23 July 2005

Fire!

I was thinking of what to do yesterday after office hours were finally over. It was looking to be an uneventful weekender, so with GMA declaring holiday on Monday, I decided to go home and do my laundry so I can go to Baguio in the afternoon.

I called up Roger, a neighbor and friend in Pasay, to see if he's done with work too and perhaps we can go home together. That arranged, we met outside our building and started the commute home.

In the middle of our travel, Othie (an officemate who rented one room in the apartment a couple of years ago) called me up.

"Where are you?"
"On my way home. Why?"
"There's a fire in your neighborhood. I'm going there to check it out."
"Whaaaat!!!"

When we were near Makati Square, we caught a glimpse of the fire. It was huge! At the boundary of Makati and Pasay, vehicles were no longer being allowed to pass so we walked the rest of the way. Othie later texted that it was quite far from our home, and that I should not worry.

But who wouldn't get worried about a fire so close to home?

"Keep your phone hidden; we're going into the alleyways. It's a shortcut going to the fire. Let's check it out," said Roger.

And so we turned into this really long and narrow passageway which is ... well ... really narrow. If two people meet in this alley, they have to sidestep. And the houses were all joined together. It seemed I did not have to take the extra precaution of having my phone snatched because many of the residents were moving away from the fire with various personal effects in tow. Washing machines, electric fans, bundles of clothes, TV. All had the look of fear, for if the fire got to their place, everything would surely be consumed. And they were even farther from the fire than my apartment!

As we were dodging kids still in school uniforms bearing bags and men and women rushing off, I was thinking about what to save first. The toys? The appliances? The clothes? But I still had time to pack up.

We finally arrived to the scene of the fire. It was only a couple of blocks from our place! The fire was raging, and the narrow streets were not helping any as fire trucks had to fall into queue. We watched as families carried whatever possessions they can save, many crying because they no longer have a house to come back to.

Electricity was cut-off. I went home and started packing. Roger advised not to start panicking, as the fire was definitely not going to reach us. But who can say? What if there's suddenly a strong gust of wind that would send sparks and cinder to our place? I made a mental check of the order by which I would rescue my material possessions. Then we waited outside.

Neighbors who did not usually talk or take notice of each other were chatting about the fire and their fear of it reaching our place, and were asking one another if they had to pack up already. Kids ran to and from a water pump to supply water using pails (there were at least 5 fire trucks there, so this made me wonder why they were running out of water).

The fire was subdued before 9PM. I am thankful that it did not reach our place, and at the same I felt sadness for those who lost their houses that night. I did not have the urge to take photos because I felt it was not proper to document the loss of houses, of people crying, of the fear.

Please, be extra cautious of candles and extension cords in your homes. Check and unplug devices that need unplugging before leaving for work. Double-check if you must. And don't do illegal tapping of electricity. A fire is something that should be taken seriously.
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