The following week after Ondoy, news broke about the coming of yet another super typhoon Pepeng. People were warned more than adequately…or so I thought. With the kind of text messages being passed around, I thought everyone was overreacting (read: traumatized) as a result of Ondoy. And yes, I must admit I was one of them. Since my experience of Ondoy, I now never leave home without bottled water (even if I am not going yoga), crackers, jacket, medicine kit (paracetamol, etc.), alcohol, extra shirt, and flashlight…just in case I need to camp out.
Tuesday last week, after class, I had to go up to Baguio for training and come back on Thursday in time for my flight to Cebu the following day. I asked for prayers from everyone I know because I was so scared to travel alone on a rainy night. Little did I know that Pepeng was still in the Philippine area of responsibility. Yes, catastrophic thinking sometimes turns to be real.
I reached Baguio on Wednesday morning. Rain was non-stop. We couldn’t see anything beyond the pine trees outside the window of our training room—it was all white with fog outside. Thursday morning wasn’t any different. By 11am, I called the bus station to ask the schedule going back to Manila. They said they weren’t sure if there would be any trip that day because of the weather; but if there would be enough passengers to fill a bus, then MAYBE there’d be one. I frantically texted people asking for prayers—maybe I was overreacting (again)…but then, maybe I had a hunch of what was about to happen.
Someone from the seminar had to leave at 1pm for Pampanga. Knowing my predicament, he said he’d keep me updated if it’s okay to travel down south. I then decided to take chances and went to the bus station—anyway if I couldn’t get a ride home I could always go back to the training venue and stay there until the weather gets better. As soon I stepped in the terminal the guard asked “Cubao? (affirmative) Ayan ang bus o, paalis na.” Oh God of perfect timing!
Along the way we saw mudflows and mudslides, like the ones I saw in end-of-the-world type of movies. Someone in the bus said “Inararo kasi ang bundok.” So this, like Ondoy, is not an act of God, but merely a consequence of the act of man over the years. At one point, our bus had to stop because some men had to shovel the highway full of mud so the vehicles could pass. On one hand, I felt so grateful for these people who did not mind doing this noble act (even if they were paid to do so)…and on another, I feared for their lives as much as I feared for ours.
A couple of hours later, the person who went ahead of me, who was driving an SUV, sent me a message that Urdaneta, Pangasinan was no longer passable and that they had to take another route (where they got stranded eventually). I told him we were in Carmen, which I had no idea where it is in the map. “You’re okay now. You’ve passed the critical area.” Oh thank God. And thank God for buses!
The whole time our conductor was coordinating with someone from the bus’s main station in Manila. Shortly after I got the reassuring message, I heard from the conductor’s radio system that Urdaneta had been closed already. We escaped the flood by a hair’s breadth. By early evening, report reached us that the two highways going to Baguio—Kennon and Marcos—were pronounced impassable. Now I know how Moses must have felt when he crossed the Red Sea.
I reached home at around 11pm and was able to catch the late evening news. Goosebumps. Several houses in Baguio and in other nearby provinces had been destroyed by flood and mudslides.
I made it to Cebu the following day and my class’s exposure trip to Bogo pushed through over the weekend. From cold, stormy Baguio to hot, sunny Cebu…I am not complaining.
During the planning stage for this exposure trip, I gave my students options on where they want to go—Bogo or Bantayan. Those who know these places would have asked “is that a problem?” For them, the choice would have been obvious—Bantayan, which is an island farther north of Cebu, is known for its pristine beaches. I was hoping my students would opt for this city but they did otherwise.
On our last day in Bogo, the host / branch manager came to welcome us and apologized for not being able to do so on our first day. Her reason: she was in Bantayan that day and could not sail back to Bogo because of rough seas.
Ondoy, Pepeng, Bantayan….a friend remarked that I must have so many guardian angels. Was I lucky? Was I blessed? I simply think that I was made to live my dharma. As YT said, when we flow with the Universe, all paths become clear.