It is that time of year again when the rainy season is in full swing.  Though I live in a gated community, I am no stranger to the floods. My house is in a street that fills up pretty quickly when a bad storm hits. Though many see it as unfortunate that floodwaters have risen as high as 6 feet inside my home, I always have a safe and dry place to go when I evacuate. I am still one of the lucky ones. My heart truly breaks for all the victims that lose so much and don’t have the means to replace them or worse, fall into sickness, injury and sometimes, even death in the most severe of cases.

Though we see terrible typhoons every year, Ondoy hurt us more than ever before. Since then, it is only the recent typhoon Maring that has been comparable. This is a personal account of how it affected me:

I remember the rains beginning to get strong as early as Saturday, continuing on to Sunday. I came home from the whole day spent in my parent’s house to a part of the village already flooding slightly in some of the lower streets. Knowing the drill, we parked our vehicles in some of the higher streets and moved some furniture from the first floor to the second in case water levels rose in the night. And in deed, they did. Our street flooded but luckily the water just barely came into the house. On Monday, I came home early because the rains came at a steady pace. I wanted to cook something warm and hearty that we could continue to heat up and serve over the next few days. (More about this later) We enjoyed this meal for dinner and went to bed early. At around 3am Tuesday morning, I just knew that the rain would not let up. I had our guard dogs moved upstairs and my husband and I brought up a few more valuables. We tried to go back to sleep but the thunder and lightning together with the relentless rainfall kept us worrying. By around 7am the water had already become around 2 feet high inside our home.  It did not take much time before it doubled and decisions had to be made. Do we wait it out with not enough food and water for our family and staff or try to leave while we can? (Meaning before our front door gets completely covered) I, being what my husband calls a “high-strung and panicky woman”, had to get my children out. So calls were made and it was decided that we would go with whoever rescuers made it to us first.  My cousin Fred Gonzales lives a few streets down. He arrived (and when I say arrived, I mean he swam to us) with a blow up boat. My husband put our 2 older daughters in first, then I together with our youngest. The 2 men then swam us out to safety. I will forever be grateful to Fred for being so gallant and I will always see him as someone who truly saved us. When we were clean (doused in alcohol and a hot bath) and dry, I found out the VP Jejomar Binay and his son, Mayor Junjun Binay also came to our house with the intention to rescue us. Though we were no longer there, I would like to send my deepest gratitude. I know he did save many others who reside in my village.

I may have suffered, but nothing in comparison to those that are left helpless. I have added a link below to where you can find all the relief efforts to assist those who need it most. Please send whatever goods you can, whether it is food, old clothes, blankets, pampers  or sanitary pads, medicine, first aid materials… ANYTHING. All will be a appreciated.

As promised earlier, here is my recipe for one of the most comforting dishes, a local version of Chicken Noodle Soup. This is always perfect to serve when the weather turns cold and a good way to include vegetables into your children’s meal.

Chicken Sotanghon

  • 3 bone-in Chicken Breasts, cleaned, skins removed and set aside
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 2 Celery stalks, one whole and one sliced
  • 1/8 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 handful of Atsuete (Annatto) Seeds
  • 1 Chicken Cube
  • 1 medium sized Red Onion, chopped
  • 1 Leek stalk, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 2 medium sized Carrots, julienned
  • 1 head of Cabbage, shredded
  • 1 package Sotanghon (Vermicelli) Noodles
  • Patis (Fish Sauce)
  • Salt & Pepper

I begin by placing 1 full celery stalk and 3 bay leaves in around 6 cups of water over high heat. Once it is boiling, I drop the chicken breasts. It usually takes the chicken around 20 minutes to cook.

While waiting, I proceed to make my atsuete oil, atsuete water and soup base. In a small pan, heat around 1/8 of a cup of vegetable oil and fry the left over chicken skin until golden brown. Once crisp, remove from heat and set aside on paper towels to drain oil. Lower heat, add a handful of atsuete seeds and sauté until the chicken oil becomes a rich orange-red color. Replace the small pan with a large soup pot, retaining the low heat then strain the atsuete chicken oil into the pot. While the oil heats, take the left over atsuete seeds and place in a bowl. Take a cup or two of the chicken stock (from the pot where your chicken is boiling) and put in the bowl with the seeds to make your atsuete water. Dissolve the chicken cube in the same bowl and set aside.

If chicken is cooked, remove from heat, shred and set aside. Keep the left over broth as it will be the stock for your soup.

By now, your atsuete oil is at a perfect low heat and you can add your red onion, leeks and garlic. You may add salt and pepper if you wish. Once tender, add celery, carrots and shredded chicken. Strain your atsuete water into this along with the left over chicken broth and bring to a boil.

While waiting, prepare your noodles. Soak the vermicelli noodles for around 5 minutes in water. Once tender, transfer to the pot along with the shredded cabbage. Season with patis, salt and pepper and let flavors come together for around 3-5 minutes. Mince the chicken skin set aside from earlier. Turn off the heat and serve immediately, topped with the crispy chicken skin.