Saturday, August 11, 2012

On a day such as this

There were no guarantees I'd make it there – news reports the previous night showed the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to be impassable due to flooding in various portions of the highway. When the following morning’s news reports and social media updates showed that the floods along the Manila-Central/Northern Luzon highway link have receded, and because of an unavoidable appointment last Wednesday, I braved the torrential rains and got on a bus to Manila having no idea if I can get to my destination from wherever the bus could take us.

The bus ride went along rather smoothly until we got to NLEX when heavy rains resulted in almost zero-visibility. Luckily we reached the Cubao station without any incident – and there the adventure began. It was half past three in the afternoon, and I was scheduled to meet a client in an hour in Pasay. My best bet to make it on time was to take the MRT, and the nearest station was merely a hundred meters or so away. But the rain was so strong that a few seconds under it would leave you completely drenched, so walking those hundred meters was out of the question. Besides, I couldn’t even get out of the bus station on t the street because the area was flooded.

15 minutes passed, then I decided to just wade in and get on the nearest bus to get to the MRT station. That short bus ride took half an hour. Five minutes later and I was on an elevated railway on a train making its way through the rain to Pasay. Another 15 minutes and we arrived at the Pasay-Rotonda station. I got off and made my way down to take whatever mode of transportation would be available to take me to my destination, which on a normal day would have been merely five minutes away - and I had 25 minutes left.

A crowd of people gathered at the bottom of the steps – there, floodwaters reached up to above the knees. Jeepneys would back all the way up the sidewalk to right infront of the MRT station steps so passengers can hop in without getting wet. Pedicabs offered passage to just a few meters to the other side of the road for P100.00. I hopped on a jeep, arrived at my destination, met with the client and quickly concluded our business transaction and called my daughter who was staying in a dormitory near her school, St. Benilde along Singalong St. near Taft Avenue - an area notorious to get underwater at the slightest downpour.

The rain has stopped, and another jeep ride and several flooded streets later and my daughter and I were merely some steps away from each other at the corner of Vito Cruz and Taft Ave., separated by a sea of murky and debris filled- waist-high floodwater. So near and yet so far. My daughter got on a pedicab and after having dinner together and knowing that she’s safe where she was, I walked her back to the edge of the flood, negotiated with a pedicab driver to take her back to her dormitory. I did notice that while the flooding in some areas slightly receded when the rain stopped, the water level in others remained as they were – clogged drainage systems and canal were clearly the culprit.

The rains fell again as soon as the pedicab disappeared from view. I called my daughter to check if she made it back safely, and she did, so I made my way back to the bus station in Pasay. This time it wasn’t as easy. The rain has started pouring again which made the floodwaters rise again and now there were less jeepneys on the road. After a combination of several short jeep rides and balancing acts on whatever elevation the sidewalks of F.B. Harrison St. offered, I made it to EDSA. I decided to walk the rest of the way to the station.

After making it to the other side of Taft Ave., merely a few meters away from the bus station, I saw blinking lights in the distance approaching. A couple of motorcycle-riding policemen, imposing SUVs with tinted windows, and it became obvious that this was probably the president’s convoy.

One support vehicle veered a little too close to the side of the road, splashing water on me and other pedestrians who didn’t have the luxury of not having to walk the streets on a day such as this.

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