After the Storm: Stories on Ondoy

After the Storm: Stories on OndoyAfter the Storm: Stories on Ondoy by Various Authors, edited by Elbert Or
Anvil, 128 pages

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 typhoon, 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 written record to remind everyone that this happened. We were there. We are still here.

Two years ago, on this day, I woke up and found it was raining hard. It was a normal occurrence, of course, since it was the rainy season at that time. I was all ready to snuggle down into bed and enjoy a rainy bed weather, thanking that I was safe and sound with my family, at home.

Then this happened:

September 26, 2009

It was two years ago today that Typhoon Ketsana, locally own as Ondoy, hit our country, submerging Metro Manila underwater. It should have been a normal day, especially for us since it has never flooded in the 20 years that I lived where I lived. But that day changed everything, and in a span of hours, we found ourselves trying to secure all the important things we own away from the rising waters of a flood that got into our house, and eventually evacuating to our neighbor’s house where we stayed the next two nights.

Typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy changed my life, and while I think I have pretty much moved on from this flood, it’s still one of the things that I will never be able to forget.

So that’s why I felt that this collection of essays edited by Elbert Or, After the Storm, is pretty much a required reading for me. When you survive a disaster like this, it’s either you completely turn away and try to forget about it, or move on and remember it every now and then, using it to make you a little bit stronger. I choose the latter.

After the Storm is filled with essays from different people sharing their various experiences that happened before, during and after the typhoon. These essays range from a creative piece told from the point of view of a floating hardbound book, to a senator’s reflections on the effects of the typhoon and the resiliency of the Filipino spirit, to a person’s thoughts on volunteering and even a firsthand account of a survivor from Provident Village in Marikina, one of the hardest hits of the flood. Needless to say, this was one of the books that I should not have read in public, because I found my eyes filling with tears every now and then. It’s hard to forget the fear, the disbelief, the wondering if things will ever be the same again after this, and if we will ever even recover from this.

To be honest, I wasn’t really feeling the first part of the book. It felt like some of the entries were written just to impress people, or to pat their egos about volunteering. I couldn’t relate, and I felt like it lacked the proper empathy that victims survivors would look for. I felt exasperated at the truth that shows just how unprepared we are, and how much the government lacked, and how some people pointed fingers at that. Some talked so much about volunteering that it almost didn’t sound sincere. On the other side of the spectrum, there was one essay that talked about how it is better not to volunteer and instead go back to work and donate money because it would be more helpful. As much as it made sense, I was kind of miffed. Are you just trying to comfort yourself with the fact that you didn’t take time off from work to help out? Come on. Tell that to the people who’s on the receiving end of the help.

But then somewhere in the end, I realized that maybe, just like grieving, there is never really a single way in moving on from calamities such as this. Maybe people cope differently. Maybe some people get so moved that they have to move physically, that they have to do something about it, such as organize a sandwich drive or volunteer for various relief efforts. Maybe some people get so shocked that they can’t do anything, except maybe find a way to spread the word. Maybe some people get moved to write. Maybe, some victims start off with shock, sadness, disbelief until they find the strength in themselves and in other people to help them become survivors instead.

There are people who suffered much more than I did, but it wouldn’t change the fact that Typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy changed my life. I think and I hope it changed everyone’s lives, with it has tested us. Anthologies such as this may not be perfect, it may not contain a very accurate account of everything that happened in those dark and stormy days, but I must agree that it’s a way of reminding us that it happened. And while we must move on, we must not forget.

Two years ago today, Ondoy surprised all of us.

We were there.

Yes, we are still here.

And yes, we are still standing.

And maybe, that’s really the point of this book.

Rating: [rating=3]

My copy: paperback from National Bookstore

Cover & blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
taking a break

7 Thoughts on “After the Storm: Stories on Ondoy

  1. Truly, this a very timely post/book review, Tina.

    Like you I will never forget the calamity that had befallen us. The one incident that had so struck and paralyzed me was when I was riding the LRT2 on the way home and I saw houses, UERM, the adjacent Savemore and SM Centerpoint submerged in flood water; cars floating like a toy boat; people waving at us from the roof. I just felt helpless during that time and the walk from Recto to my house our just made anxious by the minute, wondering what’s happening with my family, especially mom and dad. Fortunately, they are safe and all was well.

    Yes, we remember, and for incidents such as this we remain strong and resilient.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jzhun! I never saw how bad it was outside our village, but if it was bad where I was, I know it was worse outside. Especially since we rarely get flooded. Now all rains make me jumpy.

  2. I still feel strongly against many of the book’s essays. I can safely say now that it’s not because I feel guilty. What I feel is indignation that these writers would treat the tragedy as a source of f*ing exercise. And write about it. For a book that would be read by people who were affected by the flood.

    • There was only one entry that I really and truly liked, the account of the survivor from Provident Village. Not sure if it’s true, but I bet it’s pretty much what survivors felt during the flood. I wished there were more of that, instead of observer accounts of people who never really got to experience how it is to see floodwaters coming in, or having to bring their things up, or evacuating. Most of the other “survivor” accounts were people who got stuck at work…but that’s a bit typical. There was a bit too much complaining about how the government didn’t do enough, or glorification on how the people who helped are heroes. Both are true, but reading it from the POV of someone who was affected, those entries felt a little bit self-serving.

      I think it’s still an okay book as a reminder, but it could have had more meat in it.

  3. Really timely. The last time we were devastated by a flood was 1991’s Asyang, coinciding with the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. I was too young to be worried about life and death then.

    And now, I am here in the office, with a smattering of office mates, wondering if later, I can get home safe. Definitely not dry, but I hope not too wet.

  4. Oh my goodness. This sounds like such a heartbreaking and uplifting book at the same time.

    • Yes it is. Especially when you’ve experienced it all first hand. That’s why any news of flooding anywhere in the world breaks my heart — it’s one of the things I wish no one would experience. :/

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