Showing posts with label typhoons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label typhoons. Show all posts

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Potential impacts of Mangkut/Ompong

The last times there were typhoons comparable in perceived and actual physical impacts, the socio-political impacts also eventually manifested. Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) in 2009 dumped record rainfall across a wide area that included Metro Manila, Central Luzon (Region 3) and Southern Luzon (Region 4A). The government's response then and the issues that came about afterwards essentially contributed much to the doom for many of the administration's candidates in the 2010 elections including its standard bearer who was Defense Secretary at the time. The follies of many politicians and government agencies were also exposed and most people judged them for that in the elections.

Come 2013, another typhoon, Haiyan (Yolanda), laid waste to much of the central Philippines. It was a super typhoon that again caught most, especially government, unprepared for the devastation that was its outcome. It spelled disaster, too, to many political aspirations with the then Interior Secretary becoming the poster boy somewhat for the government's failures. Apparently, many of the lessons of Ondoy were not heeded despite gains here and there in weather forecasting and disaster preparedness. But then these were perceived to be more on the side of politicians. There were no lack in politicking, self promotion and grandstanding. And there was even more drama among rival sides in Philippine politics. There was enough material for fodder come 2016.

The current administration is much aware of the issues and the dangers of playing into the same script. After all, they created much of the political storm that led to an almost complete defeat of the previous admin's ticket (the current VP survived that and hopefully gets to finish her term instead of being replaced by the ambitious son of a former dictator). But the present set of leaders and wannabees are not lacking for distasteful maneuvers as relief goods are being prepared by government agencies and local government units bearing the name (and sometimes even face) of aspirants for electoral posts in the 2019 elections. Among these are a Presidential "alalay" who is somewhat desperate for a senate post if only to protect himself from charges once his sponsor(s) bow down from power.

Will Mangkut/Ompong effect positive change in the country? Perhaps so and we can only hope it will be for the better.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The last flood experience?

Five years ago, we endured what we now look back to as our last flood experience. Here are some photos from that time when rains brought about by a typhoon flooded many areas in Metro Manila and its surrounding areas including our subdivision in the lower part of Antipolo City in Rizal Province.

The view from our old house on August 20, 2013
The view of the street from our former home on August 21, 2013
Another view of the flooded street from our former home on August 21, 2013.

I recall that after we came home from Singapore, we weren't quite ready yet to purchase property and build our new home. And so we ended up renting in condos in Quezon City and BGC during the rainy season where we stayed mostly on weekdays. On this particular day, one car was with the Clairvoyant and I already advised her against coming home that day. I left our other car (which was revived after it sank during Ondoy in 2009) at the university and rode with an officemate and came home before the flood waters rose.

This was the last serious flood we experienced and I say 'serious' because flood waters invaded our home. It was not as bad as the Ondoy of 2009 or Habagat of 2012 though as the water inside was only about 100mm at the deepest. By comparison, Ondoy was about 2m (scary!) and Habagat about 1m inside our home! At the time of the 2013 floods, our nbew house was already under construction and we were already looking forward to moving out of what we called home for 9 years.

The following year 2014, we moved out to our present home in upper Antipolo City. It would be quite improbable for our area to be flooded now and in the foreseeable future and hopefully, 2013 would be the last flood experience.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Looking back at Ondoy/Ketsana 2009

I started blogging back in 2008 and I was not really in to it at the time. I found writing to be somewhat cathartic for me after the floods of Ondoy/Ketsana so I wrote more frequently since then. Here's something I wrote a few days after Ondoy. We were reeling from the losses and could only wonder about the what-ifs.

Post deluge

My mind was full of ideas of what to write after going through what water resources engineering or hydraulic engineering textbooks term as a 40- or 50-year flood. From my experience (and I am a certified flood veteran) I am more inclined to say that what hit us last September 26 was actually a 25-year flood. I am basing this interpretation from the 1985 flood that inundated our village of Kasibulan in Cainta. Our whole family and all others from the subdivision had to evacuate our home when floods reached waist-deep at road level. We found safe haven in the factory across Imelda Avenue. The guards allowed us to seek refuge in the huge steel structures that housed heavy machinery no longer operating after the factory shutdown because of a labor problem. The striking workers actually assisted many families in getting to higher, safer ground that day.

Fortunately, no one from our village drowned from that 1985 flood. But it left a lot of deep scars that painfully reopened every year for the next 10 years that we were to experience flooding - not as terrible as 1985's but some comparable if you weren't used to them. A lot of memories were lost in those floods. My parents' wedding photos were lost including many of their photos before they got married. We were able to save many photos though - mostly mine and I'm afraid those were all damaged if not wiped out by typhoon Ondoy. We shared the same losses with our neighbors and made people closer in our village. In fact, we there were many of use there who studied at Lourdes Mandaluyong and one of our neighbors happened to be the high school principal at the time. Mr. Ben Dayo would always vouch for us when we claimed we had to miss classes because we had to help in cleaning our houses after the floods receded. I believe those floods have somehow influenced me as I grew up.

