cracker just as I was holding my umbrella which, this time, had two ribs give up already.

Then the wait again.

My watch told me it was already midnight there before I unconsciously napped while holding up my umbrella. I guess I can’t hold back the exhaustion of the entire day anymore.

Homebound

It was 1 AM when municipal rescue workers came up with a truck to take stranded commuters to the municipality. At last. Somewhere nearer.

I heaved a sigh of relief when the behemoth went on its way.

Even with the truck’s height–each of us had to be hoisted up to be able to board its back–it’s muffler wasn’t spared by the waters. It was indeed chest-deep from what I saw from those who waded through it. Something tells me the river had something to do with the water level but it was too dark for me to see if the water beneath the bridge was overflowing towards Letre’s direction then.

When I reached the municipality of Malabon, there were tricycles waiting for stranded commuters.

On my last leg on my way home, I thought of having a nice cup of coffee to get myself to calm down. And maybe to have my drenched feet in hot water to ease them from the past hours’ worth of torture. Even sitting it out for a while before having a nice sleep seemed inviting then.

As I neared our place though, something about the absence of lights guaranteed that things won’t become easier any sooner.

The Long Walk Home (1 of 3)

I guess the price I have to pay for aiming a notch higher career-wise would be abandoning writing here for most of the time I’m doing post-grad studies. Countless events and issues passed yet my busy everydays kept me from revisiting my turf in cyberspace. That in spite of promising myself (at least twice if I remember it right) to devote an ample amount of time here.

An important reason for doing so is the relative ease and speed in the realm of paperworks both at work and school surprisingly afforded to me by blogging here. That and the attachment to content here more than 5 years old now. Or maybe old habits are just hard to give up.

How’s it been?

Not much really. And there would have been nothing worthwhile to push older stuff down here except for my Ondoy experience last week. Dated, yes. But what can I do? I just find it ironic that keeping watch over our place in the midst of another typhoon affords me to recount just now how I found the last week worrisome and wearysome.

To call it such is pretty much an understatement really. That’s not to attempt, however, to rank my efforts against the tides then among the saddest scenes presented in TV news coverages elsewhere in Metro Manila and Rizal. I still find myself rattled from the experience somewhat even though life’s pretty much back to normal.

It’s just pretty much one of the many stories you’ll get to hear about the disaster really.

How it was?

I was actually at UPD taking my IS 272 finals. Sure I was on my way to the venue when the rains started pouring but that didn’t give me much of a concern that instant. I was actually midway in the exam when I noticed that the rate at which the heavens was pouring was somewhat constant. If it did change, it was only for the worse.

It was raining hard mostly. Then harder. Then just hard after sometime.

I was never one to worry about rains since I was so used to such situations having been a commuter since high school. That time was different however. I forgot my cellphone and it figured out to be the most costly oversight that day. Apart from having to post something bland because of the absence of pics from that weekend, I had to station myself near the payphone at Vinzon’s after the exam to get access to communication to my family I was starting to get worried about.

Since I was practically stuck, it was planned that my brother was to fetch me since 2 hours passed and the rain was still pouring hard in the campus. Public transportation was thinning out as commuters were filling up the waiting sheds so things were indeed turning sour for me. My hunger wasn’t even the first of my concerns then inspite of me having practically no food since I woke up that morning. Nor was it the fact that I needed to doze off in bed since I had to stay up until 3am that morning for review.

It was my concern for my family that had me restless and worried from where I stood. It was practically frustrating to be left nearly helpless from there. Another hour passed and after a couple of calls more, my brother relayed that he was still stuck far south of Metro Manila because vehicles were already stuck in the streets and highways. There was nowhere else to go and nothing much he can do then.

I had to make the push that time. A few more minutes of waiting got me in a jeepney to Philcoa from where I ate a long due brunch. A meal to catch up on missed meals and more importantly to prepare me for the worst just in case.

