It’s Time

When I was very young and blissfully ignorant, and that was many, many, many years ago, the arrival of a typhoon was a happy development, specially if it reached Signal Number Two, because that meant that classes were suspended.  We children could look forward to playing most of the day inside Lola Charing’s big house, which was impervious to floodwaters and strong winds.  We liked to  “play house,” “cooking-cooking,” Barbie dolls, G.I Joe figures, “Sungka,” “Piko,” “Patintero,” Hide and Seek, Exchange Places [ in the elegant living room, of all places  😛 ], “Old Maid,” “Monopoly,” “Scrabble,” etc..  We could watch our favorite cartoons on TV in the afternoon [ “Superman,” “Aquaman,” “Mightor,” et. al. ], and eat all the sugary delights — today’s “tooth decay specials” — we wanted from Lola Charing’s fully-stocked kitchen, and I mean fully-stocked [ “Selecta” and “Magnolia” ice cream;  “Pare” Bito Nuqui’s homemade “Mantecado” ice cream of carabao’s milk and slivers of “dayap” lime rind { IF there was any left after Brother Andrew and us hungry grandchildren!  😛 };  Ate Talia Padilla’s homemade cakes, “ensaimadas,” “sans rival,” traditional pastries like “panaritas,” “caramelitos,” etc.;  “barquillos” and “broas” cookies from Lola Nena Gala, “Panaderia de Molo” cookies from Lola Gely Lopez, “See’s” chocolates, etc. ], and from Aling Maring’s and Aling Esa’s nearby sari-sari stores [ “Sarsi” soda, “Mirinda” soda, “Tarzan” and “Texas” bubble gum, “Choc-Nut” peanut chocolates, “Butterball” butterscotch candy, “White Rabbit” candy, etc. ] for “merienda.”  Those simple pleasures were what typhoons meant to us grandchildren.         

Typhoons then didn’t seem so bad.  Yes, we would see helicopter footages of the Central Luzon provinces — Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac — inundated in floodwaters, but everyone was smiling and giggling as they waved to the cameras of RPN Channel 9 [ or did President Marcos or Madame Marcos also order them to do that??? ].  And because we were stuck in the house with Lola Charing and Ate Talia during such days, we grandchildren also saw, to our collective chagrin, more episodes of “Aawitan Kita” starring the irrepressible Armida Siguion-Reyna and other howling singers.   I remember “Didang,” a particularly strong  typhoon in the early 1970s.  Now that one caused a lot of damage!  We also had no school for a week!  Yippee!

Thirty years later and Everything is so different now…

The coming of a typhoon nowadays in the 2000s means Difficulty, Desperation, Destruction, and yes, even Death.

I had not realized until now that one could actually get killed in a flood.  I stupidly thought that it was only a matter of swimming well with all kinds of strokes — doggie-style, backstroke, freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, etc..  Yes, one could get electrocuted by an open electric wire in the water, or, fall into an open manhole [ what with all the steel manhole covers being stolen for sale to steel recyclers! ].  Or contract the dreaded “Leptospirosis” [ infection from rodents’ feces ] by open cuts and wounds.  But what I didn’t know was that one could just be swept away by the rampaging waters, and be hit, all too helplessly, by all kinds of flotsam and jetsam — floating vehicles, uprooted trees, loosened concrete, wooden beams, G.I sheets, stones, and all —  until one is simply… DEAD.  Just like the villains in those “Indiana Jones” adventure movies!!!

Last night, I was at Santo Domingo Church for the third day Novena and Mass in honor of the “Santo Rosario,” Our Lady of the Rosary [ an Old World tradition I took from my Lola Charing ] .  We lifted our hands and the “Our Father” was sung beautifully by the grand choir and, and oddly enough, rather soulfully by the congregation.  I thought of all our fellow, suffering Filipinos and the terrible videos seen on TV and YouTube… and my mind’s eye replayed the horrors over and over, and over again.  And I wept…  Of course, Social Me kept my composure [ ramrod straight posture!  Queen Mary-esque pulchritude  😛 ] but the tears just flowed.  I was lucky, only a few, unused things got wet… but many other people lost their livelihood, hard-earned possessions, homes… and lives!!!    The Sheer Devastation wrought by typhoon “Ondoy’s” floods on Filipino Life was just so awful, wasn’t it?

And now, there’s supertyphoon [ first time I’ve heard the term!!! ] “Pepeng” whirling towards the Philippines…  Ohmygod.  What worse devastation can that one bring???                         

It’s Time…  It’s Time to Pray, and Pray Hard, like we never did before.

