Manila Flood – Sept 2009

We went to Malabon despite the rain and the fact we suspected some flooding in the streets. There is flooding every week so we weren’t too worried. The rain didn’t stop and by the time we were done checking on our patients and handing out meds and feeding children, we were drenched. Soaked. (Don’t ask me why we NEVER have any umbrellas.)That didn’t bother us much. The flat tire that had to be changed was nothing. We have learned to be flexible with all things. HaHaHa.On the way home we were shocked to see the water so high and flowing so far. Knee deep in some places we laughed and sang and didn’t think much. When we got to the main road, we knew we were in trouble. Traffic was crawling. The streets were totally flooded. A trip that normally takes 45 minutes, took 2 and ½ hours. Suddenly the streets became a parking lot. Through texting and calling, we found out that the Metro Manila Development Authority told everyone to abandon their vehicles and get on the LRT to get home as soon as they could. So EDSA was full of abandoned vehicles.I was getting texts already from one of my staff, M’lou. Their whole first floor was underwater, just a block from GH. I called Evan. M’lou had 3 kids with her and the street was a raging river. Evan had gone to look and there was no way to get them out.

Meanwhile, some of the boys were really sick of being in the van and decided to walk home. I thought they were crazy. I had Kuya Al, a tuberculosis patient who was not doing very well, and little Patrick, too little to walk in the rain and in that distance. In groups of 4 and 5 they slowly piled out and began the trek home. Little did we know…

Minet, my social worker texted. “Our house is flooding. The streets are knee deep already. There is no way to get out. Ate, help.”

As we sat in the van, not moving, the texts came from the boys with panic. “The water is up to our waist. To our neck now. We’re scared. The roads are all flooded. There is no way to get home.”

Soon, we knew there was no choice. After 2 more hours of sitting, we needed to find a way to get out. The rain was pounding. It was cold, hard, relentless rain. We wrapped our cellphones in plastic, locked up the our van and off we went. Aries, in his muscle shirt and army pants, Ryan with my expensive guitar, I holding little Patrick’s hand, 6 ft tall Mark Anthony, who would prove to save me from the rapid waters, little Vincent, and Joed and poor sick skinny weak Kuya Al.

Teeth chattering, and shaking limbs, we were shellshocked as the rain pelted us. It was only after about 5 minutes that I realized just how far we would have to walk.

Hours of passing through knee deep, then chest deep, then finally neck deep water.

The current had swept one woman away. They had put her body in a sack.

Mark carried Patrick on his shoulders. There were soldiers and barangay officials all along a long thick rope tied through the flood waters so people could pass. Cars were underwater. Just the tips of the roof peeking out. It was cold. We almost lost Al twice. He was white as a sheet. I screamed over and over for them to hang on to him. He was sick and weak. The men grabbed him on both sides. Vincent went under. Aries grabbed him by his shorts. Mark held my arm like a vice grip. For over a kilometre it went… on and on and on… by the end, I didn’t think I could go any more. “Mark, I’m tired”, I sighed. My legs were shaking. There, just one more block, I could see we would be through the water. We reached the end and Al collapsed on the ground. I wrapped my arms around him. He wasn’t breathing. Oh Jesus. “Al, you can make it. We’re almost there. Almost. Please.” Mark Anthony picked him up and put him on his back. I could have cried.

Patrick gripped my hand and we picked up the pace. Almost home. Almost. The rain just wouldn’t let up. We weaved through stopped traffic. There. Our street. There. Our home. I sprinted the last half block. I needed to get into the ICU. Al was in hypothermic shock. I yelled for Ezekiel and Evan. Mark Anthony put him in a chair and he fell on the floor moaning. I threw blankets over him and yelled for someone with dry clothes to hug him. The boys had only just arrived too… in motley groups. Wet and traumatized, all.

Evan had been holding the fort, with our own children and Edu, and had been out every 30 minutes to check the raging flood by M’lou’s house, and was quick to send one of the boys to buy some brandy (a very old remedy for hypothermia). It did the trick. Al perked right up and given the circumstances, I’m sure God understood.

Slowly, we changed, showered, and sat down to our waiting lunch of freshly fried fish and rice which was now our supper. Believe it or not, wonderful comfort food.

The rain still didn’t stop. Winner still couldn’t get home. We still hadn’t heard from Minet.

At 630pm, the river had gone down several feet and Evan and Aries went to rescue Mlou and Jenny’s kids. At least they were now safe.

 Our cook lost her entire home. All of Jenny’s possessions were destroyed. Our boys house was flooded and all their beds, and things were destroyed. Our guards house was washed away. Other staff didn’t show up for work. So many questions. Thankfully, the boys stepped into action. Nursery duty, toddler duty, kitchen cleaning.  We will just have to wait to hear from the others.

Gentle Hands is on the front lines of this disaster. To do your part, please give generously. For love of the poor,   


Charity & Evan GraffGentle Hands

Gentle Hands | 27 F. Castillo | Project 4, Quezon City | Metro Manila | 1109 | Philippines


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