I wanted to believe that the floods in Town & Country wouldn't be deeper than what I had experienced in Kasibulan. I desperately wanted to believe that it could get deeper. But it did. When the clairvoyant and I bought a house there, one of the information I sought was about flood experience. Referring to the designs of the houses as well as neighbors stories, our home was supposed to be safe with the deepest flood experience in our area reaching only our gate. We were fortunate to have ample space in our second floor rooms. The clairvoyant and I were able to transfer our books and other personal properties with the help of Manang Aileen with an efficiency anyone can be proud off. Most importantly, we didn't have to abandon our home like many of our neighbors and we always had non-perishable food and drinks stocked. Many, we discovered afterwards, weren't as lucky as we were. We all lost our vehicles that day. Most cars went under overnight and emerged still parked in what everyone thought were garages that were flood-safe. But that's another story.

I was able to save my stamp collection from my parents' house in Kasibulan. Many items from an old brief case (what was my school bag when I was in high school)survived including old letters and bookmarks I had put aside as souvenirs from visits to Kamakura. These included old bookmarks from Tatay's visit to Kamakura in the 1960's.

The past days were blessings in that another super typhoon veered away from Metro Manila and still another will not hit the country. I honestly want to believe again that I won't experience another flood of that magnitude in say, 25 years (not the 40 years that would probably be much more damaging). If there was one thing I didn't want to share with the clairvoyant I guess an actual experience of such a flood would be it. But we did share the experience and we came out survivors (not victims as other people might label us) and I would rather believe that we came out better and will be stronger for this. We still have, after all, our faith.

We learned our lesson well and now live in a flood-free and better neighborhood in Antipolo. We are also glad that our daughter would not have to experience what we went through along with the floods due to the monsoon rains of 2012 and 2013.

Friday, August 19, 2016


Have you ever wondered what the term "siyam-siyam" (roughly translating to 9 and 9 or one of its permutations) stood for? Elders often say "aabutan ka or aabutin ka ng siyam-siyam" when referring to something taking a long time to happen. "Siyam-siyam" actually refers to what is figuratively (and now often in reality) nine days straight of rainy weather. This is not your drizzle type of rains but the monsoon or Habagat type of downpours that usually translate to flooding.

We had strong rains everyday for about 2 weeks and this definitely qualified as "siyam-siyam".

My father was saying that the rains the past days fell into the category of "siyam-siyam." This is coming from a man who has had a lot of experience of heavy rains and his more than fair share of sacrifices and hardships related to weather. Tatay, after all, is a veteran of typhoons and floods and my parents' home is in a flood prone area despite a lot of improvements in the drainage in the past decades. We used to live in a house in an area that's become flood prone since Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009. Nowadays, those floods and many sleepless nights during heavy rains are now memories, some of which we recall with humor. We are thankful for the blessings of our home and that it keeps us safe during rainy days, especially during times of "siyam-siyam."

Friday, December 5, 2014

No PAGASA? No problem!

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) website has been down the past two days at a time people are anxious on information about a typhoon affecting the country with potentially catastrophic outcomes. The Philippines' weather bureau has put up an alternative site to provide information on the approaching typhoon. Ruby (International name: Hagupit) had developed into a super typhoon yesterday and its Category 5 attributes reminded people about how destructive such forces of nature can be barely more than a year after Yolanda (Haiyan) lay waste several provinces. It seemed that the international name of the typhoon itself was apt for its potential. "Hagupit" is Pilipino for "to lash," and it would seem to be something like a scourge of God if the typhoon were to make landfall like Haiyan last year.

I have not been too dependent on the PAGASA site despite all the information it provides including real time information on the water levels of major rivers in Metro Manila. I take exception of DOST's NOAH project, which to me is technically not PAGASA and very useful for their Doppler data and visualization. Two websites that I highly recommend to people for information on the weather are the following:
For those interested in modeling and the forecasting of typhoons from their formative stages the website by the National Oceanic an Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US is a very interesting site.

Following are sample visuals from the three sites I mentioned, which can be good references for the weather. I highly recommend Wunderground, which also has an app for your smartphone, for daily or even hourly weather information.

JTWC's latest information on Hagupit
Wunderground's latest 5-day forecast for Hagupit

NOAA storm tracks showing current and potential weather systems in the Western Pacific

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking forward to the New Year 2014

I like to think that I am a seasoned traveler considering I have made trips even through inclement weather. My experiences include flying through or in the path of typhoons and voyages through stormy seas. There are also the drives through pouring rain and the braving of flooded roads and streets. I have experienced walking through flooded streets from the time when I was in high school (that was when our place in Cainta started experiencing what are now perennial floods) and traveled in places terrorized by lahar in the 1990s after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.