It turns out that our Old People, who prayed hard and prayed often, really knew what they were doing.   😐   😐   😐




  1. Ian Culibao said,

    October 18, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    The bishop in Tondo that time was a family friend. I was still too young then, but according to the story told to me, the rains did pour nonstop after the statue was stolen. On the fifth day, the venerable late Cardinal gave a call to the Patroness asking to please return the statue. In three days, the statue was found. And then the rain stopped.

  2. bonita mercado balles said,

    October 10, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    i can only take a quick glimpse at my mother who works @ DENR everytime pictures of devastated forests are shown on the screen……

    i am a witness to the hocus pocus the finance people in this agency are doing so they could have more to pocket…..

    money that could have gone to finance the field work of people checking on the timberlands across the country, ensuring that the trees cut are within the limits…..


  3. Jules B. Vergel de Dios said,

    October 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm




  4. Jules B. Vergel de Dios said,

    October 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Dr.Taddy Buyson Gonzales said:
    “It was also that time when the venerated ivory Sto. Ninio of Tondo was stolen.
    It was believed the rains stopped when the image was recovered and returned to the church in a procession headed by Mrs. Marcos.”

    I heard this story a long time ago…
    but there’s a twist.
    That this ivory Sto. Niño
    was up for restoration by an artist
    by which figure was photographed
    at All Angles…
    until the burglary came up about
    according to the news
    (as usual, media Hoax)
    ’twas ‘chopped-chopped’
    until its faked restoration.
    The wealthy closest of kins of this artist
    are still surviving, still young infact,
    and their statement is that
    according to the artist –
    the Niño Hesus isn’t the real mcCoy,
    who else would have the interest to keep it
    but the Patroness of Arts.


  5. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    October 9, 2009 at 3:31 am

    Typhoon “Yoling” was in July 1972. I think that was what was also called as “siyam siyam”, continuous heavy rains for 9 days or more.
    The whole Metro Manila and the rest of Central Luzon were heavily affected.
    I remember it was gloomy, dark the whole day, no electricity, the transisitor radio was our only source of sounds..
    Unimart was open but it was lighted by candles and emergency lights.
    It was kinda thrilling driving thru the floods which were only ankle deep that part of town.
    In Manila, Espana which was the lowest area, flood was knee deep unlike now when the floods everywhere buried cars, houses.

    It was also that time when the venerated ivory Sto. Ninio of Tondo was stolen.
    It was believed the rains stopped when the image was recovered and returned to the church in a procession headed by Mrs. Marcos.

    As medical students in UST we were asked to join the La Naval procession. We were in our medical uniforms. What was remarkable was the whole faculty of medicine was in full attendance. Elderly professors, physicians solemnly recited the rosary with us. Some were in the Knights of Columbus group. Suddenly our professors looked more dignified.
    What some did they went much earlier than the assembly time to see the carrozas in the corridors and have a chance to see up close the image of La Naval and the rest of the santos.
    It had always been awesome.

  6. Paz Atienza said,

    October 7, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    One strong typhoon that comes to mind was Yoling sometime in the 70’s. We had no school for a week and no electricity too, so my mom had to ask our cook to marinate the (defrosted) pork and chicken, and cook them barbecue style. It was the best thing to do in addition to cooking adobo to avoid spoilage. And as kids, it felt great to be eating barbecue everyday.

  7. Adjie Lizares said,

    October 7, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Also and last month – it rained so hard in Singapore I got caught in one of the malls as I tried in vain to get out to catch my next meeting, but no can do for nearly two hours so made time by chatting up some friendly people caught in the same situation… When the rain ceased, everything was wet, but people resumed their normal activities, street cafes were getting packed, people were queueing to get cabs, smokers went outdoors to get their fix, and no sign of the torrential downpour an hour earlier. I understand that under Orchard road (and most of this city-state) are channels of drainage tunnels to match those in New York City, where a system is in place and is in working order. The numerous trees that line the entire city are all at work sucking up the excess moisture, and people can cope with daily lives. But this is Singapore..

    “No-comment” at the garbage scenery that surface in Manila after the flood, have you seen photos of them so far?

  8. Adjie Lizares said,

    October 7, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Toto, I love your childhood memories and the time spent during typhoons. yes we too stayed in a entertained ourselves with games we would invent, since they played mah-jong here and we did not know how to, our grand-ma taught us trip to shanghai, when we got bored with that there were towers to be built with the mahjong tiles and we would throw other tiles to see which one crumbled first. I guess that was the closest we got to some form of destruction.

    These days… well it is so obvious and I won’t have to repeat what has already been said – disaster means DISASTER. We’re in it boy!

