Almost 4 years ago, a calamity struck some parts of Davao City; and until now I can still remember every bit of detail that happened during that night. It was a Tuesday, 28th of June at around 8pm when it started raining. The rain lasted for almost 4 hours and ended at around 11pm. By the time the rain stopped, most of the people were asleep in their beds, unaware of the events that will take place next…. Suddenly the lights went off, electricity was cut off.

The rain had stopped but the turmoil was just about to begin. In just a few minutes water razed and flooded the streets, flowing at a fast pace. Most people were unprepared, caught off guard by the events that took place that night. The next thing we knew, water was already flowing inside the houses. We did our best to salvage whatever things that we could, but things happened so fast, we didn’t know where to start.

The level of water started to rise at a fast rate, to the point that we were forced to leave our house and cross the flowing waters of the flooded streets. Now imagine a river wherein your white water rafting against the strong current of water, sitting on a boat. The only difference is, there’s no boat for you to sit in, the water isn’t white, but the current is as much as strong as the river. That was what it was like to cross the street; you had to put the whole force of your body to your legs and feet in order for you to move one single step at a time without being carried away by the floods strong current.

By the time we were at our neighbor’s house, the level of the water rapidly increased, we had to go up the 2nd floor of our neighbor’s house, and by there we could see everything that was happening down below. I could see houses overrun by the flood, cars stumbled upside down, people trying to cross the flooded streets. I could hear screams, people crying out for help. From there on, there was no poor or rich, it was every man for himself. I saw how people helped each other, as our neighbors have helped us.

The night was cold, but the warmth hospitality of our neighbors, text messages from friends and families, and prayers, kept us awake throughout the night. By sunrise time, water inside homes and on the streets started to subside and it was safe for us to go back to our house. Upon entering our gate, a pile of sands, rocks, soil mounted and blocked the front of our drive way. As I opened the door to our house, the sight of our belongings stunned my eyes, and for a moment I was stunned to see almost everything washed away into waste. Almost every appliance, bags, shoes, books, magazines, even our refrigerator wasn’t spared.  But most of all, the one thing for me that was put to waste, was the photo albums, pictures of captured memories that can never be replaced, and now have been washed away into waste.

If there were more trees in our forest and mountains, no floods would have taken place. If it wasn’t for the rapid rate of urbanization and construction of subdivisions, we would have more trees. If there was a proper irrigation system for the flow of water, things would have been prevented. If people were more disciplined, a lot of lives would have been saved.”

“Who are we to blame for the things that had happened? Should we blame the government? Rather, should we blame ourselves? But the right question is what gives us the right to question things? Is it not our own doings and actions that caused this tragedy? Had we not learn from our previous mistakes? I guess for some people, you can never realize things unless you experience it firsthand…”

The rain and the flood had passed, but the peoples troubles were far from over. There was no water and electricity, the people didn’t know where to start or how to begin with things. Everything happened so fast, that your mind can’t process the information that instant. Then you hear different stories of different people. Like for instance; a pregnant woman who lost her husband and her 2 year old baby died because of the flood. A taxi cab driver whom within a glance, lost his taxi, and the next thing he knew, it was already on the corner of the road, upside down.

The aftermath of the flood was of great proportions. Mud and dirt had covered the streets. You could see tons of thrash and garbage everywhere, and for some streets, the cold dead bodies of people and dogs were found. Walls, homes were destroyed. Some people had gone missing, others were presumed dead, and families were shattered. Most of the Cars were upside down and broken. Food, clothes, shelter, and every basic necessity a person needs for every day, all of them were washed away into waste because of the flood. Many people were reported dead, most of them were children.  It’s hard enough for a person to recover from the damages that the flood had caused, what more is it for someone to lose a person so dear to you?

“Amidst this tragedy and loss, may the people find the courage and strength to face the challenges and obstacles they encounter. May the victims of the flood find the strength to move on with the past, work hard for the present, prepare for a better future, alas so we may recover. May those who died of the flood, find their peace. May the families be reunited with their love ones of whom were reported lost or presumed dead. And may this letter be a symbol of hope and awareness to people.”

This article was written by James Steven Batucan – a student of the Ateneo de Davao University and a member of the Pinag-isang Lakas ng Samahan ng mga Progresibong Atenista (PIGLASAPAT). This article is in line with Ateneo’s first Eco-Congress, which is in response to Pope Francis’ encyclical – Laudato Si.