A five-hour nightmare | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

A five-hour nightmare

“Lesson learned,” I pronounced as we staggered up the steps leading to our front door. “Next time when floods are predicted, let’s not leave the house.” Left unsaid was the fact that it had taken us five hours to get from Ayala Malls Feliz, normally less than a 15-minute drive down Marcos Highway, back to our home.

Hankering for some pasta, we joined my son and his family who were bringing their 3-year-old to the mall’s play space since he’d been cooped up at home because of the rains. The muddy floodwaters were lapping at the sidewalks as we left, and it was our hope that it wouldn’t get any worse by the time we got back. To make sure we could cope with the floods, we all wore waterproof footwear.

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But then, leaving the play space, we looked out the mall’s glass walls and found Marcos Highway jammed with vehicles on the lane leading to Antipolo. The hubby got even more antsy as our simple dinner dragged on. Finally, he decided to walk home, telling us that he would call to tell us if the vehicles were moving and what the best possible route was. Also, he was concerned about our family Lab, called Ponti, who would be trapped in his cage should the waters rise any higher.

Meanwhile, we tried to kill time at the café. My son went to the newly opened supermarket to buy provisions for what he anticipated would be a long drive.

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Finally, the hubby called. The highway was still passable, he said, and we could make a U-turn to make our way back home. He would wait for our call telling him if we were near our village gate, and if our vehicle could not make it past the floods, he would meet us somewhere near with umbrellas so we could walk home.

And thus began our five-hour ordeal, a start-and-stop trek on wheels marked with intermittent naps, waking up and catching up with news on the radio, sharing “war stories” with friends and family on Facebook and Viber, and looking out the windows, watching trucks rumbling along and pedestrians by turns wading through the floods or chasing jeepneys onto which they could leap and cling to for dear life.

Halfway through, I felt a bathroom emergency and, despite my fears that my bum legs won’t allow me to walk the distance, we stopped at a flood-free area and I and the baby’s nursemaid walked to a nearby Burger King, which is mercifully open 24 hours. The queue at the counter was so long people were spilling out the door, although, mercifully again, the line before the common restroom was manageable.

Finally, my son decided to make a U-turn back to a gasoline station where he would park our vehicle, given that, by then, Marcos Highway was just one big parking lot. My heroic husband walked to where they were to help carry umbrellas, bags and sleeping grandson. From the burger joint, we walked some more, luckily finding a “trisikad” still ferrying passengers even past midnight. But there was no avoiding getting my feet wet (leptospirosis be damned!) as we traversed the few steps to our front door. We were home!

From Facebook: “This flooding is the best example that no matter what new Department we create for disaster management ’pag wala sa puso ang malalim na malasakit, waley pa rin (if the heart doesn’t feel deep concern, nothing will happen).”

“Tulog pa (still sleeping) si USec [Karen] Jimeno [for disaster resiliency]. Tulog pa Malacañang. Tulog pa si Lorenzana, boss ng NDRRMC. Si Faeldon, Assistant Secretary ng NDRRMC, tulog pa rin. PTV4 nga, sarado pa rin (even PTV4—the government channel—was still closed).

“Wala talaga. Lahat sila, tulog pa. Lahat walang pakialam. (None at all. All of them were still sleeping. All of them uncaring.)”

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Sunday morning, I find out that Ayala Malls Feliz had kept its Family Lounge and fast-food center open throughout the previous night, and that motorists were allowed to park their vehicles on the upper parking floors with the mall waiving the parking fees. SM Malls, it turns out, also offer the same service.

Now we know better.

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TAGS: At Large, habagat, Metro Manila flooding, Rina Jimenez-David, southwest monsoon
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