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City of floods

I spent my childhood days in a small barangay. If there was bad weather, we’d often choose to leave our school belongings in our classroom, bring only our lunch container, and walk under the rain for about two to three kilometers along a muddy road with a shallow surface area filled with dirty water.

But never in my wildest dreams did I think I would experience the nightmare of living in a city frequently visited by floods. Back in 2010, I often heard news of flooded areas in the city after my family relocated for my high school. One day, we were dismissed early from class due to an overflowing creek caused by heavy rain. I casually walked home while savoring the rain. I turned around a corner, only to stop in my tracks, dumbfounded at the absence of the small pathwalk. All I could see was the rapid flow of dirty water.

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I decided to cross the flood, putting my bag over my head. I crossed the above-waist waters and fought against the current. People whose houses were located several meters away were at our compound waiting for the rain to stop. My mother, who was pregnant with my youngest sibling then, was starting to panic over the possibility of water from the creek rising and swallowing our entire house, just like the news we saw on TV. But, instead of giving her sympathy, the people around her simply laughed and told her that flooding was a norm in this area, the ordinary aftermath of heavy rains.

Since then, I couldn’t sleep every time I heard the sound of pouring rain. I developed the habit of checking the level of water outside.

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When I was in senior high school, we rented an apartment unit, which gave me some assurance that we were no longer living beside a creek. No more floods — or so I thought. In October 2013, in the middle of my semestral break, we experienced several days of nonstop rains. One night, I was done reading an e-book and went to sleep, but was awakened by my mother’s movements. She was looking out the window; it was past 3 a.m. I was no longer sleepy, so I got up and sat beside her to look outside. There was nothing strange, only the light rain reflected by the street lamp.

My mother instructed my younger sister to open the front door and check if the water in the front yard was gone. I also went outside, barely hearing the running water and thinking it was the water from the gutter. As we were getting back inside, we saw a large amount of water coming right at us. It was a flash flood!

We had to abandon our apartment. Our neighbor, who owned the large house in front, gave us shelter. I stood at the terrace of our neighbor staring down at the flowing water that had suddenly turned calm. I didn’t mind my wet clothes or the cold, early morning breeze—my mind had completely shut down and the scene of the flash floods was on replay mode inside my head. We hadn’t recovered yet from the Zamboanga siege, and this now happened to us. But I was just thankful that no one died in my family. People with good heart took us in as evacuees, and during my semestral break, we spent the days washing dirty clothes and other things.

In 2015, when I was a sophomore in college, there were nonstop rains due to habagat. No flash flood happened, but still, it brought back the trauma. Something else happened: There was a newly constructed drainage beside our apartment that was connected to the creek, and perhaps due to faulty construction, the water flowed through the apartment. We were then grieving my grandfather’s death, but we still had to brace ourselves against the rising water level. Having learned from our experience in 2013, we had stored our things in higher places in the apartment—but the water still managed to reach my knee.

So it has become a habit: I always watch the local weather news to be updated. Anxiety is inevitable whenever I hear huge raindrops falling, making me worry over the possibility of flooding.

Floods have been part of my life for 11 years now, since we started living in the city. And the situation is only getting worse due to climate change.

* * *

Amor Rebecca T. Ordoyo, 23, lives in Zamboanga City. She has a degree in chemistry but is currently unemployed and stuck in the house.

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TAGS: Amor Rebecca T. Ordoyo, Flooding, Young Blood
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