The scenes were nail-biting: floodwaters rising fast, people scampering for safety and, in extreme cases, residents screaming for help from rooftops.
The floods also trapped patients at the University of Santo Tomas Hospital in Sampaloc, Manila. As of press time, patients and staff were still waiting for rescue, with floods swamping the first floor.
One of the patients was 76-year-old Amparo Lopez, who had been diagnosed with pneumonia, according to her grandson Ivan Angelo de Lara.
“When I was about to go down and buy food at around 7 a.m., the elevators were not working. I took the stairs and when I arrived on the ground floor, it was only then that I saw the lobby already submerged in knee-deep floodwater,” De Lara said.
“I’ve already prayed several times to God to make this stop. Delubyo eh (This is a deluge). But He is all I can trust now. I hope this rain and this flood stop,” he said.
He said electricity, including air-conditioning, continued to operate in the hospital, keeping vital medical equipment functioning.
Pulled from the roof
Elsewhere, some survivors said the floods were worse than what Tropical Storm “Ondoy” brought in 2009.
“This is worse than Ondoy,” Ana Marie Noceja, 32, said after a rescue team on a motorboat pulled her, her husband and their 5-year-old daughter from the roof of their two-story house where they had been marooned by floodwaters for 10 hours.
Noceja, an employee of a housing subdivision, recounted to the Inquirer the hardship she and her family went through before rescuers reached their house on Sto. Domingo Street in Barangay (village) Siena in Quezon City.
The Noceja couple and their daughter shivered in the cold as rescuers brought them to a barangay hall nearby.
“We haven’t eaten anything since 5 in the morning. There’s also no water,” said Ana Marie, whose voice shook during the interview.
The couple said the floods, which reached up to the second floor of their house, were worse than what they experienced when Ondoy hit Metro Manila in 2009.
“At least back then, we were able to evacuate right away. But today we couldn’t do that on our own,” she said.
The Nocejas left behind all their valuables in their house and just managed to pick up a bag of clothes.
“We no longer thought of saving our things,” Ana Marie said.
The floods also touched off emotional scenes in Marikina City.
In Barangay Malanday, the Inquirer saw several residents screaming for help from the rooftops of their houses after it became impossible for them to get down to the heavily flooded roads.
By past 2 p.m., only rubber boats could be used to reach the barangay located near the Marikina River, which, by that time, had breached the minimum 18-meter critical level.
“I can’t get down! I can’t get down!” the Inquirer heard a resident scream to members of a rescue unit passing by on a rubber boat.
In Bulelak Gym, the number of evacuees had reached more than 800 people. In nearby Malanday Elementary School, the figure was more than twice that number.
The Marikina Rescue 161 team said a 1-year-old baby accidentally hit its head on the pavement after his father, Danilo Biranes, slipped as he was about to enter an evacuation area. The condition of the baby, as of press time, was not known.
Anna Loresco, owner of a printing company in the Provident Village subdivision, said it was a good thing they left even before members of the Marikina Rescue 161 team had arrived to forcibly evacuate the residents.
“We woke up at 3 a.m. and left. We just came back to our house to get other things. At that time the river, I think, was at 18 meters,” she said.
Loresco said she saw how floodwaters had quickly risen and “engulfed” some of the nearby houses in lower parts of the subdivision. She and her husband quickly packed up and left.
“We did not want to stay there. Everything might get worse,” she said.
In Quezon City, some residents in Barangay Siena endured a sleepless night, praying they would be saved from the six-foot-deep floods.
David Job Salutan, 22, a seafarer, said he had not slept since Monday night.
“In a matter of minutes, the water rose by two feet,” Salutan said, fearing another Ondoy, which swamped the entire Sto. Domingo Street three years ago, would strike again.
“The rains now have lasted longer than during Ondoy,” he said.
Rescuers from the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Air Force came with rubber boats around 4 p.m.
The lack of equipment had hampered the work of rescue teams earlier.
“We had no motorboats to use earlier,” Trinidad Arturo, a member of Quezon City’s public order and safety team, said when asked why it took them a long while to pluck trapped residents from their homes.
Cherilyn de Jesus was jolted from her sleep when floods began rising outside her home in Fairview, Quezon City.
Within two hours, she and her children watched in panic as the waters rushed in at around 5 a.m., forcing them to seek refuge with a neighbor whose house stood on higher ground.
“We could no longer stay in our house. The sounds of the rain made me scared because it wouldn’t stop,” a shaken Cherilyn recounted. Soon the waters would reach the roof of her house.
At her neighbor’s house, Cherilyn was one of 30 adult residents of Sitio (subvillage) Ruby, Sapamanai village, in Fairview, trapped by the overnight rains and floods. With them were 22 very hungry children, including babies who needed milk.
“We were all hungry but we were more worried for our children. We needed food and candles,” she said.
Cherilyn said the floods began rising at 3 a.m. when blinding rain pelted their community, which lay near La Mesa Dam.
White cloth for help
In Marikina City, some residents put up a white cloth to signal for help.
“We don’t have a white blanket so we used a T-shirt hanging on a bamboo pole,” said Sherryl Estrella, 35.
Estrella and her neighbors had sought shelter in an empty house along Mais Street, Barangay Tumana, and were still waiting for rescue.
“We have run out of water and food. We don’t even have diaper for a newborn baby who’s just three days old,” Estrella, who was stranded along with six families, told the Inquirer by phone.
“Only three steps of the stairs remain before floodwaters reach us here on the second floor. But we can’t go to the third floor because it has no roof, it’s just a ‘sampayan’ (a place to dry clothes).”
She said they were also taking care of two sick people, one with rheumatism and another with a head wound.