We're looking forward to a 2014 and the succeeding years to come when these hazardous trips will be minimized. We are looking forward to flood-free wet seasons when we can relax in the comfort, safety and security of our home. This is mainly because we are moving into a new home early this year. It is a home we were involved in the design and construction and it is built on land that has no history of flooding and is not in the proximity of fault lines like the Marikina Valley Fault that runs along prominent residential areas in Pasig, Quezon City and Marikina.  

Here's to new adventures in 2014!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

#ReliefPH: Access and needs of other towns and provinces

The buzz on the streets and on social media is the focus on Tacloban, Leyte when vast areas and many other towns and provinces have been ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). This seems unfair to other cities and municipalities considering Yolanda made 6 landfalls at or near peak strength (as a Category 5 typhoon) with winds topping 225 kph and generating destructive storm surges as it hammered through the central Philippines.

If you have Facebook, one provincial government staff has posted a lot of photos describing the situation in the northern towns of Iloilo where the destruction caused by the typhoon is very clear and to many, still unimaginable. These photos along with all others that can be Googled, Yahooed or found via other search engines or news agencies show the extent of the damage brought about by Yolanda.

Some people say that the islands of Cebu, Panay, Negros and Mindoro are fortunate as principal cities in those islands like Cebu City, Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Dumaguete City and Calapan City were relatively undamaged. This is also true, and so the airports and ports in these cities provide direct access to the islands for relief work. Moreover, government agencies and private entities have been able to organize relief activities through these cities and based on various news reports, it looks like a lot of people are already involved in these activities. That goes without saying that more people are still needed to be involved in various capacities for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work that are expected to be undertaken over a longer term considering the extent of the damages to towns. But given the circumstances for the said islands, there is no excuse for more rapid aid not being able to reach the affected towns in these provinces. In fact, much more is expected where accessibility is no longer an issue and so faster recovery is possible for Panay, Negros, Cebu and Mindoro. In the cases of Cebu and Bohol, it is important to remember that the provinces already are also still reeling from the impacts of the Magnitude 7.2 earthquake that occurred only a few weeks ago.

On another note…Tacloban Airport is still closed to commercial aircraft but the land routes via RORO or the nautical highways are open to traffic or operational. I think the quickest way to Leyte is via the route from Cebu. There are regular RORO and Supercat services between Cebu City and Ormoc City in Leyte. There are other maritime transport services from Bogo City in northern Cebu but I am not sure those services are back to normal. Then there are also access via the Eastern Nautical Route via the Bicol Region and crossing over to Samar Island (Allen) via Matnog, Sorsogon. Many roads still need to be cleared but the main highway (Pan Philippine Highway) including the San Juanico Bridge that connects the islands of Samar and Leyte.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan

The news reports on the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda (international: Haiyan) are now coming in. All reports state that wide areas of the central Philippines have been devastated by the record-breaking typhoon. News and amateur footage as well as photos from all over the provinces that were affected by Yolanda show depressing images of the destruction.

Here are links to the 2 major news agencies in the country:

As of this time, many people have not been able to contact relatives and friends in their hometowns. This is due to power plants, power line and communication facilities that were destroyed by the typhoon. Based on reports, it will take some time before these facilities are repaired including the clearing of debris like trees that have fallen on power lines. I have relatives in Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Sorsogon whom we are still trying to contact. What we know so far from various sources is that they are generally safe though we don't know yet exactly how our relatives' homes fared considering the very strong winds of the typhoon. Hopefully, we could talk with loved ones soon so we could know directly about their plight and have some peace of mind about their situations.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Super typhoon Yolanda

Lives will be at a standstill for many parts of the Philippines when super typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) finally makes its presence felt as it takes a path through the central Philippines from tonight until Saturday. The typhoon is already a Category 5 and packing winds above 250 kph. It will be a destructive system as it plows through areas already saturated by rains from a storm that preceded it just a few days ago.  The image below is from Google Earth, showing the approaching typhoon as of early morning of November 7 (Philippine time).

Google Earth screen shot showing Typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) bearing down on the Philippines

Transport will surely be affected by this powerful typhoon with airlines already expected to cancel or postpone flights. Sea craft were also already advised against travel given the waves and storm surges expected from the typhoon. Landslides are also expected in mountainous areas where roads will probably be blocked by debris. Trees, poles and others are also expected to be strewn across many roads, limiting access to communities. As such, our disaster councils are on high alert to respond to the challenges that will be brought about by the typhoon's onslaught.

