In Provident Village alone, i personally witnessed the courage and bravery of many men, average by social standards, destitute by others, putting the safety of others before themselves.
When we opened the gates of the zendo to our neighbours, i saw from my vantage point in waist-high water our village sweepers helping families with their things, escorting them to areas of safety. I saw feuding neighbors assist each other. I saw mansions opening up their homes to poor families seeking higher ground.
Shortly before water engulfed the zen center's second floor, our next door neighbors who sought refuge in the zendo came to us like long lost relatives. The warmth that this group exuded made me believe that we will get through this disaster in one piece.
Young men i never knew before that day consulted with us regarding the best strategy to get to higher ground. Maybe it was divine providence or sheer luck, but our little clique, at least to my mind, was the best equipped to face the challenges of Ondoy. The De Guzman family brought thermal foam and a ladder, the Pinedas brought food. It was as if the universe was consipring to help us get through this experience.
When we were in need of drinking water, rain poured. When we were cold, the rains stopped. Even the little toddler who was with us showed no signs of being affected by nature's wrath. He was laughing and smiling through most of the ordeal. I think that the only time i heard him cry was in the morning when they were minutes away from being resuced by his grandfather.
This experience made me believe that the flood was an equalizer. Rich and poor huddled together on rooftops sharing whatever they had, or braving hunger together. If there was one thing Ondoy taught me, it is that the human spirit is hard to kill, and that filipinos, if they really really set their minds and hearts to it, can break ranks and work hand in hand with one another.
Everyone on the rooftops that day was not a victim: they were - still are - heroes. Their rescillience and resolve to survive made them their own saviors.
Yesterday when i met with the officers of the Zen Center in Katipunan, one of them remarked that i was a hero who saved 21 souls. I don't believe that. There were 21 heroes on our roof alone, and countless others on distant rooftops.
Heroism is just another word to describe a survivor. We managed to survive because we knew that death, a least for that particular moment, was not an option. That is not to say that those who perished are not heroes too. In their effort to fight for their survival, they tried their best, and though they perished as a result, they too are heroes.
Heores abound in times of adversity, trials and tribulations. We are all heroes.