Have you ever had an experience so extraordinary that it changed your life forever?
I had one, about 3 years ago.
It was the day I almost died.
When someone goes through something like it, he learns to respect life, and how easy everything can be taken away.
This experience changed my life and started my ongoing journey of wanting to have a more meaningful and purposeful life.
Friend, I want to share it with you, so that you’ll understand why I care more about people than material possessions.
To save me from the stress of telling you the story all over again, below is the unedited account from my former Multiply blog, Up on The Roof, circa 2009:
THE UNDETECTED SACREDNESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES
God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
TO BEGIN WITH
September 8, 2009 was a day I almost died. Let me tell you how…
THE UNDETECTED SACREDNESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES (part 1 of 2)
Sometimes in life, things happen as if there was no sense in it happening. As if you are put into a circumstance that you cannot understand at all. A little bit of caution: If you have high blood pressure or a weak heart, please do not read the paragraphs below. Thank you.
5:30 pm: I was driving home from work in the midst of a daylong heavy rain and, by that time, signs of flooding on the streets were evident. I passed through the Subic Freeport’s
and saw the river almost going
over it. Big mistake: I went on and ignored it. Kalaklan Bridge
5:35 pm: Denielle called and asked me where I was. I told her I was driving and am along
Kalaklan Road, and that the traffic is
unmoving. I said I’d be home at about 15 minutes, the usual time it takes for
me to travel.
5:45 pm: I used some street smarts and found a way to be in Mabayuan, driving forward at the shoulder of the opposite side of the road. Providentially, not a single police officer or traffic enforcer was in sight to see me. I really wanted to reach home as soon as possible despite the very heavy rain because I thought my family might need me.
5:55 pm: I reached the “Filtration” area, where barangays Mabayuan, Sta. Rita, and
meet in an intersection. Traffic stopped suddenly, but I was unaware of the
cause. I stopped right in front of the Subic Water gate, about 20 meters from
the Sta. Rita bridge. Floodwater is ankle-deep. A huge delivery truck was in
front of me so I couldn’t see what’s ahead. Gordon Heights
5:58 pm: A maroon Odyssey van, and an old corolla were backing from the front of the truck in the opposite side of the road. They were saying something to me, but I couldn’t hear. Rain was too heavy. The truck in front of me started moving forward towards the flood then into the bridge.
6:00 pm: The unthinkable happened.
The strong current tossed a white old car behind me backwards. Some people were inside; I never knew what happened to them. I pushed the brakes real hard and pulled the hand brake to its maximum in an effort to not also be carried away by the flood.
An idea came to me and I released the hand brakes. I drove up the ramp of the bakery in my right side. People were screaming, telling me to get out. Water inside slightly went down to my legs, but only seconds after, quickly came back to my stomach. I lifted my laptop with my right hand to protect it from the water inside, and tried to get out of the driver’s side door. I gave the door two big shoves (and for those who know how hard I shove, try to imagine), but it wouldn’t budge. The water outside was already too great.
Some people outside opened the passenger’s side door for me. I reached out with my right hand, the one with the laptop, and immediately someone took the computer. They pulled me out. My shoes were taken off my feet in the process and were swept away by the flood.
The engine was still running as I watched the car submerging deeper into the great flood. I went back inside in a last-ditch effort to save the car. The door closed mechanically. I pushed the accelerator pedal steadily so it wouldn’t enter the muffler, but water was coming up to my chest.
I told the Lord in prayer, “Father, this car belongs to you. You’re the one who gave this to me, and you’re also the only one who has the right to take it back.” Finally, I gave up and released my grip on the steering wheel. I decided to get out of the car and save myself.
The door on the driver’s side still wouldn’t move after again huge shoves. I tried the other door, but it was too far from me, and water outside also was up to its windows. People couldn’t come to me anymore because the water got deeper and the current was becoming stronger. I thought of opening the windows but the engine stopped abruptly, leaving me trapped and helpless inside.
My heart began to beat so fast as water started moving up again, people were screaming outside, I’m beginning to think that this is the end of the line for me. I started shouting “Saklolo! Tulungan niyo po ako!” repeatedly while kicking the car doors. I thought of Denielle and Ryah, how they are waiting for me at home. I thought of Ryah growing up and being chased by boys. I was worrying who’s going to provide for her anymore. Tears flowed from my eyes as I said to myself, “Wala na.” I suddenly realized that life is very short to waste it away on temporary things.
