By: Zea Perez
‘Liway, grab the rope,’ Mang Nico encourages me. The elderly fellow points to the area. He secures his wife Aling Nita by tying her waist with a tie box hook up to him while they both hold the rope fixed in a steel pipe along the gutters from the end corner of the block of houses up to its entrance.
I move cautiously to the spot as directed. I must get through to them and keep my grip on the rope tightly. I wipe my face and gasp deeply. ‘That was fast,’ I yell. The couple nod as they wipe rain waters from their faces. I cannot believe how the floods rose over my head, in a blink of an eye. I have to maneuver with great effort to stay afloat and safe.
‘It is good that the children are already in the evacuation center,’ Aling Nita consoles me. The evacuation center is a nearby public school. ‘No more social distancing at the crowded center, I guess,’ I yell at Aling Nita. She nods. ‘That’s for sure!’
I am a reluctant member of a disaster emergency rescuer in our village. I do not think I fit to be one. I am a busy person. A widow of two children, I make a meager income by selling all varieties of merchandise. Sometimes, I sell green mangoes with baby shrimp sauce in spicy garlic during the day, and at night I sell Balot in the neighborhood, the steamed-boiled, sixteen-day-old egg of a chicken or duck. It is rich in iron and protein.
My neighbors feel sorry for my plight that they are better ecstatic to find me a partner, a life partner. But I choose to be single. Not because I had an unfortunate marriage with my late spouse, who died four years ago. But I find now joy, tranquility and contentment with my children.
Flash floods are sure to come during rainy seasons. It begins in June and gets worst during December. The tricky part is that no rain falls here in the city district to alarm everyone. It can be sunny and warm the entire day. But in the mountains, if the rains keep on pouring heavily for several days, the dams are sure to overflow, causing flash floods.
My family has lived here for many years along the river bank. They say it is a catch basin. But it is the only home I’ve known.
The flooding is the water overflowing from the dam. The dam is the water source used by almost the entirety of residences in the Metro.
I recollect the gravity of my ordeal moments ago:
After securing my children to the evacuation center, I came back to our house to fetch other essential things left behind like our thermos, the slippers, and a few belongings.
On my way back, the waters were already above my knees. And I had to rush. Along the way, I noticed that my elderly neighbors were having a hard time maneuvering and evacuating. I helped them. And when the old couple was safe, I proceeded to our house. Things floated. I could only get the thermos and the children’s slippers. The waters were dashing from my knees up to my waist. I secured the things I had inside a plastic bag. But the current was unruly! It swept away the other pair of slippers. My eyes followed through the torment of how the flood current gobbled and washed it away.
I had to move back quickly and rejoin the elderly couple. The current was obdurate. One misstep of my foot would mean it would sweep me away. I safeguarded my body to the concrete wall. I kept on looking for anything I could grasp on, but the corner was bare.
Mang Nico called me up across the end corner.
It was a life and death tussle moments ago.
‘Let us wait for the rescue here,’ I reassure the couple. They nod. I steady myself as I tightly grip the rope.
I perceive the scurrying yellowish-brown waters containing plastic soda bottles, plastic bags, junk food wrappers, some woods, trunks and roots, Styrofoam, branches, and leaves of bananas, and some branches of Talisay trees, facemasks, face shields, and the series of kinds of cellophane and plastics. All heading to the ocean. There are so many things yet to change on this planet.
Heavy rains keep on pouring. In recent years, floods have been more frequent and dangerous.
I pray for our immediate rescue so I can be with the children. I hope they are okay. The COVID-19 cases in the country are still high. I know their Uncle Marlou at the center shall console them in my absence. I remember the other pair of slippers washed away. It will take months for me to save up to buy another one.
The water relaxes, so does the rain and ourselves. The couple thanks me. They say they could have died. ‘Same here. Thank you for your help. I’m glad I finished the rescue training, though.’ I beam at them. Our lips are pale in freezing.
Several minutes ensue, a shout is audible nearby. The rescue is here. Thank God. I clasp the plastic bag to my chest as I lock the handle to my neck. It is the only thing that remains among the simple things we had. Once again, the floods washed away everything.
While we ride on a rescue rubber boat heading to the evacuation center, the land has become a vast lake. It will take three days for the flooding to subside. I survey the floodwaters and the toll. Everyone is busy dipping themselves, trying to save kitchen utensils and other belongings. Some neighbors are taking refuge on the top of their barong-barong roofs. From afar, I discern a slipper floating peacefully in our direction. Is it the other pair washed away moments ago? The slipper is within my reach. Indeed, it is the other pair.
The author is Zea Perez. She lives in The Philippines. She writes children’s stories. But only now did she dare to share some of her writings. She has some pieces published at Flashfictionnorth and soon at TEA. She also writes reviews for Booktasters and Goodreads.