Bagyong Ondoy aftermath, a collector’s tale

Bagyong Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana international code) is now considered as one of the worst rains and flooding which hit Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Luzon. Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) Quezon city rain gauge measured 410.6 mm ( 16 inches) of rains that fell in the span of 9 hours!  The rainfall is equivalent to more than 1 month of rainfall for the month of September.

The last one recorded was June of 1967 with 341  mm of rainfall in a day. There are several stories of survival and how collectors manage to save one belongings or their collection.

A well-known Filipino director saved his precious Picasso paintings in a posh riverside subdivision while rampaging floodwaters reached the first level of his home. Another Filipino – Chinese collector managed to save his stamp collection by storing them on the 3rd floor of his home near Sienna College that was under several feet of floodwaters. A toy collector from Antipolo managed to salvage his entire toy collections by putting them in the attic several hours before his home was inundated by flood which reached second level of his home. Two stamp and curio dealers in Recto Manila collections were reached by floodwaters.

While several antique dealers from Ermita collection suffered water damage. These are just few of the harrowing tales of collectors saving their precious collections that have been part of their lives. But in this time of epic floods and countless people suffering, saving ones earthly belongings just came second to saving their precious lives.

An orchid and plant collector in Rolling Hills Resort and Orchard in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela city suffered major damage in his collection.  Several days of rains and floods took a heavy toll in his collection. Several of his orchids were hit by fungus and floodwater dislodged many of his mounted orchids. I told this collector to quickly salvage most of his collections and try to immediately spray fungicide to his precious collections. After all plants needed to be saved.

Philippine stamp issued in 1943 with ” Baha”

1943, December 8. Semi-Postal.  Flood Relief Campaign (Baha).  Overprinted definitive issues.  Watermarked (curved wavy lines), Perf 13 x 13 1/2.  Bureau of Printing, Manila (overprint).  100/sheet, 10 x 10.

Floods and natural catastrophes are recorded in the annals of our nation’s history. A strong typhoon swept in November 1943 in the country.  A set of semi-postal  stamp series  was issued in December 1943 after  a strong typhoon caused massive flooding  in order to raise funds for the victims . Then Japanese sponsored republic with overprinted “ Baha” ( Flood)  was meant to raise additional revenue for the cash strapped government, the flood killed countless number of people and animals.

Issued December 8, 1943 which coincided with the second anniversary of the Great East Asia War (GEAWAR).  The official First Day Cover cachet commemorates this event instead of the flood relief campaign.  Due to strong protests from the public, particularly the stamp collectors, an appropriate FDC cachet was issued on December 22.  This cover is referred to as the Second First Day Cover of this issue.

Back then, people would barely write letters to their love ones since letters were heavily censored and the Japanese routinely opens letters to see any propaganda items being stored in the letters.

informal settlers within Kingspoint subdivision

Floods affected a lot of people especially those who lived near the creeks, rivers and flood plains. Informal settlers in various parts of the Metropolis also suffered a lot of losses.  examples are Bicol, Oro, Dupax, Alipio compound within Kingspoint subdivision in Barangay  Bagbag  , Novaliches in Quezon City . According to some of the old-timers in the place, this was the worst flood in recent memories.

Philippine National Red Cross sponsored relief operation

Residents of the subdivision, NGO groups like Philippine National Red Cross, Sagip Kapamilya, Kapuso, government and barangay had extended help to these informal settlers.

Although majority of these settlers do not pay monthly dues, taxes and sometimes post a security threat in surrounding villages.  Still a lot more of the residents in the informal communities are deeply entrench in the community, some are tricycle drivers, taxi drivers, ambulant vendor, security guards, lavanderas, barangay tanods, household helpers, carpenters among others.

Days after the great deluge, hope spring eternal to these communities which started to rebuilt from pieces of plywood, galvanized roof, with  the spirit of bayanihan still lives on…

Here is a simple checklist on what to with your collections during floods:

1.) Follow all emergency rules, guidelines by the National Disaster Coordinating Council -Philippines or Pambansang Tanggapan para sa Pagtugon ng Sakuna which is under the Philippine National Defense and office of the President.

2.)Try to store your collectibles especially cellulose based materials in cool, dry place as much as possible with even temperature ( air-conditioned room and temperature controlled environments ( with de-humidifier) for professional collections like those in Lopez Museum , Ortigas Gallery which had extensive collections of books, paper based materials, post cards, old photographs, paintings  ) quite expensive to maintain .  For flood prone areas , collectors placed their collections in 2nd floor or 3rd floor of their houses away from flood waters.

3.) Wear protective gear like face mask  and gloves .

4.) Document the extent of the damage -take photographs (old buildings, stamps, documents, paintings etc…) wait for the flood water to recede.

5.) Clean everything with diluted disinfectant  that got wet or had been soaked by flood water.

6.) Allow saturated materials to dry using natural ventilation. Avoid drying them under the hot tropical sun !  especially paintings , stamps and cellulose based materials.

7.) If they are from flood damaged stamps or soaked off SASE stamps from envelopes that were never used, they are still legal, however, it is a real hassle to put  glue these on envelopes whenever you want to send a letter.

8.) Try to use cotton gloves for pre-war stamps . Paper used before the war may be brittle.

9.) Paper that has been in equatorial  regions with heavy  rainy seasons are obvious but just as invidious is the long-term effect of micro-organisms introduced in a variety of ways but especially from personal handling, breathing on them and especially on stamps and banknotes , the effect of licking and  holding . Change of color in stamp is due to temperature , moist and humidity ( tropical stains) cellulose based materials are susceptible to these damage.

10.) Knowledge of inks used before is quite essential .

11.) Never try to attempt or  lift a wet  paper from the water by a corner. Always place the cover on a suitable sized  flat plate of glass before immersion and lift out using the glass. The cover can be dried and pressed between sheets of blotting paper in a ‘press’ including the glass plate. Use gloves at all times !

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