A True Story of Buoyancy and Bliss

Living | | October 5, 2009 at 8:00 am
Photo by IRRI

Photo by IRRI.

I was born and raised in the Philippines and as I watched the news last week I desperately wanted to book the next flight to Manila:

On September 26th, Typhoon Ketsana, locally known as Ondoy, hit the Philippines with one month’s worth of rain condensed into six hours. 80% of Metro Manila, the country’s capital and major urban residential district, was underwater.

I couldn’t reach my family at all–they had no electricity, no Internet and no cellphone connections. For information I relied on the TV and online news and from what I saw, it wasn’t looking good. Homes were completely submerged, leaving families stranded on their roofs. People I knew were displaced or missing, and recorded deaths were increasing every hour.

Two days later I finally got word from home. My family was safe though their home was in shambles. Some of them lost virtually everything: furniture, electronics, books, photo albums.

Strangely, these phone calls and emails of news exuded a positive vibe. I was expecting my sister to choke up or break down through the receiver but she seemed hopeful and eager to face the aftermath. So did everyone else I talked to. They seemed so eager that they would cut our conversations short to help out a neighbor sweep the mud off the porch, or dash off to volunteer at the nearby church.

My cousin wrote, “Relatives came over to help. We laughed a lot, despite the stench and grime left by the flood.”

I’m sure that there are so many others who have it much worse than my family- some of my friends couldn’t even go back to their homes anymore and have to look for a new place to stay. This left them homeless for a few days. Lives have been lost. But believe me when I say that not a single moment goes by without seeing at least two people smile–covered in mud, from head to toe, their white teeth gleaming. I’ve learned a lot about happiness and the power of positivity in a span of two days and during a time of great calamity.


photo by francesbea

This picture was taken in my alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila University, where relief operations were facilitated for those who lived within the area. Can you read it? It says:

September 26, 2009. ONDOY was here. And so were hundreds of people who unselfishly gave their time and effort helping the thousands misplaced. Our nation is doing FINE. =)

The Philippines was ranked the 14th happiest country in the world by the New Economics Foundation in July 2009, based on average life expectancy, quality of life, and environmental track record.

I think the power of positive thinking and hope in the midst of despair can do so much, not just in terms of attitude, but also in physical well being. I feel so proud to be from the Philippines and so inspired to find happiness even when things seem hopeless.

Those rubber rescue rafts may have kept bodies safe during the flooding, but it was my fellow Filipinos’ joy and positivity that kept them afloat. Which means that under the worst conditions imaginable, you can choose to be buoyant. You can find your bliss.

KarlaKarla Mercado lives in New Mexico and is the author of Balancing Tenderfoot. She is passionate about human medicine, nutrition, and writing.

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  1. Kyla says:

    Hi Karla! I’m glad that you focused on the positive effect of Ondoy. :)

  2. EJ Gamboa says:

    Responses like these — and articles like this — are what make me proud to be pinoy. Yep, we’re doing just fine. :P

  3. Jonette says:

    This is one of the most uplifting posts I’ve read on Ondy, Karla! Bless your dear heart. Would you mind if I post this on my Facebook, tumblr, and blog?

    • Yes, yes, yes Jonnette! Feel free to spread the word. Thanks to WellWire for being very persuasive this past week to get the word out on Ondoy. It’s really very touching and uplifting indeed. :)

  4. nat says:

    Great post Karla! Despite the mayhem the typhoon created, it also gave us a chance to show our best selves… It’s overwhelming how much compassion and generosity everyone has shown– from big corporations to even people in prison! As a friend of mine put it, “I wish that it doesn’t take another calamity for the Pinoy to once again shine.”

    • Yes! The story about the Cebu prisoners who gave up a meal for the victims? That was really amazing! That’s very true what your friend said. I hope this isn’t just a one-time-big-time thing. This is definitely something that should be practiced everywhere and every time.