Stalemate

It was a stalemate along Commonwealth that time in both directions practically. Actually the directions weren’t there anymore as counterflows to avoid high water rendered either side of the island free game. Same goes for the Elliptical Road which saw the counterflows more constricting to traffic. Floodwater held the Philcoa side to University Avenue impassable to vehicles.

It was a stalemate among commuters too. At least among a lot of us for nearly two hours after I arrived there. I found it difficult to find a place to eat as a lot of persons were also helping themselves for the long journey ahead. Outside from where I ate, there stood a lot more of stranded souls waiting for the weather to lighten or the waters to recede to give some semblance of safety for at least a little while.

It was a procession for those who dared brave the waters though. Judging from the numbers of those who did so, it seemed that the flood has been there for so long that they had been forced to march along that submerged portion of Commonwealth in an attempt to push through to their destinations.

I was to go to the opposite direction however and I had to wait until at least I could get to the pedestrian overpass. That is, I had to hike towards the direction of SM North. I had to make the decision and brace myself for the worse because the scenes I had for the day until then was only getting worse.

SM

I made the push when the waters receded a little bit.

It was around 4:30 in the afternoon already if I remember it right. It was quite surprising that I made it to North Avenue from Philcoa in less than 30 minutes. I took the jeepney towards SM North from there as the gridlocked elliptical road prevented them from wandering far into the loop. The wait for other passengers and the time it took for us to get to the mall had me making the most out of my remaining cash for supplies– some crackers and mineral water for an uncertain but definitely time-consuming travel home. BPI ATMs already offline that time and stores closed by the time I got there didn’t look exactly comforting to someone having to literally inch his way closer to home that time.

I was keeping my fingers crossed because the last time I heard of EDSA that day, vehicles there were non-moving since that afternoon. It would be sensible to anticipate a possibility of a walk until Monumento with the way the afternoon panned out.

That would be the worst case decision then. It would still be sensible to wait if things turned out better– that I would be able to get inside a bus that would somehow at least crawl its way towards the next destination point on my map.

While there were people already braving the long walk northbound, there were still some people staying along the covered premises of the mall. Maybe I could give waiting a few minutes to see if things might turn out fine. It never hurts to hope in such times anyway.

It sure did hurt much to be well on your way to do the worst case however.

On Contrasts

By now a lot has been written about Obama’s victory for the presdency that throwing in another into the foray would bore even the usual current events apathetic. The lazy linksman in me could’ve just laid a carpet of bulleted links just to be able to push older contents further into the archives but I saw something fit to spend sometime writing about. In particular it was noticeable how much reads in a single day after that episode harped so much on contrasts. Of course it was quite predictable on the part of mainstream media to milk the line given the way the comparisons came out from that direction from the campaign right down through the election here so I’m including some of those which made their way to where I am.

For starter’s here’s Inquirer.net‘s headline story entitled “Black in White House.” Then there was the usual daily staples from the same local daily courtesy of CDQ entitled “Light and Dark” and MLQ3 entitled “Out with the Old, in with the New.” The former ran parallels on the candidates there and on the American and Philippine brand of democracies while the latter ran them on various Philippine social distinctions such as age.

NY Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, writes of Obama’s victory in Pennsylvania as something of a Civil War 145 years after the one in the history textbooks there was decided in Gettysburg. Building on the parallelism, Friedman begins with Lincoln’s urge regarding “the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far nobly advanced” to point out the voters’ decision as a victory for the struggle for equality. This before going on to elaborate contrast-fraught reasons for the Republican demise, (e.g. Buffett effect vs. Bradley effect, perceptions of the common good,) and views of what happens there here on. More of the article here.

Finally this FT article includes an account of the fortunes of Republicans candidates, successful or not, as it takes a look at why the party failed big time that day.

And so the die was cast and the new president will have everyone’s attention not only domestically but worldwide just as this IHT article on the US political development among many others indicates.

Even on a Lazy Weekend

I guess it will be quite some time before finance people talk about something else.

The Wall Street mess has pretty much set off the alarm for markets to scramble for contingencies. This as the ordinary person is left to wait and see how its ripples will affect one who doesn’t bother with stocks and financial instruments more directly in danger of the scare from that part of North America.

