The Longest December Day

I had been warning my family since Thursday about the possibility of another typhoon hitting Northern Mindanao. I gathered from news reports that Sendong (Washi) was on its way to the southern part of the country.

By Friday 1AM (For those who do not know, we are an insomniac family), my mother sent me a message saying:

Ok ra Ya, wla lagi ulan diri, maayo nlang wla ko nilarga to Butuan kay naa bagyo

It’s okay, it’s not raining here. It’s good that I didn’t push through with the trip to Butuan, especially since there’s a storm coming.

Mama had originally planned to leave for Butuan and get the remaining things she left there after closing down a branch of our family business. And she also visits Butuan from time to time because my aunt lives in Caraga region’s capital.

For those also unfamiliar with Mindanao’s routinary weather, Butuan, as the rest of Caraga, is usually the first part which is hit by fury of storms coming in from the Pacific. And we all thought that Sendong would hit Butuan instead of Cagayan de Oro.

Still, I kept monitoring the developments in CDO at the same time contacting my family for updates on the ground (which are more reliable than Manila-based newscasts).

At 3PM, Mama texted me again;

Ya, karon gaulan, dag-um kaayo, unya pa daw kusog rainfall, ampo lang ta dili mubaha. Hinuon naa naman ang Strada nga makalabang dayon mmi. Ikaw, musta diha? 

It is raining here with dark clouds hanging. They say we will have heavir rainfall later. Let’s pray there’d be no flood. If it does, at least we have the Strada which would allow us to ford the waters. How about you? How are things there?

Since the university where I am working was celebrating it’s annual pre-Christmas celebrations and my job entails that I make sure there are pictures and these pictures circulate the net, I told my mom that I was busy at the moment. But I told her to contact me in case something bad happens.

I was still in the office by 12 midnight, when my mom sent me another text message. She texted…

Ya, niulan na diri kusog2, ug hangin pod. Brown-out ra ba, wla ko natulog kay gamonitor ko, basin musaka suba, giapas namo sorene sa Ketkai nghost SALE, baha na didto. c Papa ngbiyahe Tangub, wla pa ngtxt nakaabot na ba. Ikaw? kamusta diha?

It is raining heavily here, and with strong winds. There is a partial black out that’s why I decided not to sleep and instead listen to the news. The waters of the (Iponan) river might rise. We fetched Sorene (my sister) at Limketkai Mall where she was hosting a program for the mall sale.It’s already flooding there. Your father left for Tangub (Misamis Oriental) and he hasn’t texted yet if he’s already there. How about you? How are you?

An hour later, my brother texted me

Kuya, wala nay kuryente entire CDO. Kusog kaayo ang ulan Kami Ma ug Ate naa diri balay. Wala mi natulog ga-monitor mi. Baha na sa Burgos, Balulang, Carmen Acacia, Macanhan, Gusa and Cugman. Okay ra mi ya, anad naman ko ug baha.

The entire CDO has a black out. The rain very strong. I am with Mama and Soren here at the house. We did not sleep since we are monitoring the situation. Burgos (street); (Barangay) Balulang; (Barangay) Carmen, Acacia (street); (Barangay) Macanhan, Gusa and Cugman: are now flooded. We’re okay since I have gotten used to floods

My brother’s last line recalled how in January 2009, my family also evacuated the house after days of continuous rain made the Iponan River (which is 50 meters aways from our house) burst its banks. A month before that (December 2008), my aunt and cousins also evacuated their house in Barangay Macasandig after the waters from the Cagayan River (which was about 100 meters away) flooded the area. 

I tried calling my family after that message but I was unable to. It seems that mobile phone signals in the city got affected by the weather conditions. I would not hear from them agani until 6 in the morning of December 17, when they decided to evacuate the house after muddy waters from the Iponan River came rushing into our neighborhood.

My brother would later tell me that the waters came so fast. At 5 seconds, they were ankle-deep; another 5, it was also ready knee-deep; and another 5, it was already waist-line deep. Yes it was that fast.

I was relieved to find out that my family was able to move to higher ground immediately after they left the house. But my feelings were dampened after hearing about what happened to my uncle’s family in Barra, Barangay Iponan (which was also along the Iponan River) and my aunt’s house in Burgos street. The waters in both houses almost reached the 2nd floor. Several of my friends also lost much of the things they have acquired their whole lives. And all they had was what they had on them.

Still my consolation was that everyone in my family was able to come out alive, and they all gathered at where my mother, brother and sister had taken refuge. Despite this development though, I became so anxious in going home. I suddenly wanted to leave Quezon City as soon as I can and be with them. Realistically speaking though, that would have been difficult since the city was still reeling from the effects of the flashflood in the couple of days right after it was hit.

I kept in touch with my family through text messaging and Facebook after that longest day in December. But I would not be able to see them until the 19th.

*Written in December 21 but only published recently due to more pressing concerns while I was Cagayan de Oro* 

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