Thursday, October 01, 2009

In hindsight

"How could you stay so calm?" he asked me. To be honest, I replied to him, thinking back to the events of Saturday and Sunday, I really can't say why I wasn't freaking out. Probably because there was little I could do, so in the face of a lot of craziness, you either let things roll or fight it so much you lose track of what's important.

Most people have their share of stories about facing difficult moments. The last weekend will definitely generate enough to fill volumes. Mine tends to be dependent on whether I'm alone or if I have to take care of people, and Saturday and Sunday was about the latter. The first case came when I was asked by two travellers to help them get to their hotel or as close to it as possible. I was willing to do as much as I could, but I also knew it could be a difficult situation for everyone. I didn't really know the extent of Ondoy's fury and the floods that were killing so many people. All I knew was that roads were blocked, traffic was hellish, and that I was lucky to have use of a vehicle. My temporary guests were kind enough to chip in for gas and I made sure everyone was fed and watered. We didn't get them to the hotel, but they got through with some fortitude, a willingness to brave EDSA on foot (once we got to the corner of EDSA and Macapagal, all was at a standstill), and the MRT (thank goodness for the light rail!). I was not so lucky, as my driver, my dad's secretary and I were in for a long night. We got dinner first, then attempted the roads leading into the heart of Manila. All routes were blocked by the high water. We chose to take shelter at a Petron gas station, which wasn't perfect, but it had lights and a bathroom. Having to wade in a foot of water deterred me from needing the bathroom, and thankfully I hadn't gulped down gallons of water. Sleeping in the car wasn't ideal, but the winds made it cool, and the location was safe. I did a few rows of my knitting project for good measure. But most of the time I was dozing, watching the shadows and light, and thinking how my two companions wished they didn't have to be where they were.

By early morning, the water had subsided a bit, we tried a few routes again, but traffic was still too much. Having been in the same clothes for 24 hours, I needed at least a shower, and we searched for a hotel that would have any occupancy, resorting to going in Victoria Court. At the back of my mind, I knew my dad would have a conniption fit if he knew we were there, but it was a far better choice than staying out on the streets. A few hours of sleep, hot water, clean toilets, and food, and we finally made it home around 4 pm. All of us had been on the road since 11 the day before, so it was a welcome relief to not be in a plane or a car.

Under different circumstances, I'd probably have been less stoic, but living in a country so full of natural disasters has its advantages. You learn to live with the punches, and you face the downturns with more grace. Sometimes you give up too fast, and expect less than you deserve. I sometimes know that I shouldn't be too fatalistic, but I think I'm getting to a point in life that it makes little sense to keep beating my head against a wall. So, perhaps my sense of calm starts from having given up control over everything. I'm still learning when to fight, and I still misjudge matters, but I'm still alive, I've still got a chance to be better, and I'm not going to get hysterical about it.

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Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies