Monday, August 13, 2012

Ground zero

“It’s part of our psyche as journalists. You go the extra mile when the going gets tough. Crisis is your job. You head into war zones as civilians are fleeing. You walk into the storm while others are looking for sanctuary. It’s your job. Why? Because the stories you tell may save a life.”Maria Ressa, former ABS-CBN News Head, former CNN Manila and Jakarta Bureau Chief and presently Rappler CEO

As I stepped inside the office, I was greeted with questions of the state of the place I’ve left, our house in Bulacan. I told them the living room and the bathroom was flooded and that we evacuated and carry stuff upstairs. A few more exchange of banter and everybody went back to work and got serious once more. A few more and I would find myself inside a crew cab making our way around Quezon City to check out the flood situation. And then back at the base, calls from local government officials would pile up announcing class suspensions, reports on how their constituents are faring with the bad weather, and declarations of state of calamity.

The truth is I did not just leave a flooded house. I left my family inside a flooded house.

It all begun Tuesday, August 7. I woke up to a pandemonium. Downstairs, flood was rising faster than any of us in Malolos could’ve expected. A few inches away that time and the water would come surging inside our house. A few minutes more and we’re done readying for the worst. We waited.

After securing everything, I planned my way to work. I knew I have to. Calamities waiting to unfold send shiver, a twinge of anticipation to any journalist. The first thought is always “I have to be on it.” So despite my family’s usual protest, I packed my things, everything I thought I’d need, then called the office to inform them I’m coming and I’m on my way.

But then, ABS-CBN’s Ron Gagalac appeared on television giving a picture of what was happening at North Luzon Expressway. The water level reached as high as half of a bus and vehicles are stranded in the middle of it. People are trailing the concrete barrier dividing the northbound and southbound of the highway as the torrential rain kept pounding on everybody’s head. People watch in awe and helplessness as water kept rising and rising, gushing down from everywhere. I couldn’t leave anymore.

So imagine my frustration. I knew I needed to be at work. I knew what I had to do. I was ready to leave my family despite knowing they needed me during that time of uncertainty. 

Early next day, as soon as NLEX became passable to motorists, I braved the flooded streets of Malolos with a definite thinking on my mind: I need to do my job. But as I submerge myself in flood, as I watch families trapped in their roofs, as I interview fathers and mothers who lost their sons and daughters, I couldn’t help but see my mother, my lola and my sister’s face in them.

My family is a victim of the recent flooding that displaced thousands of families in Luzon. Eight provinces, four municipalities and twelve cities are currently under state of calamity, including my hometown. Since the house was reconstructed back in 1999, flood never came even in 2009 when thousands as well were displaced by Ondoy.

I wanted to call home from time to time, but I can’t. My job requires my full attention. I remember my poor mother. I knew she's more worried for me than the state of our home. Now, not only her husband left her to work far away, even her son did, and is doing the same.

It’s the silly thing about being a journalist. When most people would rush to their family during times of calamity, we do the opposite. We run towards the danger. We run against the current. You try and help a distressed family while you seem to neglect your own. Most would say you’ll get used to it as the time goes, but in all honesty, I don’t think I will.

The night I stayed in a hotel provided by the company, I didn’t sleep at all. Outside the rain was still pounding and we just delivered the news that Angat Dam started spilling. Finally I called home.

Today, August 12, is my day off. Cleaning started Friday. The screen door is broken. Magazines, newspapers and few important files got wet and the refrigerator is still upstairs. The image of the Inmaculate Concepcion, which I acquired three years ago, is in my room because the stool where she used to stand also got broken. All in all, still, life is good.

In the future, there will be more intense rain, devastating storms, war and other catastrophes. And if the gods are merciful and I’d still be here, I would still have to leave my family doing my job as a journalist. By then, still, all I can do is pray, hope for the best like the rest of us all. 

5 reaction(s):

Anonymous said...

Tunay kaming nagpapasalamat sa inyo mga mamahayag sa paghahatid ng mga balita, kahit kayo mismo ay biktima ng mga kalamidad. May God protect all of you always.

jonathan said...

I admire your commitment to your call. I sincerely hope things will settle soon in the Philippines as my family is also there.

Been reading some of your entries and they're overpowering in contents. I wish I could write like you do.

God bless!

Nate said...

like i told when we BBM'ed, i salute you and your dedication to your job, and in "serving the Filipino people".. you wrote about damages and inundation.. and hope.. hope.. one can only hold on to even the slightest glimmer of it, when calamities strike..

kudos to you and your colleagues!

R. Burnett Baker said...

I'm sorry to hear of your troubles with the flooding.

You made an important statement in this post, saying that many might say you get used to neglecting your own family while helping others in times of tragedy. You said that you don't think you will get use to that.


No matter what your job, or what you and others think is your job, your family is the touchstone to all that you are, and much of what you will or can become. The distinction between that touchstone and a career is profound.

If you can still say that life is good, then it is. You have kept true to who you were, are, and can be.

Wishing you all a speedy recovery from this disaster!


Mac Callister said...

bahamas din daw sa amin Sa laguna sabi ng sister ko hanggang tuhod.

hirap naman niyan buti u still managed to concentrate on work while ur dead worried abt ur family back in bulacan.

pero sna ininterview mo na din family mo for extra footage sa situation sa bulacan LOL


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