Like many people in metropolitan Manila, I braved typhoon Pedring (Nesat) yesterday. I’m happy to be safe and dry at home but the entire day was crazy! This is what I remembered from yesterday <time stamps are my closest approximations!>:
5:30 a.m. – I logged on to Twitter and Facebook for real-time updates. I was up since 4:30 a.m., hoping for a mass text message from the office regarding closure. Nothing came so I’m assuming it’s a go.
6:55 a.m. – I’m on the road with a good-natured cab driver. As in naaaliw sya na baha na at nung natanaw nya na ang laki ng lumalampas na alon from the seawall, he’s like watching a wrestling match. There’s rain and mildly strong winds when I left San Andres but I noticed it’s gotten stronger after Quirino Avenue corner Taft Avenue.
7:25 a.m. – Stuck in Mabini Street. Note that cab driver tried San Andres Street but had to turn back after Malate Church because it’s crazy flooded in Aristocrat. Tried Quintos Street near LandBank Building…zap! Too many cars coming from Roxas Boulevard. Tried Pedro Gil service road…zilch. Mas malalim. Finally tried Padre Faura but the rush of water from the bay is scary. Even I saw the flood beside the building 1322. Manong politely asked me if I can just take a padyak (pedicab) because he doesn’t want to brave the waters. He’s been so nice to me I didn’t argue anymore. (In hindsight, I should have just asked him to bring me back home!)
7:35 a.m. – Stuck again but this time in front of my office in Roxas Boulevard. The pedestrian lane in front of the main gate’s flooded, mga knee-deep, so I walked to the front of the former Annex Building where there’s no water yet. I crossed the street when the rush of water came with the wind. Murky water with garbage! Gross…and you know me, I’m not easily grossed out. Anyway, the guard told me not to go to the office because everyone’s asked to go home anyway. My mobile phone beeped and I got the message from the office that we’re closed for business today. How late could you be, text message?
8:00 a.m. – I’m still standing by the fence of Bayview Hotel fronting Roxas Boulevard. I’ve been there since I decided to cross the street and go back home. See, it’s probably the same period where heavy rains really poured and the wind knocked whatever it is that’s on its way. I’m just holding on to a pole next to a man who stayed put for fear that his motocycle will be swept away by all the ravaging going on. I swear, whatever level of alertness I had, I lost at this time. Talaga palang pag ganun kabilis ang pangyayari and when disaster is in front of you, it’s possible to stand still in the middle of nowhere, clueless with that to do.
I know I should have waded the water so I could go back to Faura and take a jeep home. When I realized it, the water’s almost waist-deep. I didn’t risk it because I was recovering from fever the day before…a good decision but not necessarily helpful since I’m being slapped with nasty winds and heavy downpour, even with my durable raincoat.
8:10 a.m. – I decided to let it simmer, even if it seems it’s not letting up anytime soon, so I headed to Starbucks – Bayview. The place is full. I left and tried walking to Plaza Ferguson again, hoping to have the courage to walk to Faura.
8:15 a.m. – Too windy. No, it’s not windy. It’s freakin’ stormy. I’m fat and strong but nature is 1 million times stronger than me. I went to Bayview Hotel to try checking in for the day.
8:20 a.m. – Too many people at the hotel’s concierge. Maybe I’ll just head over to Starbucks again.
8:25 a.m. – Confused why they’re closing Starbucks even with people inside. Turns out the place already has water inside. Uh, okay.
8:27 a.m. – Back to Bayview. More people at the front desk. I actually saw the first rush of water from outside enter the lobby.
8:30 a.m. – It all happened so fast. More water’s coming in. People eating breakfast starting to complain and also panicking. A power outlet on the floor exploded.
8:45 a.m. – There are only two receptionists, and one of them is freaking out because of the busted outlet. It’s dark, people are demanding to be serviced for check out and check in, it’s still howling outside. I decided to go out of the hotel. Heck, I’m just going home.
8:50 a.m. – Stuck behind a giant plantbox with a Bayview guard. The current’s stronger than 30 minutes ago. Rainwater’s also splashing my face like crazy. I don’t know if it’s just me but the water’s salty.
9:00 a.m. – Back to Bayview. Note that the struggle to let me out and let me in was scary. Floor’s slippery, the wind can knock you off your feet. Kudos to the helpful security people assisting undecided people like me go in and out of the establishment.
9:30 a.m. – Finally checked in. Together with 3 other people, we convinced the receptionist to waive the early check-in fee because this is an extraordinary circumstance, in case she didn’t notice. She relented. Note that we’re transacting with the aid of one working flashlight.
10:00 a.m. – Washed myself off all the dirt, particularly from my waist down. The hotel’s running on generator so only the bathroom and porch lights are working along with the AC. Fine. Better than nothing.
