By Shirley T. Kimmayong, World Vision
More than 240 people have died since Typhoon Ketsana's flood waters and 110 kph winds tore through Manila Saturday. 7-year-old Jabez Gonzaga and his family were a few of the lucky ones.
"The floodwater was so high. I was so afraid. I was crying," says Jabez.
His village in Rizal was one of the hardest-hit areas in the country. The extreme rainfall brought by Typhoon Ketsana submerged many villages in Metro Manila and nearby provinces like Rizal and affected more than 450,000 people. The government declared 26 provinces to be in a state of emergency.
Aid agencies like World Vision have been working quickly to distribute aid, even dispatching relief by helicopter to some of the hard-to-reach areas.
"It was like the sea; my father put me in a Styrofoam box and swam me to safety. I felt so cold and I thought I would drown," said Jabez. He stayed in a church set up as an evacuation center. As he spoke, his eyes often wandered over to the street nearby, still filled with mud and water from the floods.
"All my school things and clothes were drenched with water, and my favorite toy was destroyed," he said as he held on to his shorts, one of his only pieces of clothing left. They were too big for his little frame and were tied tightly in the front so they wouldn't fall down. Sometimes, as he spoke, the memories became too much for him, and he would stop talking, only shaking his head instead.
After a few minutes, Jabez no longer wanted to answer questions about that scary night. His aunt, Jenel Gonzaga, 28, was still reeling as well.
"It was a very traumatic experience. You don't know if the flood water will still rise. At first, there were no rescuers," she said. "I really thought I was going to die. I was so afraid. The water was increasing rapidly and our home was totally submerged with muddy water."
Her family evacuated to their neighbor's house. For two days, they waited for the water to subside.
"It will take us one week to clean the mess caused by the flooding. There are many things to do," Jenel said as she stared at the pile of damp, mildewed clothing piled up in their house.
"For now, what we really need is food and water. The stores here were flooded and the price of food has already gone up. A can of sardines now costs nearly twice as much as before."
"It is hard to start over again, especially since important documents were all soaked with flood water," Jenel said. "However, though we lost most of our belongings, I am thankful that none of us died. The material things can still be replaced."