Wednesday night, nearly a week ago, I lay awake in my bed battling it out with a mosquito that I couldn’t seem to smash or convince to fly away and let me sleep. Around midnight, I turned on my light and decided I had to do something about this bug. Suddenly, it decided to disappear. Typical. I stared at my bed for a moment trying to decide what to do.
I noticed some water dripping down the side of my wall making a small pool of rain water on my sheets. This normally happens when it pours. Instantly distracted from my initial problem, I moved my bed so that way it wasn’t touching the wall and then put a small cup on the floor to catch the water. The sound of the rain crashing onto the roof makes me sleepy.
There was still no sign of the tiny terrorist keeping me awake.
An easy solution came to me. I would simply wrap myself in a mosquito net. I was too tired to fight anymore and just wanted to get some rest. And I did, until about 4:45 a.m. This is when someone stormed upstairs, and urgently moved around the balcony. I am typically a heavy sleeper but this woke me up. Normally, my family is great about being quiet while on the balcony as to not wake me from my deep slumbers.
After a few minutes they were off downstairs again and I was back to dozing again.
The next time I woke up was around 6:30 a.m. and this was due to my eyes burning. To this day I have no idea why they burned but it felt like someone had rubbed Icy Hot or toothpaste on my eyelids and around my eyes. They burned while they were open and they burned while they were shut. This is a mystery still to me. Eventually after 2 days the burning went away, but I have no idea what caused it. Again, I decided I was not ready to get up.
The rain was still heavy. I knew I’d be a little late to school. I closed my eyes and tried not to focus on the burning sensation in my eyes.
Around 7:00 a.m. I received a text informing me that Leyte Division Schools were closed due to flooding and to pass on the message. Jack pot. I could lie in bed all day. I decided it was time for some coffee and a bathroom trip downstairs. As usual, I stood up, opened my eyes just enough to find my flip flops and then clanked down the stairs. Before I reached the bottom step, I hit water.
If I wasn’t awake before, I was now. I realized there was nearly two feet of water separating me from the kitchen and bathroom. I walked back upstairs enough so I could see the street. Water. The roads that normally make up my town were now rivers. There were people walking around, water nearly to their waists.
I didn’t know what to do. So I just stood there in shock and disbelief for a minute. I went upstairs and decided to text some people that live around me and see if they were flooded as well. It sounded like Palo was the worst. I heard my family sloshing around so I went downstairs, knee deep in water, and stood in the kitchen with my family.
‘Kaon na Celia’
Why not? I grabbed a plate and helped myself to spam and rice and ate together with my nanay and host brother by candlelight. After breakfast, I joined my family on a short adventure into the street to see Palo. With each step I took closer to the street, I had to roll my shorts up further and further. By time I was in the river road, my shorts were wet anyway. The water was almost to my hip.
I looked around terrified. Someone smiled and shouted my name from two blocks upstream. I gave a friendly wave. Kids played in the currents and seemed to enjoy their new water roads for the meantime. Life in Palo went on. Families who lived in one storey houses simply evacuated to the high school or to stay with families who had a second level.
Morale was not destroyed. Families were still laughing. People were still walking around the streets, trudging through water with umbrellas to keep the top half of them dry I suppose.
I retreated to my room where I spent most of the day. Without power, I read and slept most of the day. I began the day in decent spirit but towards the end of the day, I started breaking.
I had no way out of Palo. I couldn’t even leave my room without splashing through muddy water. I had no idea how long there would be water in the roads. One day? Three days? Seven days? How long was I going to be camping out in my room?
I know I was not in any immediate danger but I still felt anxious. I felt uncomfortable. Most of all, I felt bored.
By the end of the day, I had cracked. I broke down and I cried. I am pretty sure I sobbed myself to sleep Thursday night out of sheer boredom.
When I woke up on Friday, the water was gone. Palo was a muddy mess but there was no more water. I don’t remember the last time I felt such immediate happiness.
I have so much respect for my neighbours and community. I didn’t last 24 hours before feeling helpless because there was two feet of water in my house. People had houses ruined, livestock drown, coffins float away, and yet they were still the same happy people they were the day before. Maybe you’re thinking they are used to this type of thing but Palo hasn’t experienced a flood like this since 1964.
And the ironic part about everything is this flood happened right after a big tsunami warning... yet, completely unrelated. Welcome to the Philippines... where you just never know what is going to happen.