My (almost) death cruise

By Cora Contrabida
January 30, 2012, 7:00 am

My first thought when I woke up was “Did my Siberian Husky wet the bed?”, because it sure smelled and felt like it. Then I remembered: I didn’t have a Siberian Husky.

Then I heard screaming from the outside. “Ang TV isaka! Ang TV isaka!” They were our neighbors’ voices, and they were getting desperate. The lights wouldn’t turn on.

Looks like the Mayans predicted the end of the world one year late.         

I grabbed the two most important things in my life: my journal and my teddy bear Grinch. Already the water was up to my chin. Amazingly, I was able to break my window in one punch.

“Must climb to higher ground,” I told myself. I tried not to think about the rats in my basement or my months’ worth of research papers due in January floating somewhere in my living room. I forced myself to stop listening to the cries of the people around me and concentrated on reaching my roof. It didn’t matter that random things kept bumping into me: logs, cats, and that red Ferrari I’ve always coveted.

Three seconds. That was all it took for the current to wipe out my rooftop and me (Mom and Dad are so going to kill me when they get back), and I didn’t even make it to the top. Down I went. Like a tomato in a very sick salad, I was tossed, turned and shredded. The water tasted something like a rat would cook (sorry, Ratatouille) and I probably drank five gallons of it. Every time I clambered towards the surface to get some air, some random debris would push me back down.

I actually thought I was good as dead. I figured maybe it wasn’t so bad. On the plus side, at least I didn’t have to deal with the consequences of that killer exam I took earlier that day. Maybe I was ready for heaven.

But heaven wasn’t ready for Cora just yet. Grinch got himself stuck on the branch of a tree gliding along the gushing surface and dragged me along with him. So we cruised through the rapids and passed the most unbelievable things: a kid riding a pig, a baby in a bucket and a whole family rafting on a refrigerator. Unbelievable but true. I wish I had a camera. But of course I was too busy with the whole “trying-to-keep-myself-fromdrowning” thing.

The most difficult part of the journey was the ride through the bridges. It looked like a whirlpool underneath the Golden Mile Bridge, sucking everything down. By some miracle, our tree crashed on the side of the bridge catapulting Grinch, my journal and I in the air. Overhead I even saw what looked like rescuers just looking down on the other people caught underneath the bridge. How they could stand just looking at those poor people without even throwing them a life jacket, I hope I’ll never find out.

I landed face flat on the ground. I thought I heard my bones crack. Where I was, it didn’t matter. The water around me wasn’t threatening anymore. I could feel people rushing towards me. I only thought of one thing before I completely passed out: how am I supposed to rewrite my research paper now?

                                                                    ***

The reek.

That’s what I remember first, when consciousness came crawling back to me, like guilty sanity seeping in after a long, crazy night. The smell was horrible, and I was pretty sure this time that my Siberian Husky hadn’t wet the bed. (Not that I had one, anyway.)

So what had happened last night?

I don’t remember how I got on that tree. I’m not even sure it was an uprooted tree I had been clutching, although if it had turned out to be a confused, flood-swept crocodile, I guess I owed the creature a tip of the hat for the ride. (I lost my glasses in all of last night’s craziness, so it’s probably not a long shot.)

The next couple of days were a blur. (Literally.) I got to live in the XU covered courts for a while, and I thought that was pretty cool, minus the previous trauma and the whole “not-having-a-house” thing (Mom and Dad are really going to throw a fit). Slowly, we heard the body count go up and up: 200, 300…up to a thousand. And while we struggled with not getting to brush our teeth every morning, there were some things to keep us distracted.

For instance, the absolute best part of it all was the politics. Everyone was mad at the president for not visiting the victims. And the mayor allegedly gambled before thinking he probably had to care a bit for the city. It was quite entertaining, actually. Better than Facebook.

But no, I understood. The president probably didn’t have a good reason to come over. It’s not like he has all forms of transportation at his convenience, with the resources to give immediate relief to those who needed it. I mean, it’s not like he has better things to do–like making plans about making plans of visiting Cagayan de Oro. Maybe he wanted to actually be useful when he came over, and if the president of the country himself thinks he can’t be useful to the people in a crisis–well, then–who are we to say? He probably didn’t have a decent pair of boots! And what’s a president without a good pair of boots, right? Smile for the cameras, Mr. President. At least you sent Kris over for a pit stop before her big party. She was a real delight.

Oh, and I totally get the mayor. While others blamed the city government for not doing a thing to coordinate relief operations, my theory is he was waiting for the divine hand of God to fix everything that had happened. And I was right! An archbishop answered the call and did exactly what the mayor should have done. Disasters really do have the ability to bring people together. In fact, it made the church do the government a favour by performing its responsibility to the people!

I also got to meet a lot of interesting people. When we weren’t comparing notes on the different flavors of flood water, we got to know each other; people from all walks of life who had lost so much. I mean, I knew I was going to be alright, eventually. The bad thing was that I wasn’t so sure about everybody else.

That thought usually kept me up at night. Sometimes I slipped out in the late evenings to watch the Christmas lights along the Commerce building, in nothing but house clothes that were not mine and slippers that were two sizes too big for me. Sometimes I stayed up until morning, when the chapel would fill with singing from the misa de gallo. Maybe, in all of this, there was a lesson somewhere. Maybe my death cruise down the river counted for something. It strengthened my hope that somehow–sooner, or later– things would fall into place. C

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