02 December 2006

"This is all too surreal!"

THIS WAS what Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado texted me moments before Globe Telecoms went kaput last Thursday afternoon (Nov 30) as Typhoon Reming was battering Naga.

As I write this, most of the city hall staff have switched to Smart prepaid, including me. When my 24-month lockout period ends in six months, I'll also say goodbye to what an otherwise was a good relationship. There's no use staying with a service provider that abandons you in the hour of greatest need. When Milenyo struck, Globe also went off the air; now, you have this.

Anyway, surreal is the word to describe what the two of us just went through. A freak off-season snow storm that blanketed most of British Columbia and the Greater Vancouver area as we were about to leave. An ordeal with uncaring Philippine Airline staff at Vancouver International Airport. And now this: the strongest typhoon in memory that practically leveled most houses made of light materials, sent roofs flying off decently built ones like in our subdivision, as well as sturdily built homes of the better-off in Naga.

Reming's strongest winds -- reaching as much as 230 kph, according to the live blow-by-blow account of Mike Padua of typhoon2000.ph fame over RMN-DWNX -- starting hammering the city by around 1pm, as Mike predicted. From 2:30-4pm, howling winds from the northeast slammed our rowhouses from the rear. Sensing its unusual strength, I instructed my wife, mother-in-law and our daughters to go downstairs; only I and my two young sons remained and made our last stand against Reming.

For around 45 minutes, I climbed and clambered up the ceiling hatch and pushed downwards whenever winds would come and raise it by as much as 4 inches; my sons were pushing their weight against the inch-thick plyboards that we positioned as additional buffer against the left window that partially opened when two jalousies broke down. When I peered through the ceiling, I can see light emanating from our neighbor's, indicating that his rooftop already gave in. Fortunately, Reming's winds reversed course by around past 4pm; had it continued for another 30 minutes, our house would have certainly followed suit. Fifteen out of the 18 or so rowhouses comprising our block had their roofs ripped apart by Reming in varying degrees of destruction.

When I told my ordeal to Mayor Robredo and company yesterday, he said I probably have prayed more intensely than the rest. As we were making our stand against Reming, my wife said she never prayed as hard in her entire life.