People in the provinces of Bohol and Cebu that bore the brunt of the recent magnitude 7.2 earthquake are still reeling from the damages from the quake. Many are still living in tents after their homes were destroyed or damaged by the quake and its aftershocks. We can only assume and trust that our national agencies, disaster councils and local governments are prepared to provide immediate relief to those who will be affected by the typhoon.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aftermath of Maring and Habagat

We are thankful that we were spared of the worst. Compared to the floods in Cavite, Bulacan and Pampanga (at least based on what I have read or seen on TV) they had much difficult situations there. In the case of Cavite, many towns are now still underwater and the experience there seems quite new to many based on the interviews on TV and radio. Many in Kawit, Bacoor and Noveleta have put the blame on a major tollway project as well as residential and industrial subdivision developments in the province. While politicians, the DPWH and others have tried to explain that Cavitex and subdivision developments are not to blame and that the engineering designs were sound, it is uncertain whether these designs were really sound in the first place and if they were, if these were implemented the right way. Based on experience, developers have been generally irresponsible with drainage and the floods in Marikina, Cainta, Pasig and Taytay are a testament to this fault. With the availability of information today including old maps of these areas, we now know that much of what are now residential subdivisions were rice fields with natural waterways like creeks and streams, and ponds. Most of these have been covered and replaced by ill-designed drainage systems resulting in excessive runoffs that now cause the floods.

Flooded residential street with few cars of residents brave enough not to take their vehicles to higher ground
Some homes have had their ground floors and garages elevated to cope with floods. This is often the case in areas where location is actually good and conditions are better through most of the year. I think this is part of what you call climate adaptation.
In the more urbanized areas like Manila, Pasay and Quezon City, drainage systems are quite antiquated and obviously can not handle the amount of rainfall that we get these days. In fact, even with new culverts installed in many parts of Manila, these areas are still flooded though residents say that at least the levels can be lower than before and flood waters recede faster than before. To me, this still is not enough and the DPWH should re-assess and revise their design standards to address the intense rainfalls that have now become regular. I think that in these cases, over-designing drainage systems will pay off not just in the long run but in the immediate term. Perhaps the much maligned pork barrel funds should be funneled into these drainage and flood control projects considering these are very immediate concerns for a lot of people. It wouldn't take overnight to solve these flooding problems but we need to get a head start and be transparent with the way we implement such projects. A lot of lives are dependent on the success of such projects and this is clear from the images that we get on the news reports about the aftermath and impacts of the storm intensified monsoon rains the past few days.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Have a safe night...

I was planning to post something on the National Art Gallery of the National Museum of the Philippines tonight. Unfortunately, I was unable to sort through so many photos I took of works by Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Jose Rizal, Fernando Amorsolo, Vicente Manansala, Guillermo Tolentino, and other prominent national artists. I will do my sorting in the next few days but hopefully in a more relaxed state. I say relaxed because it has been raining hard in Metro Manila the past 2 days and the weather bureau has just issued a "red" warning indicating heavy rains in the next few hours and the possibility of severe flooding in low-lying areas.

We have taken precautions for the eventuality of a flood but are hopeful it won't be of the scale of last year's Habagat (monsoon) or, huwag naman sana, 2009's Ondoy. I am sure that a lot of people won't be able to get a good sleep tonight and vigilance is really key if we are to reduce the impacts of such rains (i.e., floods and the damage to lives and properties they cause). Already, there are many reports of flooding all around Metro Manila and this because of inclement weather due to the monsoon being intensified by a tropical depression near Taiwan, north of the Philippines.

We can only pray that things will go well and that the rains will pause.  Given the uncertainties associated with weather systems, let's just hope that the weather will improve tomorrow and we can finally breathe a sigh of relief soon.

Have a safe night to all!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Revisiting Ondoy/Ketsana

Today's post is quite timely considering I'm holed up at home due to another typhoon. At this time, Pedring (international name: Nesat) is pounding Northern Luzon with its powerful winds and driving rain. It has already caused a storm surge strong enough to have inundated Roxas Boulevard and places such as the US Embassy. The noontime news show the highway to be passable only by boat.

Exactly two years to the day, Metro Manila and much of its adjacent areas especially Rizal were submerged by water from unprecedented rainfall. It was the equivalent of a month's rain pouring unto Metro Manila over a 6 hour period. And the result was devastation everywhere with more than 400 people killed according to official estimates. Much of the Marikina Valley including where we lived and my parent's house were deep in muddy water with Marikina City one of the hardest hit by floods that reached up to the second level of many homes.

Following is a photo journal of the flooding brought about by Ondoy:

September 26, 2009: Day One

We woke up to find floodwaters rising so fast that we only had time to take one car parked outside to our garage. We thought the flood won't even enter our garage.

The two cars didn't stand a chance as the water rose steadily. We made the painful but helpless decision to abandon thoughts about the cars. Instead, we concentrated on saving much of what we had at the first level of our home. These included books, documents, and appliances that we could carry upstairs.

We were able to set-up a makeshift kitchen on our second level where we could cook. An old dining table from our former apartment that was converted into a working table was again made into a dining table. We left our dining table and other furniture downstairs. Fortunately, most of them were made of hardwood and floated. They were mostly undamaged by the floods.

