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Remember Typhoon Ondoy?

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IT may be already in the distant past, but how can I forget about it?

Eight years ago today (September 26), Typhoon Ondoy struck Metro Manila and the nearby provinces Rizal and Bulacan, resulting in heavy flooding and the loss of many lives.

I lost some of my most precious earthly possessions to the catastrophic typhoon. Lucky me, though, that I survived the ordeal to tell my story here.

Looking back, I now feel more fortunate than the others, especially in comparison to the harrowing experience that thousands of Japanese had gone through when, on March 11, 2011, Tohoku was hit by a massive Intensity 9 earthquake that triggered a tsunami and subsequently caused radiation contamination in various areas affected by a nuclear meltdown.

Nothing compares to the Japanese tragedy, not even the equally devastating tsunami that also struck Phuket, Thailand just days past Christmas some time in the mid-2000s.

But Typhoon Ondoy always comes to mind, only because I personally experienced its wrath.
On that fateful day, from eight in the morning till five in the afternoon, the rains never stopped – not even for a moment – in Quezon City where my family and I have lived for nearly half a century.
The streets in our area were horribly submerged and the flooding that reached past the first floor of our two-storied abode was chest-high.

Most people claimed the apocalyptic-like disaster was an act of God. However, there were others who believed that the sudden release of water from two nearby dams – without advanced notification to the general public – aggravated the situation.

Regardless of the ‘real’ reason behind the tragic incident, the lives of many, including that of the one prominent Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) personality, were affected.

Damage to property also was immeasurable.

Until now, I still have vivid memories of tropical storm Ondoy and the humongous destruction it caused to my earthly possessions. Among them: scores of compact discs (CD) that contained musical hits from the 1960s and 1970s, DVDs that featured all-time movie spectacles such as “West Side Story,” published manuscripts from my old Sports World, Sports Flash and Philippine Daily Inquirer days, and other reading materials that I considered priceless and invaluable.

Most of the periodicals – NBA sports books, magazines and souvenir programs – that I had collected from as far back as the mid-sixties were destroyed, if not badly soiled beyond salvation.

An expensive hard-bound book that I was unable to recover in its pristine state – and thus threw it away – is “The Awful Truth – The Inside Story of Crime & Sport.” Authored by Brian Hansen, the 658-page book was a Christmas gift to me by layout artist par excellence Larry Mallari.

I had not yet started to read a single page of the seemingly interesting book, but now it’s gone. Soiled by mud-like dirt, most of the pages of the book eventually stuck to each other like glue after being left untouched for several weeks.

All through Saturday night of September 26, 2009, my feeling was one of helplessness. Without electricity and left alone at home, I had a pauper’s dinner consisting of five spoonfuls of rice and Dari Cream Lite.

Then again, after learning through a text message sent by a high school classmate in the wee hours of Sunday morning that then-Red Bull executive Tony Chua (whom I had worked with a month or two earlier in the publication of the 2009 PBA Hall of Fame souvenir program) had drowned in the aftermath of the devastating storm, I suddenly realized that my own misfortunes were actually nothing substantial.

That’s because other people like Tony Chua did not make it past their own ordeal to tell their story about Typhoon Ondoy.

Lucky me.

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