Ondoy and CISV

By: Roy Uy

Ondoy and CISV? What has one got to so with the other? Let me tell you.
It was Peace Day 2009. It was my first CISV activity and, I would soon find out, a day most Filipinos would never forget. What I expected to be a fun-filled event in Antipolo turned into entrapment in the City’s Ever Gotesco Mall. The cookfest I was looking forward to became a survival course instead. Because Peace Day 2009 (Septemeber 21) was also the day Typhoon Ondoy blew into town, and the process took many lives and sank much of Metro Manila and Luzon provinces and parts of Visayas and Mindanao.
A bung of kids in tow immediately raised the situation to critical level. Being Adult Leader to four children in any given normal situation is daunting enough. Imagine rendering that role amid a killer typhoon! Good thing I wasn’t alone but in the company of fellow Adult Leaders – all of us drawing strength from each other and our numbers, all of us pooling our energies to keep our children occupied. It was relieving to see that kids would be kids wherever they were or whatever the circumstances. Unmindful of the impending danger, our children whiled the hours away singing, telling jokes, playing, drawing tattoos on each other’s skin.
I have gone through a wide range of difficult experiences, but this was the first that truly life-threatening. We CISV folks, like everyone else locked in that mall, huddled together like evacuees; we passed around a single bottle of water and made a communal bed of the cold floor. Sleep wouldn’t come, though, as the glass walls around us, with its panoramic view of the rising flood outside, filled us with with fear. By now the supermarket on the lower lever was fully submerged. Our only source of provisions were the fast food joints. We clawed our way into their counters and had to settle for whatever we could lay our hands on.
but hunger and thirst were the least if our worries. Emerging from this disaster in one piece was our primary concern. Emerging from this disaster in one piece was our primary concern. The most important thing was we had each other. We adults knew we had to keep things together for the kids, be strong for them. I was initially concerned about the fact that our kids weren’t used to roughing it up. But I was surprised at their composure and adaptability. I was especially grateful that the CISV community exhausted all efforts and resources to have us rescued at the soonest possible time. In the next few days, I observed how CISV members, young and old, would join forces with volunteers nationwide to aid flood victims. In my academic days, I always allotted time for organisations that served the underprivileged. Looking back, it was my experience in community service that prepared me for Ondoy. And in turn, the Ondoy experience reinforced my capacity for coping with difficult situations. Ondoy was like a wake-up call; it gave me a clearer picture of the littlest things I must be grateful for. (Even a clean toilet is priceless.) I am saddened by Ondoy’s tragic aftermath, but in a way I am genuinely appreciative of its gifts of wisdom.
Peace is s very broad concept that involves all sectors of society. Peace is a shared condition – something desired by all. I believe CISV has become a role model for the concept of sharing. Sharing who we are. Sharing what we are. Giving and taking. The exchange paving the way for change and hope.
People come into our lives for a reason. And the relationships formed serve as the building blocks of our character. Sometimes because of our fairly comfortable lives, we get turned in on ourselves and forget our social responsibilities. This is where humbling everyday experiences – such as being placed at the mercy of Mother Nature – come in yo nip false pride. When one finally realises that the concept of family extends beyond blood ties is the moment one becomes truly human and truly an ally of peace.

(This articles was written by Roy Uy and was first published in the 50th Anniversary Book of CISV Philippines)