We couldn't save our sofa but these were eventually cleaned and dried a week after Ondoy and a couple of other typhoons. We still use them today in our living room, a testament of sorts to surviving disaster. The photo above shows the flood level on our first floor in mid-afternoon. Our helper was a bit traumatized as she had not experienced such flooding in her life (same with the Clairvoyant). She went back to her hometown in December but returned the following year. She's still with us today.

This was what our first floor dining area looked like when we finally decided to call it a day. The big item floating in the center is our refrigerator. Surprisingly, water was not able to enter the unit and most of the food inside was preserved. There was still ice in the freezer and whatever items we were able to cook in the following days. The ref was not damaged and after cleaning and drying, it went back into operation as if nothing had happened to it.

September 27, 2009: Day Two

We awoke early the following morning to survey the devastation. Peering out of our bedroom window, we could see the rooftops of our 2 cars in the garage. Ondoy's waters were actually deeper and we couldn't see the rooftops at one point during the night. Two of our garbage bins apparently floated around and found their place atop my old Crown. Note the muddy waters and the mud that settled atop the cars.

Our neighbor's cars didn't fare any better and one could see two submerged vehicles in the photos above - one black and one red Lancer. We were a bit lucky because we found out later that other cars floated, drifted and collided with others in the basketball courts in our subdivision.

This was what our dining area looked like mid-morning of the 27th when the flood waters were receding. The highwater mark is indicated by the watermark on the curtain on the upper left part of the photo.

This was our kitchen after we had cleaned out the mud from the tops. We had to clean-up the all the time so that the mud wouldn't have the chance to harden. Fortunately, we had a good supply of disinfectant that we could use at the time.

Meanwhile, people were already boating outside our home using makeshift rafts.

September 28, 2009:

That's me talking to our next door neighbor whose home improvement project was delayed because of the typhoon. The waters have already receded but the gargantuan task of cleaning up was just starting for many of our neighbors whose homes were lower than ours.

The mud on our garage was quite thick and we only got to clean it up after the cars were towed to the repair shops. The Crown survived Ondoy but is practically "comatose" and is now garaged in a repair shop, still awaiting parts that may not be found anymore.

This was what one of our cars' engine looked like when we finally had the chance to inspect them. Today, our Mazda 3 is working perfectly, and you wouldn't guess it was a flooded unit except perhaps with the new sound system and the lights that show remnants of mud from Ondoy's floods. We had the air condition unit, panel board, and airbags replaced. We also had it detailed and made sure about the fluids. Fortunately, the computer box was not damaged. Even so, we spent a small fortune in repairs.

This was what our living area looked like post Ondoy. We're thankful to officemates who came by to help in the cleaning. UP wasn't flooded and most of my staff lived on campus and extended helping hands for the cleaning effort.

A look at our makeshift dining area in one of our second floor rooms. Notice all the things we packed inside this room. We have 3 rooms on our second level and ample space for most of our things. We also have 2 toilets upstairs so we had no problems regarding sanitation.

Two months after Ondoy, we had our home repaired and repainted in time for the Christmas season. We are just hopeful these days that with every typhoon that comes our way, there won't be another Ondoy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Information dissemination in times of flooding

I admire the current Marikina City administration for being on top of the situation with regards to their constituents. Part of this is their transparency in providing scientific information on rainfall and the levels of the Marikina River. Such information are good references especially since one can easily compare the situation in Marikina with those of adjoining areas given that the streams and other waterways connect to the Marikina and Pasig Rivers. Below are links to the information derived from the DOST and Marikina's very own local monitoring system.

River level:


One can easily navigate the site for other pertinent information.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Near miss

Lost in the past days' heavy rains and the resulting floods that threatened to enter our home last Friday night was the close call I had last Thursday night as I returned from Korea. I had just attended the 9th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS) held in Jeju, Korea. From Jeju, I took the Air Busan domestic flight that was codeshared with Asiana Airlines to Busan, where I was to connect to Asiana Airlines flight OZ 705.

I had a long layover at Busan and asked for information about the city and what I could do for the 7 hours available to me prior to my flight back to Manila. I had already checked-in my baggage so I was practically unencumbered to move about. Unfortunately, the transit system from the airport to downtown Busan was not operational (surprise!) and I decided that the trip downtown where I would just probably walk around a mall was not worth it. I thought I would just end up spending on unnecessary shopping or dining.

As I entered the departure area after the routine immigration process, I proceeded for some Duty Free shopping for pasalubong. Afterwards, I took advantage of the free internet services at the airport, replying to emails received that day. There was no free WiFi at the airport so I had to make do with the terminals made available to departing passengers near the airline lounges. Afterwards, I proceeded to the gate assigned to our flight. This was about 4 hours prior to the tentative boarding time indicated on the electronic signboard near the gate.

