Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Day-old News

We had an exciting day here yesterday. Marguerite and I were still in bed around 8am (Husband had gone to work early as he had an important presentation at Microsoft) when my mother poked her head in and said, "There's a fire close by. The smoke's coming from somewhere really near." In a heartbeat, I had scooped Marguerite up and brought her to my grandmother's house at the front of the compound (my parents' house is at the back). I handed her to my cousin Jaymee and went out to our sidewalk (in my sleeping clothes) to better see where the smoke was coming from. It looked like it was coming from about two buildings behind our place. That's close. I ran back inside, called 161 (our 911) to see if the fire had already been reported because the firefighters hadn't been anywhere close at that time (we couldn't hear sirens) and the dispatcher told us that it had. I asked her where the fire was and she said it was across Banco de Oro on the main thoroughfare (our street is adjacent to this road). I knew then it was the hardware store with all its flammables (paint, thinner, solvent glue, etc.) and as I hung up I thought I heard a series of explosions, so I moved into action although it turned out to be just one of the fire engines' muffler.
I changed into Tshirt and shorts, got our money, my purse, Husband's electronic gadgets, and a couple of other things into an over-sized tote and ran back into my grandmother's house. I handed it to one of our helpers and ran back to ring Husband (He ended up rushing back home and taking the entire day off). He reminded me to get our important documents out (right, I actually forgot about those), some of his photography equipment (he had most of them with him), my laptop (I thought about grabbing the CPU of the desktop - it had about four hours of work there I had yet to turn in and all those pictures that never got printed, argh...) By this time, the smoke was pretty thick, my mom had already shut down our power (as opposed to the last time) and the firefighters were telling our street to evacuate even if only for the smoke. I had already told Jaymee to bring Marguerite and go along with my mom and my sister (who had to walk quite far in her condition). Most of the helpers had already evacuated, so I left most of the things I'd hauled out in my grandmother's living room except for the big tote and ran to the corner where the smoke hadn't reached yet. When I got there, my sister was sitting on one of the benches outside the bakery. She was panting for breath, but she seemed to be composed enough (she gets anxiety attacks and we were afraid that the panic would set her off). Marguerite was still in her pjs and had apparently saved her binky.:)
I remember running back and forth, at one point to tell a couple of our helpers who stayed back with my aunt and dad (who was actually at the sports complex when all this started - he saw the smoke from there) to start putting things inside my dad's vehicle. My dad they said was on the roof. I thought he was hosing our exterior with water, but he was just there calmly watching the smoke. I called out to him and asked if we shouldn't load the things into the car yet and he said there was no need; there was a tall firewall and the smoke was already white anyway. I went back to the corner and helped tend to Chip. Lalaine, our nanny, went back to get Chip's wheelchair and a pillow and I bought water from the bakery. We stayed there until the smoke had cleared.
Some interesting points from this experience:
1. I have asthma and had no trouble running back and forth in the smoke (someone's cigarette smoke is usually enough to set off an attack) - the wheezing came afterwards when we were settling back inside the house.
2. There was a woman standing in the middle of our street (the road was closed off, there was no traffic save for a fire engine parked in front of my great aunt's house next to our compound) and rebuking the fire. Honestly, she gave me goosebumps, but in a good way. Of course, we were all praying but she was there in front of the crowd saying in a forceful voice with her hands up brandishing the fire away, "In Jesus' name, fire and smoke, begone!" The credit for the fire not spreading might actually go to her and not to the firefighters who had arrived somewhat late. :)
3. One of our helpers, Vina who is somewhat of a tomboy, was at the market when it all started and when she found out where the big fire was, she started crying. She got home, saw the place powerless and seemingly empty and started bawling in front of the neighbors and onlookers (the residents were evacuated, but the mirones came by in droves). I think Vina'll continue to be razzed over this for a long time, lol.
4. In the short span of time since the fire started, there were already multiple versions of the story going around. The one that seemed the most credible (because one of our helpers said she got it straight from one of the hardware's gofers) was that the fire started because the business owner, a female Filipino-Chinese, had an accident with the incense she was using for praying. Apparently, she did that for luck everyday right before business hours.
5. The fire was contained because the hardware building was all concrete. It touched the ceiling of the walkway it shares with several other businesses, but the appliance store right next to it was unharmed (I'm not sure if it got soaked inside though). The house on the other side of the hardware (a relative's - we're practically all related here, if not by blood, then by marriage) also remained untouched.
6. Ate Baby, my grandmother's housekeeper, is being razzed by the neighbors, saying "Hey, Baby, how come you saved Jackie (the dog), but you're letting Jay (my uncle) sleep through the fire?" Apparently, as soon as the fire started, Ate Baby got her Bible, took Jacky by the leash and went out. They're just razzing, of course. Tito Jay wasn't even in the house.
7. It was the tricycle drivers who alerted us about the fire. They opened our gates and prepared to help evacuate things. Some of them helped out the beauty parlor (a relative's) two doors down, some helped the computer shop (a cousin's), and they would have helped the clinic too, but it was still closed. Nothing got stolen. Like I said, this isn't the best of neighborhoods, but it has retained the small-town Marikina feel despite it now being more of a commercial district (it was a farming area when my grandparents first built their house).
8. Oh, and as I was buying water from the bakery, somebody had just bought cigarettes and proceeded to light one right next to us. I rather rudely told him to "Move away. I have a baby right here." He docilely obeyed.
9. None of us actually panicked. We just did what we thought was SOP in that kind of situation, but we were certain the entire time that God had His hand upon us, so we didn't need to be afraid.


kryzteta said...

Oh my! I'm glad you're all safe. Thank God for that lady :)
Number 3 is a winner, lol! I remembered meeting her on Midge's birthday and had to say "oh so you're ate Vina :) "

spinninglovelydays said...

Thanks, Christine!:)

Sarah Renee said...

goodness .. glad that you and your family are safe.. Hi, My name is Sarah and I found your blog from the simple lady's blog. I noticed you live in the Philippines. My husband is 3/4 filipino and my mother in law is full. How do you like living over their? Your daughter is adorable as well. God Bless
Sarah Smith

spinninglovelydays said...

Thanks, Sarah. Which part of the Philippines is your husband's family from? Glad you could stop by.:)