DO NOT be surprised if you step out of your college building one day, only to find that the University is suddenly surrounded by streams, like an island in the middle of a muddy ocean. Do not fret, you are not lost. You’re still in UST, your beloved alma mater unfortunately located in one of Manila’s flood-prone areas – Sampaloc.

Students and employees who find themselves haplessly stranded in the middle of the flood are left with only two options: to stay in the University until the water subsides or to exhaust all possible means to get home.

Those who are patient enough and who lack the guts to wade into flood water end up spending the night in UST, an experience some students secretly hope to encounter at least once in their college life.

Back in 1992, Jose Victor Torres still went for frequent visits to his former campus organization, Teatro Tomasino. One fateful day, Torres’ visit was met by heavy rain that eventually flooded the school’s vicinity, trapping him and many others on campus.

“At first, we slept at the lobby [of the Education building] since the evacuation center around that period was not yet centralized,” Torres said.

UST had yet to establish organized responses to flood incidents then and stranded Thomasians were left to tend to themselves, pitching contributions to buy food to last them for the night.

“The funny thing about it was that those who made contributions for the food found themselves short of it,” Torres said.

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Stories from the Faculty of Arts and Letters’ proverbial grapevine relates of a time when stranded employees and students were distributed food packages from nearby fast-food chain, Jollibee, to serve as a relief aid of sorts.

Going back, the day Torres got stranded was among his and the University’s most unforgettable day.

Torres’ “flood” experience was a bloody one. That night a group of male students, were drinking at the Engineering building, where Torres and the others were spending the night. Their rowdy behavior led to a heated argument with the security guard who later shot one of them in the back. The incident landed in newspapers the next day.

“The gunshot had everyone rushing to the second floor,” Torres said.

Call of duty

Students rejoice when classes are suspended due to the flood. But for UST’s security guards, it is no holiday.

In the recent onslaught of typhoon “Frank”, security guard Marlon Lee had to endure a night guarding a flood-drenched university. He had just been on the job for a year and it was his first “flood incident.”

“On the night shift, I was assigned to take post at the main gate facing España. The area was already flooded when I arrived and it was continuously rising because of the relentless rain,” Lee said.

Most of Lee’s fellow security guards did not make it to UST.

Alone at his post, Lee had to keep an eye on the overpass at España because there were some students and civilians who were still stranded there. Lee moved to the boom, an elevated cement block near the main gate to keep his feet from being soaked in the flood. After all, he was just wearing his usual shirt-poncho-slippers attire that day.

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“Aside from the freezing cold, I also had to battle off cockroaches flying and creeping up to where I was standing. They don’t seem to like the flood,” Lee said in jest, adding that the roaches were his only companions during that time.

To keep himself from dozing off on a long and dark night, since the entire of Manila’s electricity was disrupted then, Lee and his colleagues used two-way radios to entertain themselves.

Like 10-year-old boys thrilled to try out their walkie-talkies, Lee contacted his colleagues who were literally at the far corners of the University through their two-way radios.

“We just made of each other through the radio so as not to get bored, and to somehow keep each other company,” Lee shared with a laugh.

Making it through

There is no place like home. That is why some opt to brave the flood just to make it home.

Going through the flood just to reach home takes a lot of spirit and nerves. After all one has to ignore all the possible street dirt floating and mixed in with the flood, from the remains of stray dogs to Manila’s resident rats. One just has to at least make sure the floodwater does not make it up to their undergarments.

Architecture student John Alvin Roxas was among the brave-hearted students who disregarded the threat posed by Leptospirosis to get home.

Last September 2007, Roxas and his friends got stuck in a siomai house in P. Noval because of the flood. Thinking they would find a “safer” haven at the Beato Angelico Building, Roxas and company then decided to take off their shoes and start walking through the flood.

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“We had to walk barefoot, worse, none of us had an umbrella,” Roxas said.

Unfortunately, when Roxas and his friends arrived at the building flood had already seeped into their supposed refuge site. Moreover, hordes of Architecture students were huddled in the facade of the building, waiting for the rain to stop. Since they were dripping wet, one “sympathetic” student belted out the Aegis classic, “Ulan,” pointing toward Roxas and his friends.

Roxas’ “water adventure” did not end there. Determined enough to go home, he braved the flood anew and walked all the way to Quiapo, unmindful of the notoriety of the place.

“The logic there is to make it until Welcome Rotonda if you want to go home,” Torres said, whose way home was northbound when he was still residing in Fairview, Quezon City. While for the southbound people, Quiapo is the oasis.

Feeling damp and tired, Roxas made it home.

“After that experience, I certified myself as a true Thomasian because they say you’ll never become a true Thomasian without experiencing the floods. It’s one of the things that UST is famed for,” Roxas said. Christine Joyce S. Placino

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