  9. Presy Guevara said,

    October 6, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Dr. Taddy’s account reminded of a much earlier time in UST when the College of Medicine open house used to be held at the top floor of the Main Building. A few of my classmates ventured after our classes from the Atelier Building to witness actual autopsies. The medical students were in their starched unblemished white uniforms comparing notes and picking sinews with their instruments as they identify the body parts including muscle, tendons, vessels and ducts. One of them even traced the vas deferens and triumphantly proved the body is male. A group of them had peanuts on the hollowed belly of one cadaver and occasionally they would alternately pick the nuts and gobble them while proceeding with their study, unmindful of the strong smell of formaldehyde and the rows of stiffs around them. My classmate next to me exhibited his daring by touching the loosened hip bone of the cadaver in front of us. I glared at the dry meat as my classmate commented: “Parang tapa, o”.

    That night, there was some drizzle and I was thankful I got home dry. My brother came ahead of me and he had set out our dinner which my parents bring to us from Batangas twice a week. We were living at flood-prone Don Quixote Street near Dapitan in Sampaloc, Manila, a comfortable walk from the UST compound. It was close to ten when I arrived that night so my brother has already eaten.

    Whoa! My dinner was Tapa and fresh tomatoes. I don’t remember how many times I closed my eyes as I cut with the dinner knife and fork the dried meat into my nutritional port, ever struggling to shake off the lingering memory of the smell of formaldehyde. I strived to finish my dinner, constantly urging myself to take just enough to tide me over until breakfast time.

  10. steve betts said,

    October 6, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    yep. Floods meant gourami, dalag n hito that u could catch in the streets of old makati. And the brownouts meant bonding time with cousins n kin with nothing electrical or battery operated to distract us. Its really time now for deep introspection, radical city planning and consistent execution. The consequences are crystal clear!

  11. Toffee Tionko said,

    October 6, 2009 at 2:57 am

    I keep on telling my kids to be grateful that so far, because of where we live, they have not experienced anything like this flood. However, my wife and I have to stress that we should always be prepared. This can happen in any part of the country or the world. The Iloilo and Cotabato floods were also messy and devastating. The only difference was it didn’t get that much live coverage on TV or internet.

  12. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    October 5, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    You must have been a toddler in 1976 when we started our clerkship in UST.
    The first month of our clerkship around June there was that big typhoon which flooded the whole Metro Manila and nearby provinces. For the first time, the College of Medicine building and the adjacent clinical divison were flooded. The charity ward was in the clinical division and it was in the basement where the autopsy room was. Beside it was a room where the cadavers were kept for the demonstrations. Opposite the hall was the canteen. You can imagine our nightmare. The cadavers were found floating in the canteen! The clinical division was closed by the Health Department for a few weeks until the place was properly fumigated and sanitized.

    We were scattered around several nearby hospitals to continue our clerkship. Our group was in the Infant Jesus Hospital in Laong Laan. We did not complain as the hospital was fully airconditioned.

    When we returned to UST, the medical students naturally refused to eat in the canteen again.

    This time I understand the flood in UST was waist deep. I wonder though if the cadavers are still kept in the basement.

  13. sheryl manago said,

    October 5, 2009 at 10:38 am

    i have long waited for these kind of posts. thank you so much, toto. more please.

    now i can’t use my pseudonym anymore.

  14. Mari Hizon said,

    October 5, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Wow! Those are indeed our happy childhood memories!

  15. October 4, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Without a doubt, PEPENG changed it’s course thanks to the fervent prayers of a petrified nation. I believe in miracles because they HAPPEN. Daily for me.

    But Mother Nature is holding PEPENG at a standstill at the northern edges of Luzon mainly due to another big typhoon sucking it in and keeping it stationary. Worst case scenario, the two would meld and hover over LUZON, it could happen ! Or change trajectory and terrify Taiwan.

    MY bet will on the former, it will join forces, become one super typhoon and stay pelting Luzon for 24 hours, it happened with YOLING in the 70’s ! How do I know this. I’m physic !

    Nasa Diyos and AWA, nasa tao and GAWA.

    Many have said these forces of nature is a WAKE UP CALL to hold our leaders to be publicly held RESPONSIBLE for allowing squatters near flood ways, creeks, Marikina and Pasig River by the greed of allowing subdivisions to florish or WORSE to have VOTERS held hostage in thier municipalities.

    On TV with the minions and lackey reporting to that TIYANAK on the diasater relief operations, GIBO was beside GLORYUCK, sitting like a lap DOG to that fake President’s MOLE that grew a face is PITIFUL and a harbinger of the relationship that will continue after GIBO and that GNOME steal the 2010 presidency, SHE has stolen it TWICE already !!

    WHY can’t PEOPLE see this ?

    WHY do people entertain the notion that GIBO won’t be another GLORYUCK ? Are we really dumb driven cattle ? Led to slaughter, everytime ?

  16. October 4, 2009 at 7:30 pm


    From now on, comments with no real names, no email addresses that can be confirmed, and no reliable identity checks will no longer be allowed.

    Toto Gonzalez

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