I told the Lord, “Father, if this is it, then I’ll gladly come home to you. Please take care of my family.”
Then the miracle happened…
I heard a loud thud from under the car, and then it started floating. Yes, the 2,000-kilogram car started floating! Water inside went down to my legs again, but I found myself and the car being swept away by the current backwards.
People started screaming again because I was headed to an electric post with a live wire sticking out. People were shouting, “babangga siya sa kuryente! Makukuryente tayong lahat!”
With that, three men unknown to me dove the water and caught the car from the back, guiding me away from the concrete post. I opened the door and jumped out. I found out that the water outside was already chest-deep. I calculated in my mind that if I haven’t floated, then the whole car would have already been fully underwater by now. And I already drowned and am already dead.
I instructed the three men to help me get the car on higher ground. We moved towards the bridge with all our might. The car seemed to be very light at this point.
We reached the bridge and as we adjusted the car parallel to it, water suddenly went down and back to the river. It was as if a force gently put down the car on the bridge.
I was soaking all over, crying and thanking God over and over again. I thought I was dreaming. I keep on waking myself up, but no, this is real, this is really happening, I realized… and again, I praised and thanked God for giving me a second chance.
Everything happened in a span of about ten minutes. Talk about a flash flood.
(to be continued next week)
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” - ROMANS 8:28
THE UNDETECTED SACREDNESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES (part 2 of 2)
As promised last week, here are the answers to “frequently asked questions” about my flash flood experience:
1. What happened to your laptop? My laptop was taken from me when I tried to get out of the car the first time. Moments later after I am already safe and the car is on higher ground, I found out that it was taken by a 14-year old young lady by the name of “Marites”. She was the storekeeper of the bakery I mentioned about. I couldn’t forget her words when she told me “Huwag kang mag-alala, kuya, hindi naman po mawawala ito. Binabantayan ko.” Maybe an angel in disguise.
2. What happened to your shoes? Moments after I got my laptop back, a 7-year old came running towards me and handed me my pair of shoes. He said, “Kuya, kuya, sapatos mo!” excitedly. A cherub, maybe.
3. Who were the three guys that helped you? I only remembered the name of two of them, Paulo and Empoy. The third guy is Paulo’s nephew. Paulo, apparently the leader of the group, invited me at his house near the bridge to have dinner. Of course, I’m happy to say yes, first because I’m already cold and hungry, and secondly because I know that he will be blessed back for blessing others. I can’t keep that from him. Their house was also flooded but he and his family seem to not mind. They were friendly and simple. His wife was my schoolmate in high school. Her name’s Raquel, two years older than me, but, sadly, I don’t remember her. Praise God for these three warriors.
4. How did you get home? This is Phutie’s question. :) One and a half hours after I was flooded (this is about 8:00 pm), I tried to start the car and it worked. And, as if on cue, just as I started the car, Denielle arrived. After many thank-yous and God-bless-yous to Paulo and his crew, we were able to drive home safe and sound.
The car is in Toyota Pampanga now, with the aircon’s fan blower and air bags being replaced. No damage to the engine and electrical parts whatsoever. Hopefully, we can pick it up this Saturday.
On top of all that, I thank God for providing everything our family needs during this experience. I thank God for the people who helped us. The Lord knows all of them by name and I pray that He will give it back to them a hundredfold. Thank you to my parents who were always very supportive, especially my dad. He knows what I mean. Thank you to our church family who were always here with us, caring and encouraging. Thank you to my old friends, even though they are miles away, they never fail to give comfort in their own little ways. And of course, thank you Denielle. For your prayers. For your patience. Thanks.
MAKE ME A PROMISE
With that, I would like you all to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to work, on your way home, or if you’re just driving or walking down a road, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn’t have to be something you see – it could be a scent, perhaps, of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone’s house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one dry leaf as it falls gently to the ground. The smiles of people around you. Please look for these things, and cherish them. For although it may sound trite to some, these things are the stuff of life. The little things God put here on earth for us to enjoy. The things we often take for granted. We must make it important to notice them, for at any time… believe me, it can all be taken away.
I’m happy I got to say these words before my time came. And I’m happy I get to share these thoughts with the ones I love so much. Sleep Warm.