October 02, 2006

A post-Milenyo tale

I FEEL a little guilty here.

While Milenyo was lashing away at the islands, I was dry, safe and sound in a posh Singapore hotel covering a very interesting MasterCard event. (More on that in a future blog.) I was so busy between the event and uploading my Guimaras oil spill blog, and trying to get a swap for my Palm Treo 650 which had finally given up the ghost, that I hardly had time to read up on what was happening back here. I thought Milenyo was just going to be another typhoon anyway, the kind the metropolis is used to, that there was nothing to worry about.

When I flew back home over the weekend, I arrived in an almost pitch dark NAIA. It was stifling hot as the generators weren't powerful enough to make the airconditioning work. No wonder the immigration guys, normally friendly at any time of the day or night, were not at their "smiling-est" best.

(Workers climb to dismantle a billboard structure that fell on a bus during the typhoon Xangsane (Milenyo) in Manila September 29, 2006. Photo by REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo
This was the toppled billboard I had passed on the way home from the airport. )

It was still raining a bit outside the airport as I waited for a cab to take me home. Good thing I had my trusty raincoat which I had packed, as the weather sites I visited predicted a wet Singapore. Finally getting into a cab and trying to traverse Edsa, I was quite surprised that the traffic was heavy despite the late hour (10 pm). And then we came upon one of the toppled billboards on the northbound lane, which had crashed a bus. No wonder traffic was still crawling.

Arriving finally in Quezon City, we made our way through the main road of our subdivision which was plunged in darkness. There were massive power cables which had fallen under the weight of a collapsed tree. At home, there were huge Colemans already out, prepared for the eventual transfer of food items from the dead fridge. While everyone appeared okay, mostly just grouchy from the heat, I went up to my room and found a broken window. Apparently, the folks forgot to shut my bedroom windows before Milenyo struck and its 130 kph-force winds just knocked through the glass shutters. I was just too tired and sleepy to clean up the broken glass. It could wait 'til morning.

I slept through the hot sticky night, thankful for my jersey cotton bedsheets, which is cool on the body compared to the usual commercial bedsheets. Remarkably, power was restored to the subdivision sometime in early the next day. I know people have cursed Meralco's for their sluggish response to the disaster, but I've been through far worst typhoon conditions and longer power failures abroad, and know that restoring power to the Luzon area barely two days after the typhoon struck is really a huge accomplishment for the power distributor.

I thank God for small mercies like this and for being back in the Philippines. Living in Saipan two years ago, I saw how the tiny island was always lashed severely by typhoons with winds reaching up to 205 miles per hour. (Milenyo's winds only topped at 80 mph.) Over there, residents put up wooden shutters to protect their windows. And I remember during one very strong typhoon, I forget its name now, I slept on the floor right beside the bed, afraid that the powerful winds would rip through my bedroom window and tear up my apartment. I thought that at least, the huge bed would protect me if anything terrible like that happened.

Saipan being a small island with normally US efficiency, didn't have power for four or five days. I mean really! Even during the Katrina tragedy last year, New Orleans didn't have power for more than a week. So Meralco being able to put us back online in two to three days, is a good thing. Let's not waste our energies anymore pilloring the company okay?

Btw, as I was googling for Milenyo photos and stories, I came upon a really cool Philippine tropical cyclone site called Typhoon 2000, maintained by a group in Naga. Get your updates and forecasts on the incoming Typhoon Neneng from the site.

(For more post-Milenyo photos, click here.)

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