Soaked, drenched in the Big Apple


NEW YORK—When the heavy unexpected rainfall poured that Wednesday night, renowned Filipino guitarist, composer and conductor Michael Dadap was at his house in Fresh Meadows in Queens where he and his violinist wife, Yeou-Cheng Ma, had been staying for the past four decades.

Just a few hours later, copious rains brought about by remnants of Hurricane Ida started sending floodwaters down the basement that served as his recording studio and library.

Reminiscent of Ondoy, no one expected Hurricane Ida would be bringing record rainfall, flooding subway lines and streets in New York City.

It was not long before the onrushing water rose neck-deep, submerging the two grand pianos, guitars, violins, and other musical instruments and equipment that Dadap had collected over the years.

Dadap’s bungalow had served as the offices of the Children’s Orchestra Society, a foundation established by his wife’s father in 1969. From an initial 13 students, Dadap and his wife—the sister of celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma—have been able to teach music to hundreds of students since they took over the foundation in 1984.

“Except for a few instruments that somehow survived the floods, we lost everything in the basement,” Dadap said as he surveyed the damage. One of two grand pianos in the basement was thrown on its side by the water that forced open the steel door of its street entrance.

Outside the residence, musical sheets, books, vinyl records and compact discs were left to dry.

Same experience for other Pinoys

DADAP was not the only one affected by the flooding. Several other Filipinos in New York and New Jersey went through the same experience that late Wednesday evening. The affected Filipinos were those residing in first floor or basement apartments in low-lying areas.

In Woodside, also in Queens, floodwaters also entered the basement of Aida Bartolome’s multi-story apartment. The basement serves as the office of the Foundation for Filipino Artists that she heads.

She had wanted to go down to save some of her things, but the elderly Filipina artist was persuaded not to proceed by her housemates.

A few doors from her abode, a Filipino family of four laid out all their belongings in their backyard to dry.

The father rushed home as soon as he was told of the floods. The water was already four feet deep when he arrived but could not enter the apartment anymore. He had to use the landlord’s fire exit in the back of the apartment to pull his two children out to safety.

When he found them, the two were drenched and shivering on top of the table as the water continued to come in. He said the refrigerator and other appliances were floating.

Michael Dadap shows the damage to his basement recording studio and library.

Lost baby stuff

An expectant mother, Berniece Bernabe, and her husband, a Filipino-American police officer, were among those also affected by the floods.

Water also entered their basement apartment along Grand Avenue in Queens. Berniece, who is expected to give birth anytime, lost all the baby stuff she had been putting together during the past several weeks.

Consul General in NYC Elmer G. Cato visited some of the victims, and posted on social media that he was then in an area in Woodside that ended up under several feet of water just two hours after he passed by.

Meanwhile, several staff members of the Philippine Consulate General and the Philippine Mission to the United Nations reported water damage to their furniture and appliances and even their vehicles.

No Pinoy casualty

Consul General Elmer G. Cato (right) talks to flooding victims in New York City.

Luckily, no Filipino was among the casualties in the floods that left more than 45 people dead, 13 of them in New York City alone. Among the dead were a family of three, including a two-year-old boy not far from Aida Bartolome’s place.

The three who drowned inside their basement apartment were initially reported to be Filipinos but turned out to be from Nepal.

Like New York authorities, Cato admitted that the consulate underestimated the extent of the floods, even if it has issued an advisory to members of the Filipino community shortly after the flashflood warnings were issued.

No one just expected that Hurricane Ida, which had significantly weakened by the time it swept through the United States’ northeast, would be bringing with it record rainfall.

Shades of Ondoy, as Filipinos recalling the flashfloods that paralyzed Metro Manila for two weeks in September 2009 would recall.

In Central Park alone, more than three inches of rain was recorded in just one hour.

Some Filipinos, most of whom have gone through similar floods in Manila, apparently also took the warnings for granted until the photos and videos of the floods started to appear in social media showing streets being transformed into rivers and subway stations becoming drainage systems.

Call for bayanihan

Although many Filipinos were affected by the floods, only few have actually reached out to the consulate for assistance.

“It’s possible that many have already been able to avail themselves of relief and other assistance from local authorities, especially those with regular immigration status,” Cato said. “What we are worried about are our undocumented kababayans who were the ones most likely affected by the floods but who would not want to call out for help because they would not want to compromise their immigration status,” he added.

The consulate had sounded a call for bayanihan after it saw the extent of the damage caused by the floods. Several organizations quickly responded. Some provided baby clothes and other supplies.

Others donated cash while a few offered to pay for replacement passports of those whose passports were damaged by the floods.

The consulate itself had offered to waive the notarization fee for the affidavit of damage or mutilation that applicants for replacement passports need to submit.

A few days after the floods, Berniece was able to get the baby supplies that were donated to her. Michael and his wife were still trying to dry out the musical sheets and other pieces.

He estimated the cost of the damage to be around $500,000. Unfortunately, Dadap had no flood insurance. “We can eventually replace the instruments but it would be difficult to recover the musical compositions that we lost,” Dadap said. “I guess I would have to start writing what I remember.”

Images courtesy of Troi Santos and Andre Olfindo

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