By Odette Keeley, New America Media news anchor and producer
As Tropical Storm Ketsana’s –“Ondoy” in the Philippines– destruction made headlines all over the world on Monday, Sept. 28th, I could not reach my family in the Philippines. Power and phone lines were down in Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces where my family lives, and cell lines were clogged.
My sister in Los Angeles, “Ate” Reby, had only gotten a text message from my mother the night before: “Reby, pinasukan ng baha yung bahay. Lubog yung kotse. Kami ng daddy na-stranded sa bubong…” [Floods entered the house. Our car is submerged. Your father and I were stranded up on the roof].
Reby and I thought it unimaginable that they would be trapped on our own roof, which tops a two-story house on the highest point of the subdivision. Finally I reached my sister Jocelyn and in subsequent conversations with my mother, both of us often breaking down in tears, we were able to piece together their terrifying tales. For the first time since any typhoons hitting the Philippines, my family found themselves in Ground Zero, as if they were in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
My mom and dad, both 77, live in Park Place Executive Village, Cainta City in Rizal province, east of Manila. My eldest brother Angelo lives with them, my other brother, Pio Jr., lives a street away, and my sister, “Ate” [a Filipino term for elder] Jocelyn, lives with her family in the next town, Brookside. These towns were two of the most heavily flooded areas after Ketsana.