A notification pierced through the 6:00 a.m. silence. Sonya’s heartbeat skipped erratically whenever she heard the familiar tone, telling her that her classes are waiting.
The sound of her class Messenger group came one after the other. With a rare tinge of excitement, she grabbed her phone from her bedside table and checked her messages.
“Thank you, Lord!” she exclaimed, grinning at the sight of the “NO 8 AM CLASS” message on her screen. The day would have been perfect had it not been for gray clouds outside. Sonya walked to her window, pulling apart the curtains.
“Uulan na naman,” she sighed, the fear of a flooded Taft filling her mind.
Despite the gloom of the weather, Sonya prepared herself for the day ahead of her, exiting her front door by 10:00 a.m. An hour later, she gets off at Taft and walks along the reeking grounds that stained the soles of her shoes. Grinning at the sight of the familiar building, she finally entered Benilde’s Taft campus.
“Ang mukha ko naman talagang parang road to heaven na,” Sonya mumbled after tapping her ID card on the scanner, allowing the smooth edges of the turnstile to let her through. Before she could tuck her ID card away, a familiar bell tolled.
“Hala, Angelus na!”
She rushed to the nearest restroom to wait it out, a technique she’d learned when she was just a frosh. She checked her appearance in the mirror as exchanges of Hail Mary resounded throughout the campus.
After the prayer reached its end, her phone buzzed. Emma.
“Girl, where are you?” she hysterically asked.
“I’m actually on my way to the LRC,” Sonya answers as she leaves the restroom.
“Ah, nandito lang kami sa mga nipa huts.”
“Sige, puntahan ko na lang kayo.”
After she hung up, Sonya made her way to Plaza Villarosa.
Sonya’s heart raced at the sound of her friend’s voice. It had really been too long. She ran to the furthest nipa hut where Emma and her friend Lani shrieked at her arrival. They rushed into one another’s arms.
Sonya’s eyes began to well. “I missed you ladies so much...Buti na lang hindi umuulan when I walked to school,” she hugged them tighter.
“Ano ka ba, Sonya?!” Emma exclaimed. “Ang drama mo naman! Parang kahapon lang nagtatanong ka sa ‘kin if we have assignments for today.”
“Eh kasi ba naman, it’s normal to feel this way especially with quarantine for more than a year tapos ngayon lang nag physical classes ulit.” Sonya laughed, “I also made it a habit to check BigSky daily.”
Emma’s eyebrows furrow. “Ginagamit ang BigSky?”
“Quarantine?” Lani joins in, squinting their eyes at their friend.
Sonya only laughs. “Sige, magkunwari pa kayo. Kung pwede lang sana ibalik ‘yung oras, eh. Ang daming buhay na nawala.”
Emma and Lani exchange troubled looks. For an instant, a distant rumbling of thunder resounded through the air. Sonya looked up to see the sky dimming, the clouds becoming heavier with rain. They have to get out of the square soon.
“Wait, let me show you what I mean,” she told them, taking out her phone. Another roll of thunder echoes, but she pays it no mind. With shaky fingers, she searches COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sonya,” Lani starts, “I think it’s best if we get back inside—”
“This won’t take long.”
Results: 2002-2004 SARS Outbreak. Merriam Webster Pandemic meaning. Pandemic vs Epidemic.
Relax, it’ll pop up anytime now. Sonya thought as her hands began to tremble. She refreshed the page to no avail. Her legs gave way, but the pain of hitting the ground is cushioned by the shock.
“Hindi...” her voice came out as a whisper. Sonya shut her eyes and shook her head. She grabbed her forearm, pinching the part that received her vaccine. It happened, I know it did.
She opened her eyes. Emma and Lani are nowhere to be seen.
Her lips tremble. She grabs onto the stone bench for leverage, trying to stand up.
When finally on her feet, she felt something cold wrap around her ankles, followed by the sound of rushing water filling her ears. She forced herself to look down. Her feet are submerged beneath dark drainage water, its putrid smell beginning to pervade the air.
In the blink of an eye, the water reached her knees. She climbed the table before having any time to cry out. To her horror, flood water filled the deserted campus square, swallowing all that stood in it. Sonya attempted to stomp through the water to get to higher ground, but it was no use.
“Emma! Lani! Tulong!”
Her screams reach no one. Trapped beneath the isolated hut, the water ascended quickly and enclosed her against the cement roof.
Her eyes shot open at the sound of thunder.
Rain hammers down against the steel roof. A crack of lightning fills the evacuation center, briefly illuminating the pale face of her mother in the dark modular tent. Lying frozen on the concrete floor, Sonya’s breath catches in her throat, as if drowning in cold flood water. She feels her mother take her head into her arms.
“Breathe. It’s okay,” her mother whispers, lightly patting her sweaty forehead.
“What about Emma? Lani?”
“Hindi ko alam, anak.”
Sonya’s eyes began to sting. Her gaze wanders around the tent and lands on a box of facemasks at their feet.
Burying her face in her mother’s arms, her sobs are drowned out by the storm outside the evacuation center.