Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Flood of 91

It was raining that morning. We wanted to visit our house in Cainta to check out its' construction.

We took my grandfather's jeep.

It was the type the military uses, but was red and had an off-white tarpaulin top.

Dad usually takes freeway EDSA to get there, but he anticipated the traffic because of rain and decided to take another route.

My two brothers and I sat at the back and my dad drove while talking to my mom about the construction.

Soon we found ourself in a two way street with the road ahead knee-deep in water. Its been raining for a few days now so this wasn't out of the ordinary.

There were small apartment houses lining both sides and you could see that the water has crept in some of the doorsteps.

But this wasn't deep. I've seen worse. Like waist-high floods. The jeep shouldn't have problems getting through this.

My dad switched to a lower gear and drove the jeep slowly through the water.

I loved it when the jeep cruised through the floods. You can hear the engine murmur through the water. It kinda feels like you're in a boat.

We drove a few metres. The jeep coughed but continued on.

Looking further down, we could see that the road ahead was long. The water would get deeper because the stranded vehicles further away were more submerged. It would have been very risky to plow through.

The nearby Shell station was dirty and run down. It had two pumps and you can barely make out the yellow and red colours from the diesel stains everywhere.

But the station was five feet above the road so it was a perfect safe place to wait for the flood to subside.

My dad drove the jeep up unto the station and parked so we overlooked the street.

And then we waited.

Rain, rain, rain.

Wait, wait, wait.

It wasn't very windy. But the air was shivering cold.

The fat monsoon rain was getting heavier.

We talked about all sorts of things and watched more cars get stranded in the flood. We waited patiently.

Then the waters started rising. And it was rising quickly.

The cars stranded on the road were now submerged to their side mirrors. And the rain continued to pour.

The water kept rising.

We sat there intently watching.

Soon the flood waters had risen to the level of the gas station and waters were now touching the jeep again. The cars in front were completely submerged and can be barely made out through the polluted water.

It kept on raining. We were starting to worry. We were about five feet above the street, surely the waters can't keep on rising!

It kept raining and raining.

My parents were arguing on what we needed to do. We could continue to wait in the jeep or we could try and get to higher grounds.

It kept raining, and it was getting stronger.

The water kept rising and rising.

I was silently praying in my head.

Then the waters started getting inside the jeep.

That was the trigger for us to get our quickly. My parents hopped out and we all moved to the front before jumping into the water.

I remember jumping out and being surprised on how deep the water was. It would touch my elbows if I had my arms straight.

My mom held on to me and my older brother.

I remember holding on to her waist tightly. We desperately tried to walk across the murky waters. My dad followed behind with my younger brother.

The water was so cold and the rain was making it really hard to see. The ground was also uneven and you could see the petrol and fuel mixed with waters.

With the help of a few strangers, we were guided up to the steps leading to an employee quarters, the upper floor of the gas station.

Maybe it was only four minutes or five minutes that we were in the water, but looking back at the jeep, I realise how fast the water had risen. The water was now in level with the seats of our jeep.

We were stranded in the small employee room with some other families. The family that lived there didn't look like they had much.

Their clothes were grey and dirty and there was little furniture in the room. But they were very kind and offered us their food.

The next hour saw the water continuing to rise.
Some have started praying. And we joined soon after. We all prayed for our lives.

I remember hearing screams of onlookers watching a desperate civilian swim to safety against the flood torrent. It was all very scary.

I'll never forget seeing our jeep submerged under the flood waters. All you could see was the white rooftop.

Then rains eventually stopped.

The flood rose to maybe six or so steps of the employee quarters before it started to subside.

We saw a few government officers drive by on boats. The national rescue service maybe.

It was already six in the evening before we saw our vehicle again.

And it would be another four hours before we finally get home. Safe at last.

1 September 1990

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