As I had quite some time before my flight, I tried to catch up on the latest issue of Wired magazine that I had brought along specifically for the long lay-over. It was while I was reading that I noted an announcement for an Asiana flight to another Southeast Asian city being delayed due to technical problems with the their aircraft. I also noticed upon looking around outside the terminal that quite a few planes were sitting out from the terminal where passengers were brought to the aircraft by bus. I had experienced this before when our aircraft arrived in Jeju the Monday before, and at NAIA Terminal 2 in past domestic and international flights that couldn't be accommodated at the terminal due to congestion. It was then that I noticed the Asiana Airlines Airbus A320 sitting across the terminal, and it looked like it was being serviced based on the vehicles parked beside it and the activity I could see from where I sat. I assumed that this was the aircraft that was supposed to be used by the delayed flight announced on the airport PA system.

A few minutes later, however, the airport PA announced that the delayed flight was now boarding. A while later, I saw an Asiana aircraft taking off, about 45 minutes delayed from its original flight departure time. The other aircraft still sat where it was, and still apparently being serviced. I noticed later that there were no other Asiana aircraft arriving or departing prior to our flight though there were many Korean Air, Air Busan and Jeju Air planes arriving and taking off. I also saw that a PAL flight left for Manila ahead of us and a Cebu Pacific flight left for Cebu one hour before ours. That was when I suspected that the plane sitting from across the terminal would be our aircraft for the trip to Manila.

Upon boarding the aircraft, we already noticed that the airconditioning was off along with the plane's engine. This was already unusual for me considering a plane that was supposed to take off within the next 20 minutes normally had its engines running already. The Koreans on that same flight apparently were not pleased with the conditions as the cabin became warmer as more passengers settled in their seats for the flight to Manila. Not a few were already voicing their displeasure and were doing so in a way we usually see on TV. It seemed to me that they were already berating the crew. When the pilot started the plane's engines, the cabin suddenly became dark and a weird sound was heard from outside the plane. Minutes later, the pilot announced that the plane was having problems with its electrical system and we had to wait out for it to be repaired. What followed were more complaints and possible offensive words from the Korean passengers who didn't like the idea of being delayed. We were, after all, originally scheduled to arrive in Manila at 12:00 midnight. Any delay meant we were arriving early morning of Friday.

Abotu 30 minutes later, the pilot again attempted to start the plane and for the second time, the electrical system failed. This resulted in what I thought were insults and other offensive words from the Korean passengers. I could see that the flight attendants were already quite embarrassed and they could do nothing but try to assuage passengers on the situation. I was already thinking about whether we will be asked to deplane and wait our for our plane to be fixed or another aircraft to take its place. No such announcement was made and we had to wait it out for another 20 minutes. I thought that it was good though that there were cooler heads among the Korean passengers who were able to calm down others who were already threatening the pilot and the crew due to the displeasure about the situation.

The third time around, the plane finally responded and we were able to taxi and take-off without any hitch. The pilot continued to apologize even after take-off and assured everyone that the electrical system was repaired. Nevertheless, I could not sleep in the plane no matter how hard I tried to as each shake and rumble due to turbulence made me think about the possibility that the plane's electrical system will fail, resulting in a crash. It was no light matter considering that we were traveling 3.25 hours between Busan and Manila, and we will be flying between two typhoons including one whose path was to cross ours. Such assured us of much turbulence throughout the flight including a couple that made me quite nervous as I could not even see the plane's wings from my window seat due to the thick clouds around us. The only thing I could do was to pray silently that we don't have a breakdown in midflight.

I was only able to relax when we finally landed in Manila. In fairness to the pilot, it was one of the smoothest landings I ever experienced even despite my being too conscious of the turbulence throughout the flight. Yet, my worries were renewed when the the cabin blacked out momentarily after we stopped at NAIA Terminal 1. I could not help but think about what could have happened if this occurred earlier while we were still in the air. Moments later, my suspicion was confirmed by an airport supervisor who was going around the conveyor belt telling Filipino passengers that our bags will be delayed due to the difficulties experienced by ground staff in opening our plane's baggage compartment. I could not help but feel relieved that I "survived" that flight. Perhaps it was my prayers? My faith? No matter. I am truly thankful and grateful to the One Who watches over us and did so formally while in Church this morning to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


The first time I learned about the typhoon brewing in the western Pacific, I wasted no time in getting the information I needed to prepare for what sure is to be inclement weather early next week. Typhoon Megi was forecast to be a super typhoon based on the information on the Weather Underground site. No, I didn't bother looking at the PAGASA site despite recent news broadcasts where the leading networks routinely asked the local weather bureau about the reliability of their forecasts. Weather Underground was reliable enough for me considering its performance last year (though ironically it was after Ondoy when I discovered the site). Data from the site were derived from NASA, US, Japan and Taiwan. Incidentally, any typhoons right up in our backyard are also monitored by the Taiwanese and Japanese due to the typhoons' propensity to head north and ravage these countries.

