LEGAL management sophomore Carlos Arriero returned to school a week after the storm a different man.

Having spent a night marooned on the roof of his family’s house—surrounded by floodwaters amid a raging storm—in Provident Village in Marikina, he was just happy to be alive.

So was Maria Kristina Vallo, an accountancy senior, whose family was forced by tropical storm “Ondoy” into the second floor of their house in Pasig City .

Like many others in Metro Manila, they survived the great flood of September 26, mainly on divine providence and the kindness of strangers.

To help him get back on his feet, Carlos, 18, got P500 from a professor for his school supplies. Friends lent him fresh clothes, just enough for him to resume his schooling.

Carlos knows that if not for another person’s selfless act, his family would not have made through the storm.

‘Wowowee’

That fateful Saturday had given no hint that tragedy was forthcoming, especially in this charming middle-class village named Provident.

Carlos remembers paying no attention to what he called a “slight drizzle” outside. He was unnerved even if floodwaters had begun seeping into the living room.

“I even watched ‘Wowowee’ (noontime show) first,” he recalls in an interview with the Varsitarian.

Carlos would learn hours later that the flood was no laughing matter. His family had to reach for higher ground and settle on their neighbor’s roof. It could have been easier if everyone was in perfect shape, but his weak grandmother had to be carried to the roof.

The confusion the whole afternoon led to a basic oversight: the Arrieros had nothing to eat, not even a bottle of water, while they waited for help to come.

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‘Don’t panic’

Elsewhere in Pasig City, Kristina and her family had struggles of their own.

As floodwaters began to isolate the city, the Vallos and the rest of their weary neighbors, were busy salvaging their furniture, bringing them to the second floor.

Soon, when waters had risen several meters high, villagers were fighting for their lives. If it was any consolation, the Vallos managed to reach Kristina’s brother and tell not to go home anymore. By then, they thought any other place was much safer than Pasig.

“The water was just two inches below our second floor,” Kristina says. “We were lucky it didn’t swell above the stairs because if that happened, we would have had to swim to our neighbors staying in higher ground.”

The view from the Vallo residence’s second floor was all about survival. Kristina, 21, saw neighbors desperately seeking safer ground, improvising boats out of broken doors and Styrofoam. They were desperate for food and drinking water.

Once in a while, Kristina heard helicopters hovering over the village. But the clogged streets and poor visibility in the area made immediate rescue very difficult.
“The entire night, I set my mind and told myself to calm down and not panic because it won’t help us save our lives,” she says.

Save the dogs

In Araneta, Quezon City, Kathleen Loraine Lachenal, a pharmacy junior, thought she was lucky to get home. Had she not left, she would have been among some 3,000 students and employees stranded in UST on September 26.

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But when floodwaters began to engulf Kathleen’s house, going home seemed not a smart idea at all. She was stranded along with her family’s three helpers.

With the first floor slowly being filled with water, Kathleen, 18, turned her energy to saving the dogs before carrying some appliances, a few clothes, cellular phones and battery chargers.

As in most parts of Metro Manila, electricity was cut off in the area in the afternoon. By 6 p.m., water and mud had already filled up the Lachenals’ basement and second floor.

Kathleen thought the third floor was safe, but not when flood went up hip-level.

“The helpers wanted to leave the house and swim out of the village. I decided that we should stay because the current was so fast and strong that we might drown and get swept away by the flood,” she says.

They survived the evening on some fruits and drinks they found floated from the refrigerator.

The morning after

Help came to these three Thomasians and their families the following day.

In the case of Carlos, soldiers rescued his family from the roof and loaded them in a military truck. What was left of their house was barely recognizable. It was all covered in mud.

“Everything was ruined,” says Carlos, who saved only his cell phone, wallet, and some dry clothes.

The elderly rescued from Provident were brought to the entrance of the village where relatives and friends had flocked to fetch family members. Others were transferred to evacuation centers. Carlos and his family are now staying with relatives in Quezon City .

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Initial reports showed at least 59 bodies were recovered from Provident Village .

Katrina and her family are still picking up the pieces more than three weeks after “Ondoy.” Like many others who survived the Great Flood, she has learned her lessons.

“We were irresponsible. We didn’t take care of our environment,” she says. “This is a wake-up call for all of us.”

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