I lived to tell the story. And this is how it goes…
Blackouts and brutal blows
The power lines went out. Being the scaredy-cat that I was, I begged our housemaid to sleep beside me because I was afraid of the dark. My mom was out of town that night. So our housemaid, my dog and I entered the bedroom and got ready to rest. I placed our flashlight on my head board and closed my eyes. Hello dreamland.
It was midnight. I woke up to an unlikely noise my dog was making. The volume of her bark was too disturbing to ignore. I awakened our housemaid so we could see what was happening. Water was coming in from our door and windows. It was only ankle-deep. As we tried to open the door, it wouldn’t budge! The next thing we know the water was already knee level and in just a matter of seconds, already waist level! We were terrified. Our housemaid grabbed my mom’s valuables and placed them on our mattress which I noticed was starting to float. We got on it. The more our housemaid tried to save things, the more the mattress sunk. So I kicked everything off and grabbed my dog aboard. The three of us were sitting on top of the floating mattress, staring at the cold and muddy water rushing to fill our room.
The will to survive
I must admit, I entertained the thought of death. Our housemaid and I were hysterically screaming but no answer came. I looked at the door which was impossible to open due to the water’s force. I turned to our grilled windows. There was just no way out from there. With the rate of the water’s rise, we needed to escape from the room fast or else we would surely die.
I thought about giving up. But when I did, I imagined how painful it must be to choke in the water. I also thought about how unwell I had spent the life I was about to let go of. Then it hit me--- No! You’re not going to die now. Not this way, not tonight. I prayed while finding a way out. I looked up and saw our wooden ceiling. Our mattress was floating so high already. I punched a block of the ceiling and it broke. I climbed up first then helped our housemaid and my dog. From the hole of the ceiling I punched, we could still see the water continually rising at such a killer speed. We may be out of the room but weren’t out of the house yet… we still weren’t safe. Our housemaid went to search for a hole out of the house. I did too. Because it was dark and the flashlight was with her, I accidentally stepped on a weak spot of the ceiling. I fell back down into the room! I was so scared but I kept my presence of mind, climbed up to the floating mattress and pulled myself up to the ceiling again.
Facing tough choices
By this time our housemaid found a way out. But to jump from the hole, we needed to squeeze ourselves into a tiny wooden passage. I forced myself through and made it. I jumped out and the water was already overhead. Our housemaid refused to jump because she couldn’t swim. So I let the current carry me somewhere I could ask for help. Everything was pitch black. Finally I sawother people, but they were hanging on for dear life and were reluctant in helping. So, I went back to the house – alone with no help. I swam against the current and followed the sound of our housemaid’s screaming. By the time I got to her, she and my dog already jumped out of the house. She was holding on to a weak wooden foundation which looked like it was going to break anytime.
I saw my dog swimming towards me as if asking for help. But our housemaid needed me too. As much as I loved my dog, I decided to let go and choose the life of a human being. It was a heartbreaking choice but I was sure I made the right decision.
I swam to a santol tree, handed our housemaid a thin yet sturdy branch, and then she managed to pull herself towards the tree. We hugged its trunk tightly so the water couldn’t wash us away.
We were there for quite some time. Then we saw a man carrying a flashlight in the second floor of a neighboring house. He threw us a rope; we climbed their barbed-wired fence and then made it to their window. The moment I stepped on our neighbor’s dry floor, I saw a poster of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I kissed it and prayed. I sat on their room and saw a poster of Jesus Christ, the Eye. I stared at it and prayed. It stared back. It was about 2 in the morning yet water and darkness was still all that we could see. The water was still rising, but slower this time. We all prayed it would stop soon.
A few hours and a thousand Hail Mary’s after, I heard a familiar voice shouting my name. It was my dad! He had come with some fire fighters to rescue me and our housemaid.
When we stepped aboard the raft, it still rained. All we could see were roof tops and electric wires. I could barely recognize the neighborhood I grew up in.
We were instructed to lower our heads yet I looked around. I saw children crying, old people shivering and parents keeping their brood together. All of them were still waiting to be rescued. There were also sounds which I used to just hear in my nightmares. I couldn’t bear the horror of such reality, so I bowed down and continued to pray.
Lessons after the storm
The first thought that popped in my head when I woke up the next day was “Wow, God kept me alive.” Although I lost my home and other material things, I didn’t look back with a grudge, only with a thankful heart. My family and I are safe, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The experience taught me to value life, to realize that no matter how difficult it gets, it’s still a blessing, not a curse. And even if were surrounded with adversities, as long as were still breathing, we will always have a reason to be thankful. I also learned that no one will ever know when it’s time to go. Death comes when we’re unguarded. So I guess it’s best to live every single day meaningfully and not waste it on useless things. Hey, we only pass this world once. Every day and every person is a gift to cherish.
But the most important lesson I’ve learned is to have faith. It’s a miracle that I’m still alive now. My life is a testimony of God’s saving power. I’m not here out of my own strength but out of God’s love and mercy. I realized that when you’re down and helpless, you can’t count on your iPhone or killer heels to help you out.
Face to face with death, all you can hold on to is your faith. And He will work His miracles in ways you cannot imagine. Believe me, I’ve seen it.
I’m blessed it turned out this way for me. But not everyone will have a happy-ending story to tell. Lives have been lost and grave damage has been done. It will not be easy to rise and start over again. But I believe with faith, trust and hope all the victims can overcome the storm’s bitter aftershocks. We were kept alive for a purpose and that means we’re being prepared for a greater mission in life. C