Throughout this week, I was always updating myself about the whereabouts of the typhoon. Information on potential rainfall in the next 5 days is quite important and highlights the importance of PAGASA acquiring the doppler radars required to have a reliable estimate of how much water will be dumped on us by the typhoon. I am a little relieved that the typhoon is heading in the general direction of the northern tip of Luzon island. It is likely to hit Cagayan Province by midnight Sunday and cross that province and Ilocos Norte by Monday afternoon. However, due to the typhoon's strength, its clouds and rains are expected to affect Metro Manila.

I just hope, as I know millions of others do too, that the drainage systems will be able to handle the rains. On another note, I am not optimistic about the damage that will be brought about by the 100-160 kph winds the typhoon is packing. Rural areas are almost always ravaged by such strong winds and damage is inevitable. Hopefully, lives will not be lost and that systems are indeed in place to prevent such losses.

We don't want to experience another Ondoy. Let it be what experts claim to be - a 100 or even a 50-year event. We also hope that government indeed made the necessary preparations and is planning to upgrade the infrastructure in order to mitigate what has come to be known as "Ondoy"-like rainfall.

I'm keeping my finger crossed and my faith intact.

Friday, September 24, 2010

1 A.O. (After Ondoy)

It's been almost a year now since Ondoy ravaged what is commonly termed as Mega Manila, that is, Metro Manila and its effective influence area. The rain started pouring on a Friday (September 25) and didn't let up until the following day. We knew that there was a typhoon arriving early morning but the information only indicated the wind speed, which for most typhoons in the past was good enough for people to prepare themselves. After all, the most destructive typhoons in memory seem to be those that were categorized by Signals No. 3 or 4, including a recent one that brought down a lot of billboards. If there was one info that seemed not so important at the time for the general public it was the estimated rainfall from the typhoon. The local weather agency also did not bother so much as to inform the public of the potentials for inundation; partly because it had limited capabilities (i.e., no Doppler radars). Little did we know that it was the most critical information for that typhoon. Cities and the metropolitan development agency were caught flatfooted and the armed forces were exposed to tasks they were trained for but not in the scale of the devastation that started manifesting itself on September 26.

Today, I still get a bad feeling from looking at photos the Clairvoyant and I took during the rise and recession of flood waters. Then there were also photos showing our cars during the various stages of the flood. Deep inside, I still sense my own sadness for the loss of my car, which was the first big purchase for me not counting my contributions to our house in Cainta (the devastation there is much more hurtful considering memories lost and too difficult to recover).

I no longer depend on the forecasts of the local weather agency. In fact, right after the floods I was able to find a reliable source of information on weather including rainfall. The Weather Underground site provides up to date information that includes terrific visuals and forecasts of typhoon strengths and paths. It also provides daily and even hourly forecasts for weather conditions based on satellite data and info from local weather stations like Ateneo's Manila Observatory. It reminds me of the reliability of forecasts in Japan where the chance of rain and the estimated intensity has allowed me to plan ahead (umbrella? coat? water proof shoes?) when going outdoors for my commute or other trips.

Perhaps, after watching news features of cities having rescue units prepared for Ondoy-type typhoons, we should feel secure that there will be help or assistance ready in case of another similar situation. Cities and the national government claims to have spent a lot to build capabilities for dealing with the impacts of typhoons. However, what I am worried about is the inaction in dealing with the root of the problem of flooding. The root or roots after all are within all of us in social terms. We still continue to pollute our environment - filling up our waterways with garbage and other wastes. Esteros being transformed from their navigable state to something where we could practically walk on due to the density of flotsam. We still do very poorly on ensuring that the same waterways are freed from the constriction of squatters (I prefer to use the term for people settling in these areas rather than on idle lands) whose structures have effectively dammed critical rivers, streams and even floodways and have led to floods that were actually preventable.

Preventable, it is perhpas the mother of all key words when talking about disasters. Its one thing to mitigate impacts of disasters. It is another thing to prevent disasters from occurring. Earthquakes and typhoons are inevitable. They are not disasters per se. Disasters are what occurs due to years of neglect and indifference to the potential for disasters because of our actions and policies. Are we really prepared for another typhoon because we have trained rescue units or resources that can be tapped and deployed to mitigate impacts? Perhaps we should revisit preparedness by seeking out what can be done to prevent such disasters from happening in the first place. Then we won't have to rescue anyone, do we?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Flash Floods

Intense rainfall occurring within a short period of time will overwhelm most drainage systems, even filling up waterways, thereby resulting in flash floods that often lead to traffic congestion, and in some cases, death and destruction. Flash floods are temporary by definition and should last under an hour or a couple of hours if the drainage system happen to be clogged once the rains relent.