That and more material on the topic coming in since the weekend has me dumping somewhat newer perspectives about it here.

  • Here’s a look at the credit culture and consumerism according to Ellen Tordesillas and Randy David. I’m not exactly clean credit-wise but I’m happy that I’m well in control. Consumerism has never been a problem with me though.
  • Here’s one of foreclosure’s many faces in the US. This one is set in Southern California. The inability of borrowers to pay off housing debt is one factor leading up to the downward spiral of the American economy.
  • Mortgage giant Fannie Mae is one of those big names in the queue of falling dominos this millenium has lined up so far. Here’s a Washingtonian Magazine article in 2002 pointing out the “potential risk to taxpayers” should it fall. The reference there was taken from this article which takes a look at the implications of the seemingly prescient read.
  • Finally here’s an interesting read which criticizes all the talks and write-ups on the current financial crisis in US paralleled with the Great Depression of 1929.

Yup. I still have a lot of time in my hands.

Impact on a Walled Street

One of the big things I never got to lay a finger on here during my long hiatus is the Wall Street crisis. By now, even those who aren’t into finance, economics or current events would’ve at least heard the ordeal over that side of North America. By now too, a lot of experts would’ve said their pieces on the unfurling of big names there.

So I guess what’s left for me to do is to leave some takes on the event much in the same vein as I used to back at highfiber.

For starters, here’s a rather simple explanation of the rudiments of what’s actually going on there. To those who got lost in the plethora of jargons spewed by analysts and experts on the matter, the article would be a good starting point. The author goes in depth and detail on the economic and financial fundamentals of the matter using as simple a language as is accomodating to the ordinary fellow. It traces key concepts stemming from the credit subprime of last year to that which rattled big names listed at Wall Street just recently.

For someone who digs the wider view, here’s Prof Bello’s take on the financial crisis. Aptly titled “A Primer on the Wall Street Meltdown,” he explains the latest unraveling of capitalism with the political and economic contexts placed in perspective. While some would directly limit the focus on the real estate woes the American economy experienced last year, he goes on to discuss the factors from last year leading to the most recent turmoil in Wall Street.

For the one sick of all the gravity mainstream media dons regarding the topic these days, here’s Craig Ferguson’s take for a good laugh. Thanks to leelock for the find btw.

School Time

Despite the fact that I have tons of stuff to do at work and school during the weekends, I knew I had to place this somewhere. What can I do? Some things are just too good to leave forgotten among the wilderness of cyberspace. I guess the fact that I’ve decided to go for a postgraduate degree’s the primary culprit here.

Anyway I’ve encountered an English instructor’s rambling take the form of an article. There he writes of the difficulties of teaching Adult education to students who decide to pursue higher education in the United States. Everyone who lived long here in the Philippines have heard in one way or another the degredation of the quality of education here as manifested in the quality of a lot of recent university graduates. Reading a certain Professor X’s piece however, I got a glimpse of other facets of the educational issues–this time in the setting of a developed country.

The first thing that came to mind upon reading the article is a post by leelock sometime ago in highfiber. There she writes of the difficulties she encountered from irate parents when she fails a number of students from a certain university. It’s one of the issues included here as well as the author writes:

…There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.

Yup. Everyone’s all for higher learning but it seems not everyone’s prepared to face the realities that come with its pursuit.

Finally just a couple of items more:

  • A coincidental but unrelated bit in what seemed to be a pun at the said article, X-Men’s Professor X (Patrick Stewart) becomes a real professor at the Huddersfield University.
  • I’ve never been much of a Chemistry guy but I give credit where credit is due. In an effort to provide a very substantial and effective reference, the guys at the University of Nottingham put up a Periodic Table of Videos. Though I don’t appreciate what it’s for much, I have to say kudos to the effort and creativity in coming up with something that’s supposed to help hold the chemistry student’s attention for a few more seconds at the very least.
  • Tons of free e-books at Burgomeister’s Books. Be sure to read the disclaimer though.