The Necessity of Being Human

Late Friday evening, I nursed a solitary glass of wine while trying organize my weekend schedule. I had many things planned. I’d listed down work-related writing assignments to finish and events to go to. I also wanted to write on a number of things as well.

I woke up on Saturday to my dog’s insistent barking, jumping and tugging. He had put my ringing mobile phone on my forehead, made a hole in my nightie by tugging it, put my hand bag beside me and lay waste my vanity table.

I had to surrender. I sleepily looked out my window.

I was not prepared for what I saw.

Our family house’s backyard was flooded. The tall coconut trees in our backyard were dwarfed; half their trunks covered in flood water. The Lagarian Creek, which flows behind our house had overflowed. I saw shanties on the other side of Lagarian being swept away by flood water.

I was in a Quezon City suburb, in a house on a hill and we got flooded. While we surveyed the damage from our balcony, my grandfather remarked that “this has never happened since the house was built in the 1950s, we weren’t prepared because we could never have known.”

My heart goes out to all our neighbors in Kamuning, whom we could not go to immediately; whose houses were filled with floodwater. From our balcony, we watched in horror as property was swept away, as people clung to the roofs.

If I had known this would happen, I would not have grumpily remarked on Friday that there wasn’t anything “exciting” in my life to write about. I regret the many nights I cursed those noisy, videoke-wielding neighbors in my head. I should have told my grandmother off when she said: “Buti bumaha, nawala mga squatter.”

It was a moment to be kind, to reach out and help. This weekend, as all my plans fell into mud and floodwater; I reflected on my family’s so-called Christianity.

I realized that though we (myself excluded) were faithful church-goers; we had failed to carry out the great commission. Christ called us to serve, to love others and to help those in need; not to be cloistered in our cushy suburban homes once we realize that we have been spared from disaster.

As I walked around the neighborhood, asking my neighbors if they knew what happened to the people on the other side of the creek; I was touched with how concerned they were of the people living in “number 39” (our house). Chilhood friends, jeepney drivers, tricycle drivers, mga tambay, the woman who used to do our laundry, nameless familiar faces… I met them all on the street that day, all of them full of neighborly concern.

At the end of it all, we are not measured how big our houses are or how many cars we have. Ondoy should be a lesson for us all: we shouldn’t just be prepared for catastrophes, we should be prepared to respond.

Not much comes close to disasters, in highlighting the necessity of being human and our futile attempts at mastering the earth. The price of arrogance and selfishness if far too high. Let’s help each other out.