Two weeks ago, the Clairvoyant and I were lucky enough to reach home after almost 3 hours. We navigated efficiently enough to reach our home via familiar routes that were not as congested if we used the conventional route from the university to our village. It only took about 40 minutes on typical nights that the Clairvoyant fetched me from work to reach our village. That night, however, took more time for travel because of a flash flood along Marcos Highway, no thanks to clogged drainage systems and silted waterways in the area. Late in the afternoon then, heavy rain fell over an area roughly covering Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo. Rip-raps along a section of waterway in one Cainta subdivision collapsed after it was unable to resist the sudden and strong rush of water. Parts of that subdivision were immediately flooded, reminding residents of the not so distant experiences from Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. The same waterway was part of a network that included a branch in Kingsville Subdivision along Marcos Highway that caused flooding in that major road. Various first hand reports from friends state that people coming from workplaces in Makati, Ortigas and Quezon City drove for 3 to 5 hours, with many reaching their homes by early morning the following day.

Two nights ago, there were more flash floods all around Metro Manila. Some were of the terrifying kind - "lampas tao" (deeper than the height of a person) or "hanggang leeg" (neck deep). Others alarming - "hanggang baywang" (waste deep) or "hanggang/lampas tuhod" (knee deep). And most others were of the inconvenient but "more acceptable" kind - "hanggang talampakan" (ankle deep). Still, any kind of flash flooding produced trouble, mostly of the traffic congestion kind. I got home quickly, deciding to leave the office while it was still raining and before nightfall. The Clairvoyant was not so lucky as she was unable to leave her office due to a deadline she was trying to beat. Yet, she was still lucky enough as I was able to persuade her not to drive home. The traffic that night was hell and the flood waters rose in many areas including our village where if it not for our service vehicle being a Pajero, I could not have reached home with dry feet. It made no sense to drive home with a car that will be unable to manage the flooded streets when most of our neighbors were already taking their vehicles to higher ground. I saw the signs and my 26-year first-hand experience on floods kicked-in. The clairvoyant should not attempt to drive home.

The waterways and the drainage systems in most areas in the Marikina, Pasig, Cainta and Antipolo (maybe including Taytay, too) have not been touched since Ondoy's onslaught in late September 2009. Many residents of areas affected by Ondoy perhaps chose to assume that the typhoon was one of a kind and that the flood we experienced was one of those that scientists categorize as 40- or 50-year floods. Acceptance of such assumptions tend to mislead and lull people into a false sense of security - one that is in denial of the possibility that we have another disaster waiting to happen in the next few weeks when La Nina takes over from El Nino.

Much of the responsibility for these waterways are with the local governments of those cities and municipalities. Yet, the leaders of these LGUs seem to have very short memories and instead spent the summer (that long very dry season from January to June) doing nothing with regards to flood control. The murky waters of Ondoy in 2009 brought in so much mud (from both clay and silt) that I am very sure that most drainage systems' capacities have been significantly reduced. Moreover, waterways that used to be dredged on a regular basis were untouched despite local elections in May where flooding happened to be one of the major issues. It is the ineptitude of our so-called leaders that will result in another disaster come September or October, when our weathermen predict that more heavy rains will fall and when the typhoons start arriving. We can only hope that there won't be more of the 50-, 40-, 30-, 20-, 10- or even 5-year floods occurring then. Flash floods are welcome as long as they remain "flash."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Faith or whatever you wish to call it

In my relatively short stint in making myself informed about (or as the clairvoyant puts it - tracking) the weather, I have never come across a typhoon that moved so slowly, the process also weakening itself even before making landfall.

Lupit developed into a Category 4 typhoon while in the Pacific, slowly and menacingly moving towards the Philippines to finish off what Ondoy and Pepeng had earlier set out to do - lay waste to Luzon Island. The two earlier visitors (or bwisitors) were very efficient and any experienced military commander or Sun Tzu fanatic will tell you, very surgical in terms of strategy and tactics. Hit NCR first and hit it hard - at its weakest point, the drainage system. Devastating Metro Manila assures you that there won't be any help coming from it when the rest of Luzon is hit by the next wave, which happened to be Pepeng.

But destruction aside and climate change notwithstanding, doesn't it make you wonder what's keeping the typhoon Lupit from breaking out? Lupit is actually weakening while moving at a snail's pace. Is this normal behavior for a typhoon or is an unseen hand holding it down? I would like to believe that after all that people have been through, having our backs against the wall and being desperate for whatever can spare us from the impending onslaught, we decided to turn to God, to our faith in an Almigthy Being. Watching on TV and hearing the Catholic Church appeal to people to pray the Oratio Imperata and people actually doing it is but one example of how people decided to plead to a Higher Being, knowing it was scientifically, mathematically and maybe statistically improbable for a typhoon as strong as Lupit to slow down, barely grazing Luzon and weakening by itself.

Call it what you want. Be scientific and meteorological or whatever. For a lot of people it is only one thing and something they can hold on to - a miracle!