September 26, 2009 will forever live in infamy in our collective memories. This was the day Metro Manila experienced its worst flooding in 40 years. Practically, 80 percent of the roads were impassable and I’m sure now by now, through the help of facebook and the internet, all of you have seen the various images Typhoon Ondoy has left us with. Yes, it was a tragedy. But tragedies have this habit of bringing out the best in the Filipinos. For this post, I would just like to salute two individuals for showing me what bravery and courage is all about: Carol Ong and Rayzon Galdonez.
September 26 began quite innocently enough. The Grade 3 pupils of San Agustin were going to have their Outreach program at Intramuros. Having checked the PAGASA website the night before, I knew there was a storm that was going to hit land that day. But then, when I woke up at around 5:30am, there were just intermittent showers. Thus, Ellet and I woke up our son, Matthew, and prepared ourselves to go to Intramuros. We arrived at the San Agustin Church at around 8am. Soon, the school bus arrived bringing along Matthew’s schoolmates. When the outreach program began, the rain began to pour more heavily and steadily as well. In fact, it was enough to knock out the electricity and sound system at certain points during the program. But, the show did and must go on. The program ended at around 11am and this was when the ordeal began. Most of the students rode on the school bus. Our family brought our own vehicle. Ms. Ong did as well. On our way back home, we could already see that portions of Roxas Boulevard were already flooded but still passable. It wasn’t until we reached Macapagal Boulevard intersecting EDSA ext. that traffic grounded to an absolute halt. Our family decided right then to make a U-Turn while we still can and stay at MOA until the flooding subsides. Through SMS exchanges with Matt’s teacher, we were updated as to the status of the school bus as they made their way home that day. Now, the stretch from Macapagal Boulevard to CSA Makati is about 2 to 3 kilometers. Even with the usual traffic at the Taft Avenue interesection, one can reach the destination in 15 to 20 minutes. However, September 26 is a different story altogether. As it turned out, the CSA School Bus finally reached the school at around 9:45 pm. It spent a total of 10-11 hours covering a 2-3 kilometer distance. Remember Ms. Carol Ong? Ah yes, the subject of this post, I almost forgot. Picture this. It was nearing lunch time already and there is this school bus with at least 40 9 year olds and their stomachs grumbling. Well, instead of whiling her time at the mall like the Angs, Ms. Carol Ong parked her car somewhere dry and did what according to her “any parent will do given the situation.” She bought take-out food and waded through waist-high waters to bring the food to the hungry schoolchildren. Instead of signing off with her good deed for the day, she then stayed on the bus and assisted the teachers in feeding the children and making sure that all of them were safe and comfortable. Later, perhaps sensing that the school bus might not make it through the floods, Ms. Ong then hired a bigger bus to ferry the children. Hours passed and as the bus inched its way to the school, it did not take long before the children were hungry again. By then, most of the food outlets on the streets were already closed. It was practically Waterworld at EDSA. But I guess when the going gets tough, Ms. Ong gets tougher. Once again, she waded through the floods, knocked at a closed Jollibee outlet and forced management to open and prepare take-out dinner for the CSA students. It wasn’t until the time that the bus had finally reached the school that Ms. Ong finally called it a day. She only went back for her car the next day.
According to Ms. Ong, she did nothing extraordinary. She did “what any parent would do given the situation.” To a certain degree, she’s right. What she did, the parents among us wouldn’t think twice and also do for OUR children. But what separates Ms. Ong from you and me is that she went the extra mile. Like the Angs, she had her own transportation and could have lounged around the mall with her son and nobody will have blamed her for that. After all, looking after one’s safety and that of the child’s is the primary concern of every parent. But Ms. Ong chose to make the 40 CSA students (and the 4 CSA teachers) her children as well and that has made all the difference in the world.
Rayzon Galdonez was a professional cyclist. He is a fun-loving friend who can do different magic tricks and make impossible contortions of his body. He is also a soldier of the Philippine Army. Soldiers are quite busy nowadays since they are called upon to assist in the relief and rescue operation. Rayzon is part of the group assigned to the relief and rescue operation in Cainta, Rizal, one of the hardest-hit areas of Typhoon Ondoy. Part and parcel of his job as a soldier. Nothing extraordinary about that.
Rayzon Galdonez hails from Marikina City. His parents live there. Only now, he has no way of knowing for sure if they are still alive. He lost contact with them after Ondoy’s fury last Saturday. And all this time, he is busy relieving and rescuing the people in Cainta while his heart and mind is somewhere in Marikina… Yup, all in a day’s job for a soldier.
I’m sure there are a lot more stories out there about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Ms. Carol Ong and Rayzon Galdonez are just two shining examples of such heroes in our midst.