the standoff today between the military and MNLF forces reminds me of a day almost 12 years ago when another armed group, the MILF, launched an attack on Zamboanga City from their lair in Cabatangan.
we were living in pasonanca then. ariel and me, and our kids rashdi, then six, and jana, just three months old. the news of a rebel attack broke out early in the morning. soon after, loud explosions, too loud explosions, broke out: guns? bombs? rpgs? all of these?
family and friends called and texted, telling us to evacuate. apparently the rebels were exiting cabatangan via pasonanca. there have been sightings of armed men in or near pasonanca - one such sighting took place at duramos drive, about 15 minutes away from our place.
but where to go? to mommy's place in san roque? the rebels were on their way there too. the day after the incident, two or three dead rebels were found in the kukalan (coconut farm) behind NFA, two hundred meters or so away from mommy's house. because they were being bombarded, the rebels fanned out from cabatangan to san roque, sta maria and pasonanca. it was not really safe to be travelling.
so we stayed put. while rashdi played and read and jana slept, and ariel monitored the news, i packed and packed and packed. into the baby bag went two cans of infant milk -- one half-full and one unopened. i figured this would last a week or more since i breastfed too. in went diapers. i had less than ideal, not even two dozens. so in went cloth diapers. and laundry soap of course. medicines for fever, colds, cough. vitamins. baby wash, diaper rash ointment.
the bag was bursting at the seams. and that was just jana's stuff. i haven't even put in the water for the formula and some change of clothes.
i take another bag. rashdi's cloths, toiletries and medicines. some books and toys. yikes! how to fit in the nebulizer??? and will there even be power wherever it is we will go if and when we have to go there? in the same bag goes spare clothes for me and ariel, toiletries, medicines. also food (mostly candies and cookies). i filled a 1.5 liter bottle of coke with water. what point carrying a lot of water when i cannot run fast enough from the rebels because of the weight of my bag? my imagination was on overdrive.
i tell the helper to put together something similar for herself.
then we sit and wait.
i think the government started bombing cabatangan near noon. i found out later that my brothers monching and ryan hid mommy inside the toilet because it seemed the planes would shoot their rockets (?) right as they flew over mommy's house and the entire concrete structure would shake.
that incident, the "cabatangan shit" as how my friend cielito likes to refer to it, left a mark on me. from then onwards, there would always be an emergency evacuation bag under our bed.
here is an old picture of its contents:
over the years the kit has improved. i use the red cross emergency kit as basis. the bag now includes a waterproof lamp, lots of batteries, rope, knife, scissors, first aid provisions, a pack of thermal blankets, and a pack of emergency food rations that look like pieces of jenga. seriously. i bet it would taste like jenga too but nevermind since the label says they are full of nutrients and calories and that one piece is sustenance enough for one person for one day. these last two were sent by my sister girlie who all too willingly feeds my paranoia. right now, i am making ariel look for a wind-up radio to add to the kit. there are solar powered radios too but what if the emergency is a typhoon?
from reading a national geographic article on preparing provisions for extreme treks, i have a jar of vaseline and lots of cotton. these mountaineers say candles are useless even inside tents when the tent is located on the side of a mountain constantly buffeted by strong winds. these experts say the best source of light in a pinch is a wick made from rolling cotton then coating it in vaseline. i have not tried it myself but they said it works. i believe them. these are the people who know exactly how to drink urine when you run out of water.
a lot of people who know about my kit think i am insane. you guys should watch the national geographic show Doomsday Preppers. You have not seen insane until you have seen those guys. as for me, i will continue to maintain that bag under our bed. it might not make the MNLF rebels go away, but if my family needs to run away, i feel safer knowing we will have tissue paper with us.