Katrina, meet Ondoy.

Every time it rains, I think about the homeless. We are constantly surrounded by the poor, and the streets of Manila flood quite easily during typical rainfall, so it is rather common to hear about lives of the homeless being claimed by flash floods in Manila. It's almost an everyday sort of sadness for a lot of people who live here.

But last Saturday, 26 September 2009, we experienced disaster on a scale that we could never have imagined. The onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy (internationally known as "Ketsana") chose no class, no one group of people to victimize. It didn't matter if you were in the more privileged areas of Loyola Grand Villas and Magallanes, or deep within Cainta, Rizal. The water came for nearly everyone.

It is said that this has been the worst flood in the last 40 years, including Hurricane Katrina. It seems almost unbelievable, considering the footage we've seen from the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. But the truth is sharp and painful.

In one of the most affected areas, Marikina, stands a bridge well over 30 feet above the Marikina river. Ondoy caused floods that went over that bridge, as well as floods in other areas that refuse to go down. Water rushed into homes and drove residents to their rooftops, where many still sit and wait for rescue. I can only imagine what happened to those who didn't even have shelter, if they even had a chance at surviving.

Every minute gives birth to so many insane, impossibly true stories, such as those of University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center (more casually known around here as UERM), where water rushed to the third floor of the hospital. The parking lot was filled with oxygen tanks that leaked or busted open, and so no candles could be lit for fear of an explosion. In the middle of the dark, their only source of light was their penlights.

Then there is the story of Corazon Palomar, stuck on the roof of her home in Pasig with thirteen other people. She was 84, and recently had a heart bypass. They were stranded for 2 days, shivering from the cold, beyond parched and starving as they waited for rescue. A neighbor of theirs managed to salvage one hard-boiled egg which all of them shared. Corazon's daughter, Lily, held her mother to keep her warm. Lily didn't partake of the egg, but instead gave her share to the near-hopeless Corazon.

This is the story we hear over and over. The story that we normally never totally relate to, because disasters usually stand at a comfortable distance from us. The story we normally watch on the news, as seen in human interest pieces. But now it's become the story of our brothers, sisters, friends, children, grandparents, husbands, wives, and lovers, if not our own. It's hit closest to home for every single person I know.

The rescue is slow, undermanned, and disorganized. Help is severely needed all over Metro Manila. And yet what is extremely blessed about this most terrible time is that no one is sitting around waiting for someone else to do something. One of the most touching things I've heard is that the Ateneo De Manila University Rowing Team used toy boats to penetrate Provident Village, one of the most badly flooded areas, to distribute relief goods to those stranded on their roofs.

In this spirit, schools and private organizations have been running relief operations and donation centers since Sunday afternoon. Gawad Kalinga has not only evacuated its own, but is reaching out to surrounding underprivileged communites who weren't as lucky to have GK's devoted rescuers. Companies like Petron and San Miguel have lent their choppers for rescue and relief. Philippine Airlines has decided to airlift relief goods for free.

We have local film stars who swam in the flood or used a surfboard in the thick of the storm just to pull people to safety; one even used a couch as a flotation device to aid him in his rescue mission. Real estate powerhouse Divine Lee has committed her time to reaching the poorest ones who were affected by the typhoon, the ones who lost the little they had to begin with. These are also the stories that surround us now, and they are the ones we hold on to for hope.

The tragedy we find ourselves in the midst of is great, and yet the love demonstrated so freely in these times is the blessing we reap. We aren't waiting for answers as to how the 800 million peso budget for disaster relief could have been spent on the President's foreign trips, or how the NDCC ever believed that having only 13 rubber boats in their possession would be enough, even in a small-scale disaster. We aren't waiting on our government to give our people their due.

Instead, we are taking what we have and whatever we can possibly spare for the sake of our brothers. We are on our feet, we are on the road, we are in the water, and we are wherever help is needed the most. We are steeped in the drive of the bayanihan spirit, the love for our fellow man, and we hope that you are too. I ask that you join us in whatever way you can. Your prayers, donations, and participation will go a long way.

Stay safe and dry, everyone. God bless the Philippines.


  • For more information on Typhoon Ondoy and to submit names of those still in need of rescue, click here.
  • To submit information on missing persons, click here.
  • For local donation drop-offs in the Philippines, click here.
  • Donate to your local Red Cross today. Philippine Red Cross is also accepting paypal donations through the email address give@redcross.org.ph. (Get started here.) Every bit counts.
  • A lot of news has been coming in, for those who want to be part of the retweeting madness, follow me!
  • Photo sources are as follows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. All photos used in this entry are property of their respective owners.


The Thesis Film

I may very well be the poster child for ningas cogon. It's pathetic that I have only two posts to my name, after making such a big deal about what this blog was going to mean to me.

In my defense, however, I've been pretty busy lately. Things at le film school have been getting serious, and I am preparing to shoot my very own short film sometime during the last week of October. That being the case, I have accepted as many projects as I can handle. Currently, I am juggling three -- a layout gig, a short film, and a kind of fashion event -- as well as running around putting together a small online garage sale that opens within the week. In short, I've been driving myself crazy trying to get the funds to make my thesis film happen. Hopefully, my sanity pops up soon.

And just so we're clear, this isn't going to be some long-winded complaint. In fact, there is a part of me that dreads the moment my financial crisis is solved. Not that I'm appealing to the masochistic side of my personality or anything, but just that when funding is no longer an issue, I have nowhere to look but at my directing.

And this is what it is; this is the process, at least for many of us. The mind-numbing terror, the tension, the bleeding of whatever's inside of you, the making sure you're able to communicate perfectly. The pressure to ensure your story is fleshed out in picture and not just a summary of things inside your brain. To actually create something complete and personal and moving in some way.

A friend of mine is in the process of editing some work, and we both shared our heartbreaks regarding our respective pieces. I was lamenting the fact that a person I love dearly misunderstood the script I wrote, while my friend was trying to get past some hard criticism and serious feelings of self-doubt.

We talked about how risky it was to direct, to even step up to the plate and just try. Directing is about putting your heart out there. You can't expect to tell a story and have people respond to it in the way you hope them to without first getting naked. Investing. Trusting. Hoping.

And it is for that same reason, that vulnerability, why so many of us love this kind of life so much. It's the fear and feeling like you're going to throw up that makes it so great. Because it's that feeling, that sense of knowing that you're on the edge of your own sanity trying to piece together something that (at the very least) makes sense, that shows how much of ourselves we put on the line. Because that's what people understand.

You can make a film entirely in Chinese and present it to a North American audience without subtitles. If there is heart, it will translate, even in the absence of what may be literary genius. And when we succeed in making that connection, that is the reward. That is the juice. That is what makes all the torture absolutely worth the terror. That is the bliss.

I am young in this industry, and I can't say that what I think is most certainly the case. I do, however, recall the films of my childhood: The Sound of Music, The Little Mermaid, Gerard Depardieu's Cyrano de Bergerac. I may not know them all word for word, or the exact sequence in which all events unfolded, but I remember how they made me feel. I was happy, I was scared, I was amused, I was sad. I was wholly embraced by characters I, ironically enough, only really knew in still motion.

I don't suppose that whatever I will create will be so important in the eyes of the world, or that it will be anywhere near perfect. What I hope is that it does touch someone, and that at least the people I have written it for -- my family, most especially my mother -- will see that it is my love out there in moving pictures. That's more than enough for me. That's not only the juice; it is the cherry on top of the cherry on top of the cherry.

And so I go back to my real life, scrambling around trying to get this little film made. Because as much as I don't need it to be Oscar-worthy, I do need me some cherries.