Book: After the Storm (Stories on Ondoy)

"After the Storm," edited by Elbert OrIn September of 2009, Typhoon Ondoy (International name: Ketsana) came to the Philippines–to the Luzon group of provinces, to be more specific. September 26 will be etched in the memories of many as a day of tragedy–and a day of heroism.

Ondoy wasn’t a super typhoon. It barely warranted the name typhoon when it hit the Philippines. But the destruction it left was massive.

My personal Ondoy story isn’t special. I was stuck inside a car for more than 12 hours. Big deal, right? Heck, I didn’t even know most of what was going on outside the confines of the car. I got a couple of friends asking me how I was during the time, because I live in the flood capital of Metro Manila, but that was it. For the most part, I thought it was just another storm, nothing extraordinary.

It wasn’t until eleven in the evening, when I finally got home, that the situation really hit me.

Though we live in the flood capital, we were also lucky enough to be in one of the higher parts of the city. In the two decades we’ve been living in our village, the worst flood we had reached our shins. And that was at the lowest part of our village. But the night of September 26, while our house was unscathed, the same couldn’t be said for our village. Fifty steps from my house, all you can see is water. And a raft carrying half-a-dozen people. Our village turned into a lake.

By Sunday morning, September 27, the water was gone. It felt like a bad dream. And while our village was lucky in that the water was quick to leave, the rest of the metro wasn’t as fortunate.

The pieces in ‘After the Storm’ were mostly written in the midst of and immediately after the typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009. The writers share their experiences of the typhoons, their insights and reflections, their hopes and aspirations. Long after the news media has moved on to the next big headline, ‘After the Storm’ hopes to stand as a written record to remind everyone that this happened. We were there. We are still here.

I admit that I bought After the Storm because of guilt. The only ‘help’ I was able to give was to use the Twitter account of the website I used to work for, to direct and redirect calls for volunteers and relief goods, answer questions I could answer, and to retweet pertinent information to the account’s followers. At the time, our website was operating with a skeleton crew, and as they say in the entertainment business, the show must go on. So that was my excuse.

The real reason I didn’t help was because I didn’t want to face the tragedy. Not then. I survived when so many didn’t. I lost hours, while other people lost their livelihood, their houses–everything. So instead, I logged on to Twitter every chance I could get to pass around calls for help. Calls I myself didn’t answer.

Seeing After the Storm in a bookstore, these words caught my eye: “The writers share their experiences of the typhoons, their insights and reflections, their hopes and aspirations.” Beautiful words. I was sold. But while actually reading the book, I mostly felt angry.

The introduction was beautiful. And a couple of the essays were poignant. One essay, “An Unpopular Opinion on Volunteerism” by Luis Buenaventura II was logical, and I actually thought his essay has a good point. But most of what was in the anthology infuriated me. Especially when I came to these gems: “Why volunteer? … You get a good workout. … You have something to write about in your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.” Really? That’s a few of your reasons for volunteering?

And then there are the essays that do nothing but pontificate. There’s no other word for it.

I really wish I could end this post with a recommendation to buy this book. But I can’t. For me, this is a lesson I must learn: never let guilt decide when buying something. Especially a book.

7 thoughts on “Book: After the Storm (Stories on Ondoy)

  1. Pingback: Book: After the Storm (Stories on Ondoy) « taking a break- Typhoon Pepeng

  2. I will never ever forget September 26. I live in a flood prone area, too, but our street rarely ever floods, but Ondoy changed all that, and we had to evacuate to our neighbor’s house for two days because the water reached waist-deep in our house. I’m actually luckier than other people because I have another place to stay in and our car was okay and everything important was saved. Still, it’s kind of a sensitive topic to me — I kind of blame a bit of trauma on that.

    But, wow, this is an unexpected reaction. I have this on my TBR, and I got it because it is about Ondoy and I’m curious. Hm, I wonder.

    • A few friends from college, and some from work, had the same experience you did. Some had worse. Ondoy isn’t as sensitive to me as it is to you, understandably, because I was one of the lucky (luckier?) ones.

      If you haven’t bought it yet, I’m willing to lend the book. If you’re still interested in reading it. I’m not one to stop someone from reading books–even books I really didn’t like. Maybe I have a different reading because of the mentioned guilt. Maybe.

  3. Our house was situated on top of a high subdivision in Las Pinas. It was raining hard, and we didn’t have any electricity, but it didn’t feel like something bad was going on outside. It was only the next day when we learned how strong Ondoy was.

    • A lot of the unaffected (with no electricity) had the same experience I think. Our electricity came back Sunday, but we already saw what happened first hand in our village–and from my younger sister’s stories about how hard it was to commute home from school.

      The floating cars, the raging rivers, and what happened in Marikina, Rizal, Bulacan and Laguna didn’t enter our consciousness until Monday, when I went back to work and was exposed to all the news reports (and the subsequent twittering and retweeting) :/

  4. Pingback: After the Storm: Stories on Ondoy | One More Page

  5. Hi! My name is Sue and I am one of the Filipino moderators for the unofficial-but-sanctioned language community accounts of Twitter, specifically @twitter_ph (Twitter Philippines). We have a project in Twitter for which we would like to ask your help. If you could please either tweet me a reply to this via @shewhodid or a Direct Message (DM) with either your twitter handle or email address, we, the Filipino moderators and Twitter Localization Community would totally appreciate it. Thank you.


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