Remembering Sendong….


Exactly one year after he had the most terrifying experience in his life, Mark(not his real name), relayed to me what he and his family went through of Typhoon Sendong and its aftermath. I am grateful to this guy for the courage of telling me something that had caused him so much pain.

At 8:30 PM of December 16, 2011, Mark and his friends were having a good time at De Calzada, a bar somewhere near the Rodelsa Circle. They were clueless that a killer had changed its direction and was heading towards a city that was proud to claim “typhoon free.” There were no warnings or advisories. People thought that it was just a typical stormy night. At that very hour, the sky was pouring some rain but it was tolerable. The celebration continued….

Then came 10 PM, it was already raining cats and dogs. They started noticing the river from the vantage point of De Calzada and saw trees being carried away. At that moment, Mark felt a bad vibration. He knew something was really wrong. Few minutes after, in disbelief, he and his friends were surprised to see houses floating. They realized that the mighty Cagayan River went ferocious, something that they had not seen before, ravaging whoever and whatever it came across. People started to evacuate carrying their stuffs and even their animals.

Without a second thought, Mark and his friends decided to rush home. He lives in the riverside Burgos-Mabini Street. “Mike, pag-abot nako sa Capistrano, dapit sa Thai Me Up, mga twenty steps lang padulong sa amo, baha na.” It was total darkness because there was no electricity. He walked through the dark corners and started to feel that his body was already submerged by flood water. It went deeper until it became profound. He started to swim but it was tough as the current was so strong, so eager to take anyone’s life.

After a few strokes and kicks, Mark managed to reach their two-story home. He saw people at their roof tops, shouting for help. He heard cries of children, innocent and uncertain of what lies ahead. Fortunately, Mark and his family were all safe at the second floor of their ancestral house which is the highest in their neighbourhood. “Mike, wala mi sukad nabahaan. Bisan among first floor wala gyud na nasudlan ug tubig baha.”

Early morning, the following day, December 17, 2011, a sad news came that caught them off guard. His brother, sister-in-law, and nephew were all missing. They lived in a separate house just along Burgos Street. It was a shock and left them in a state of disbelief. Fortunately, at two o’clock in the afternoon, Mark’s in-law was found in a basketball court in Isla de Oro. Two days after, his brother was found by his high school classmate floating along the sea of El Salvador which is around 15 kilometers away from Cagayan de Oro. Both his brother and sister-in-law survived. But sadly, Mark’s nephew who was 10 months old then is still missing until now. He was wearing a yellow lifejacket.

Their house was wrapped with mud. Their car and appliances were destroyed. The entire Burgos Street was nothing but rubbles. What made the situation worst was there were no electricity and water. They couldn’t clean their house and even as trivial as water that they could use for toilet was absent. They were forced to leave their home and lived temporarily with their relatives in the uptown for one month. There was no celebration of Christmas and New Year. And when they returned home, there was still no supply of water that they were forced to check-in; bathing and toileting became a luxury then. They went numb and were so weak that even smile was so expensive.

Days, weeks, and months went by. His family did not talk about it. They just don’t want to remember everything about Sendong. For Mark, it was just this September that his depression was lifted. Sendong left him with a scar in his heart. He even has post traumatic syndromes. He no longer likes to hear raindrops. Every time he sees the sky goes dark, he would palpitate. When it rains especially at night, he becomes restless. Whenever he’s at school or away from home and sees water falling from above, he would call his family if they’re all okay and would listen to news whether TV or radio for update.

When Pablo came few weeks ago, Mark thought it was another doomsday coming, much bigger and stronger. Although they were more prepared and had evacuated ahead of time, he still felt unsafe. He was worried that their house would be flooded and destroyed again. Thanks God, it did not happen. All is well and good.

Right now, Mark and his family are recuperating. Will they celebrate Christmas? The answer is still uncertain. They have not decorated, not even a lantern. What is important for them is that they have the essence of Christmas; sharing and loving, being with family and friends. If there is a lesson that Mark had learned from Sendong, no matter how hard you try to shape up your life according to how you want it to be, twists and turns could happen. Trials are inevitable but He doesn’t give problems that are unbearable. There is always a reason behind.

Mark’s story is just one of the many stories of the survivors of Sendong. That typhoon has carved a history in Cagayan de Oro City. It was a sad experience but on a lighter note, it led to unity and solidarity among Kagayanons. We all worked together and helped each other. Our efforts had paid off as we are now seeing our beloved CDO entering a new dawn… a new beginning.