Influences (or Why I Write the Way I Do)

Natalie Goldberg (free-flowing writing)
Clarissa Pinkola Estes (wild woman writing)
Jane Hutchison (direct-to-the-point writing)
Ernest Hemingway (simple words writing)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lessons from on Top a Roof

I have been asked how my outlook in life has changed since the Iloilo disaster. This close call does not go unheeded and so I’m sharing with you some snip-bits of practical realizations looking over a submerged basketball court last June 21 in Jaro, Iloilo.

1. Invest in insurance. But of course with the general rule of buying these from reputable agencies like PruLife, Philam, Prudential and many others surviving well our economic storm. I have about three (3) from PruLife and am planning of getting another one from Philam within the year. I am not into clothes, am really a lousy dresser. And I’ve controlled the impulse of buying shoes for the knack of it. But insurance, hmmmmm, keeps me satisfied and secured. You could choose to shell out quarterly premiums where you have at least 3 months to save. Or take a monthly one that is at the same time an investment. I have 2 from PruLife, for Yaman’s education and my retirement. This may sound morbid, but pray, that your body gets found should you succumb to a disaster. There should be a body of evidence that you’re dead for insurance to take effect and your beneficiaries to benefit from your death. Period of contestability: 5 years.

2. Build flood-proof homes. Buy a house in high-elevation areas, or if not, save enough to build a second floor. Make sure that you have ladders outside, or ladder-type metal structures along the sides. If you can’t find or save for one, always have a back-up plan and money to pay for it. Here at Desamparados, one Kagawad readily booked his family a room at Amigo Hotel; while one moved to close relatives at the City Proper.

3. Before a storm, stack up on supplies and money. Hunger doesn’t come in until later so keep jugs of water, candles, flashlights and fresh batteries; including milk for the baby. Canned goods would generally do because they don’t need cooking or reheating (except if it’s corned beef). And blankets, have lots of fresh blankets. When you do donate, try giving out blankets, rather than sardines, for a change. Up in the roof, I dreaded the cold more than the hunger. And money, money, money. The electricity will go off and so will the ATMs. Withdraw an amount good for 5 days at the least. And keep loose dollars in your wallet. There is always a money changer around.

4. Keep your documents on top. Some people I know lost their most important documents --- birth certificates, school records, diplomas, not to mention books, and other files kept under beds or in bottom drawers. Stack them up the second floor or on top of the cabinets in your first floor.

5. Take pictures. Not only to document experience but also to keep a record for use in making claims – for insurance or medical reimbursement. This is one good reason why everyone should upgrade and have a cellphone with camera. With my cellphone, I was able to portray first-hand experience. That night, bestfriend Cora just texted me, asking how was I. I answered back, ‘here, on top of a roof’. And she wouldn’t have believed me if after the text, I haven’t sent a picture of me drenched and quite helpless; and truly, on top of a roof! Meanwhile, the picture of my right arm is now part of documents of accident claims for Prulife.

6. Invest on a handy leather bag with lining. I highly recommend Manel’s. The bag strung over my neck was a Manel’s bag, which I bought in February of 2007. Its only defect is the thin screw holding the metal buckles at the side. In both sides of my bag, these screws snapped so I had to tie buckle to buckle. Anyway, during the storm, in it was my passport, brown wallet with credit, ATM, ID cards, and cellphone. It got submerged when I got close to drowning around the curve at Desamparados. But when I opened it on top the roof, all my things were intact and dry. And my cellphone was the only working, sending texts and taking pictures. I owe it to this sturdy bag.

7. Take heart. Again, bestfriend Cora, upon listening to my account, blurted out that she wouldn’t be able to handle it as well. She with the faint heart. But no. When one comes face to face with a threat, natural or human-made, the will to survive will naturally rear its head out. It will just come. Some call it adrenaline, some presence of mind, others instinct. But I tell you, it’s all heart. You can climb up that roof, hold on to that railing, stretch yourself out. You can do it, don’t lose sight of that.

8. Heroes come from all walks of life. Need I say more about Reynald Ibuna? God bless him for the rest of his life. But I include here too the Kagawad of Desamparados, the one who billeted his family in Amigo Hotel. At around 10pm, with the help of some men, went roof to roof delivering Dunkin Donuts, mamon, and monay to the stranded. The men of Desamparados who helped a drowning man to safety, those who helped take out GI sheets to free people trapped down below. Mercury Drug in Jaro who provided credit to all needy people lining up the counters. To Dra. Optician who fed ‘refugees’ in and outside of Doña Maria Bldg, with hot arroz caldo the morning of Sunday. To the mighty police force of Iloilo --- these muscled men in tight shorts, to the momentary joy of Sheryl. And all those volunteers from the Red Cross, the PDCC, and all those ordinary women and men for whom the lives of strangers, mattered.

9. Yet superheroes don’t exist. When I was up there, how I wished, Superman was real, and so is Batman, Spiderman, even Lastikman and Captain Barbell. Just so for someone to save me, save us, save Grandma from the floods! But on second thought, and with a secret laugh, I chided myself – what was I thinking??? The extraordinary could be done by who else but us. It is left to us ordinary mortals and we are not as helpless as we think we are. It’s an emboldening thought. We can do so much…despite this government…in the face of climate change…we have our mighty selves!

10. ‘Trust your head’ – a slogan in Murdoch University reminding women to take charge of their safety by listening to that little voice in the head when it warns of danger. Coming after this, actually, is a nagging feeling. I say, trust it, because one way or another, it’s true, it’s dependable. With floodwaters raging outside the barangay hall, I just couldn’t shake off that voice telling me that staying inside spells doom. If I hadn’t believed, then I could just have been a statistic. Well, at least there’s a body… and my family could claim the insurance…so you wouldn’t really lose in insurance....