11:30 a.m. – The lights and AC have been intermittently going off every 15 minutes but this time it must be busted entirely. Clad in my still-wet long-sleeved blouse and the hotel’s towel, I went out of the room and boy, it’s dark! For some reason, the hotel windows must be sound proof because I can see from the window that the rain’s ongoing, the flood is getting higher but there were no scary sounds to tell me that it’s still almost doomsday outside! I asked a staff what’s happening with the generator. He said it’s busted already. With a flashlight, he offered to bring me to the second floor (one floor down from where I am). I grabbed my bag and went out of the room.
12:00 noon – The second floor, which is constructed like a mezzanine, is where they transferred the front desk, sales office, and restaurant. From the terrace, you can see that the lobby is severely flooded. Waist-deep flood inside the lobby! Plus the area is poorly lighted. Most of the illumination are from flashlights of the staff going back and forth and whatever light that daytime provides. This is crazy. I’m starting to get scared. They gave away free cinammon buns and bagels and butter so we just ate. Lunch packs (rice, viand, dessert, water) are available as well but I lost my appetite for a real meal. As I said, this is starting to creep me out.
1:00 p.m. – We were shephered in one of their board rooms, still at the second floor, because it has wall to wall windows. So yeah, it’s brighter but with the storm outside, I feel like they’re going to smash anytime soon. The hotel has almost full occupancy because of two big contingents – I heard they’re from the Inter-Country Adoption Board and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts – plus factor in individual/family guests, transients, and additional guests, mostly applicants of the US Embassy. I realized it’s not helpful to be scared and it’s counter-productive to whine, so I just read a book.
2:00 p.m. – I’m happy to have helped three people today. One, a Japanese guy who approached me and asked if he can use my phone to call a relative. He showed me that his phone is powered by Globe and we all know Globe has been wonky since 9 am! I let him use my phone. Next, a Korean guest asked me if I can listen to Cebu Pacific’s hotline recording because he wants to know about his flight to Incheon later. He has a hard time understanding the recording. After him, one Korean lady asked for help to load credits to her mobile phone. It feels good to help, really.
4:30 p.m. – Time to go down to the make-shift front desk to ask for their plans. It’s getting darker and thankfully, it’s not raining hard and it’s not windy anymore. I spent the last hour and a half reading a book (goodluck to my already-bad eyesight) and exchanging text messages with friends billeted in Manila Hotel. One’s asking me to transfer hotels and sleep with them. I looked outside; the flood subsided a little so I’d only have to walk on knee-deep water. However, if I have to wade through that, I can wade in the opposite direction — and go home.
4:45 p.m. – Checking out. I was caught in the middle of a heated discussion between most of the front line personnel and disappointed guests. They were asking for contingency plans which admittedly, the hotel appears to have none. If they do, it’s not obvious. I can relate with their sentiments; it’s getting dark and it’s gonna be pitch black in about an hour. As it is, the hallways and most rooms are dark. Most floors are slippery. There’s no option to transfer guests in a shuttle to another hotel or to the airport, which is what many of them have been clamoring for. I decided not to join the fray. The lack of generator power did it to me; I’d rather risk going home than stay. I insisted that they work out my check out details. I paid a considerably less amount than their published rate. It’s good enough for me.
5:00 p.m. – Walking out of the hotel. The lobby is still flooded but it’s only ankle-deep. The entire floor’s very dirty though. When I got out, of course, knee-deep murky water greeted me hello. Desperate people wanting to go home cannot be choosers! I decided to walk on the narrow elevated stretch of Roxas Boulevard’s sidewalk which lasted until the front of Emerald Garden in Arquiza Street. From there, it’s wade in water or stay put forever. I sought the help of a man going to the Pagcor Building for guidance. See, I cannot see what I’m walking on, I’m terribly bad in “feeling” the ground, and I have a penchant for falling into manholes (as this old post would prove). I made it to Faura Street after a while.
It’s great to see actual roads again! However, the last stretch proved to be daunting: the short walk between 1322 and Faura corner del Pilar Streets. Not to be snooty but even on regular rainy days, that area is flooded and on sunny days, it’s just plain dirty. I’m talking of cigarette butts-candy wrappers-diapers-giant rodents filthy. I took a deep breath and walked through knee-deep of impending infection. So relieved when I made it and I happily hailed a jeepney going to Bukid. I’m finally going home!
6:00 p.m. – I’m home, have showered, and eating Mom’s corn soup. I was told that our area didn’t experience any power cutoff. Only our cable TV was out but it came back a little before I got home. No flooding, too. This is one of the reasons why even with its lower middle class location, outrageous neighbors, and overall “I could do better than this” feelings, I cannot part with Chromium Street. We’ve gone through Milenyo in 2007 and Ondoy in 2009 and the worst we experienced were power interruptions and tangled electric wires. It just feels good to be home. It’s awesome to be home. Whew, what a day.