By By Ramonfelipe A. Sarmiento
In the Eye of the Storm
posted 8-Mar-2007  ·  
1,638 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

Typhoon Loleng

This one happened when I was already a mother of three teenagers. The eldest was in UP Los Banos. The youngest was in the seminary at Tabaco, Albay. The middle child who was then in high school was with me.

Already a widow of 15 years, I had gotten used to doing the jobs traditionally assigned to men. After making a mental calculation of where the strong winds would blow from, I decided to push our heavy narra shelf to the kitchen door hoping to secure them with it. Tatay had always instructed us to keep them secure. If they give way, they could cause strong winds to ball up inside the house and blow the roof away. The front door was held in place with the remains of old posts which I had assembled together as a décor cum plant stand. They were solidly heavy and carried the mark of sentimental antiquity having been part of the old house of my childhood, and according to my parents, of the original house of our forefathers some two centuries before.

By this time, the small sala was now a little jungle of potted plants which my daughter and I carried inside, hoping to save their lovely green foliage from the might of the typhoon. The picture albums had been stashed away to keep them from getting wet in case the rains do invade the house.

The cause of my worry was a single broken panel of the glass jalousies. As the strong winds started to blow, the rainwater dripped heavily inside, causing a pool of water to form on the floor. Then the whole sala began to get flooded. I tried to hold back the wind and rain with a small piece of plywood which I held in place with the aluminum ladle. For some time, my fixture held its ground but soon, as the wind pushed hard on the windows and shook the house, the ladle would fall with the plywood. When a twisted folding bed flew by and came crashing on our window grills, another panel fell and broke into small pieces at our feet. Instinctively, I covered my daughter’s face with my hand and drew her away from the window.

Never mind the windows. We dashed for the bedroom and locked the door. I reaches out for the rosary beads hanging on the wall and began praying the rosary. We had to shout our prayers in order to hear each other. Every now and then, I would glance at our ceiling, expecting the roof to be blown away any minute. As the wind screeched and howled, the ceiling curved up as if someone was trying to pull it away, and the walls shook and vibrated. The doors bent but the locks stubbornly held their place, so did the metal bars that held the beams, and the nails that held the galvanized iron roof. I made a silent prayer of thanks and blessings for the developer.

We could not finish the prayer. When the typhoon would release its might, my daughter would grab my arm and hold on to it tightly, eyes wide in fear, mouth opened in an attempt to balance pressure in the ears and lessen the pain. We held our breath in anticipation of worse things to come.

When I stepped out of our house the following day, the winds still blew the rains hard on my face but the whole neighborhood was already busy picking up the debris on the streets fronting our yards. My orchids and bromeliads that I failed to carry in were all blown here and there, some mangled to irretrievable pieces, but I could hardly complain. As I looked around, I saw that the areas around the subdivision became a clearing – cleared of trees, shrubs, vines… and houses. Only the trunks of coconut trees stood headless, leafless, fruitless. I could see far beyond, my view obstructed here and there by solitary homes that withstood the raging storm.

I closed my eyes in silent thanksgiving for saving us, but I could hardly be happy. In the words of the national officials who came first, the island looked like a bomb has been dropped on it and leveled practically everything to the ground. Small houses, big houses, nipa and bamboo houses, cemented houses – they didn’t really make any difference. Many of them were reduced to rubble. Those structures that defied the might of the storm ended up without their roofs. Some iron fences were ripped away from their cement bases. No one was spared. Every single being had their share of sorrow.

Amen. There is nothing much you can really say to that.

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