A night of fear and rain

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
Flood victims spend the night in fear with Pagasa maintaining warnings of non-stop rain

RIZAL, Philippines – One of them has two children who caught fever due to continuous rain. Another lines up for food to give her brood of 6, and ends up with a half-bowl of noodle soup for them to partake of.

Flood victims in San Mateo, Rizal spend Tuesday night, August 7, in fear and uncertainty after the state weather bureau warned of continuous monsoon rain within the next 24 hours.

NO CHOICE. Evacuation centers are cramped but flood victims have to stay here for their famillies' safety. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

The rain reminded them of the disastrous tropical storm Ondoy in 2009 – and rightly so, with the current weather condition having surpassed the rain dumped by Ondoy.

Kinakabahan po ako, tapos naiiyak na lang po, kasi kanina po noong naghahakot kami, hanggang dibdib ang tubig sa akin,” said Dayay Campay, who went with her child for food at her community’s village hall. (I am troubled, and I feel like crying, because when we were salvaging our belongings, the water was chest-high.)

Campay stays at a makeshift evacuation area along with her neighbors. It is the second place to which they evacuated in two days, after the first place they went to – a church – was also submerged in floodwater Tuesday.

UNCERTAIN DAYS. Flood victims spend their nights and days in uncertainty amid continuous rain. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

The place has no walls, only a roof, and Campay said it can work to the evacuees’ advantage. “Pag na-trap ka kasi mahirap eh,” she said. (It is more difficult if we are trapped.)

‘God’s command’

Right across from the barangay hall, a Baptist church serves as an evacuation center for 500 individuals. The church’s pastor, Roel Palit-ang, said the church also opened its doors for flood victims during tropical storm Ondoy in 2009.

Utos din ng Diyos yan, at sabi rin ng Panginoon na ibigin ang kapwa, at ito ang kaparaanan namin kung paano namin maipapakita sa aming kababayan ang aming pagtulong at pag-ibig sa kapwa,” Palit-ang said. (That is also God’s command, and the Lord also said we should love our neighbor, and this is our way to show our countrymen our help and love for others.)

OPEN DOORS. A Baptist church turns into an evacuation center. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

An evacuee in the church, Flor Apostol, made an appeal to President Benigno Aquino III himself. Flood submerged her house beside the San Mateo River.

Gusto sana naming manawagan sa aming mahal na Pangulo, kay Noynoy Aquino, na sana tulungan kami na ma-relocate kami,” Apostol said. (We want to call on our dear President, Noynoy Aquino, to help us be relocated.)

Including those in San Mateo, up to 16,500 families reportedly stay in 216 evacuation centers nationwide, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Disaster officials say the monsoon rain has affected more than 123,000 families in all.

‘Sense of helplessness’

In a press briefing Tuesday, Aquino noted the government has addressed its “sense of helplessness” when Ondoy struck in 2009. “Ngayon, maraming magsasabi na mabilis silang natulungan at palagay ko naman, naaksyunan agad iyon,” he said. (Now, more people say they’ve been aided more quickly, and I think that was immediately acted upon.)

BASIC NEEDS. Evacuees need food and water; donations accepted in various relief centers. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

He noted the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s prepositioned goods as well as the Department of Trade and Industry’s moves to prevent overpricing.

But the government needs more drastic moves to prevent similar situations in the future.

Aquino also brought up the idea of transforming waste into energy. He said this can solve the problem of waste disposal, which usually worsens flooding in the Philippines.

So ‘pag ang basura nagkaroon ng halaga, iyan na rin ang magiging solusyon – hindi na yung punitive – at gagawing may incentive na. Aayusin yung pagkolekta at pag-dispose (ng basura),” he explained. (So once garbage has value, that will also be a solution – not punitive in nature, but something with an incentive. We will fix the system of collecting and disposing of garbage.)

DRASTIC MOVES. How can President Benigno Aquino III, who holds a disaster briefing Tuesday (in photo), address Metro Manila's flooding problem? Photo by Gil Nartea/Malacañang Photo Bureau

In the meantime, people in evacuation centers sleep in fear, as a consequence of an often flooded metropolis. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com