Daily Prompt – Fight or Flight / FireNovember 27, 2012
I remember vividly the time after midnight when I went home in March 1998. As I walked down the road towards the street where I live, I saw water gushing down. It was summer so where could the water be coming from, I wondered. There was no electricity either. As I come nearer to our place, my heart started to pound as I saw fire hoses depleted with water. And then the fire trucks. There wasn’t much activity by then. It was unusual for our lively neighborhood to be “dead.” My walk became faster until I found myself running towards home. I thought of my old mother who by then was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, a disabled brother and my then 11-year old son. I left them to the care of a househelper and an elder brother to attend to an important function. It was one of those rare days when I had to leave them.
When I saw the fire hoses, I was already thinking of the worst; that a fire burned down the neighborhood. But my mind was focused on my loved ones. Where are they? I was rushing straight to our house not caring who were around. A friend stopped me; offered me a glass of water. Everybody were quiet. When she asked me to calm down, that served as confirmation of my fears. We lost our house and everything in it: the most valuable documents being kept by my parents, irretrievable photographs, the book collection and some of the historical researches of my historian brother that we were then readying for publication, my own personal collection of artbooks, and my paintings. Made of wood, it took only about less than an hour to burn according to the neighbors. And, most unbelievably, the fire started from my room: faulty electrical wiring, or short circuit, they later said. I felt some indescribable weight on me. I felt heavy…
But my family members were safe I was told. They were brought safely to a niece’s place nearby. I heaved a sigh of relief, thanked my friend and proceeded to go. It was dark but I could with the help of moonlight saw our formless house, gutted down to ashes as I walked past it. The house where I grew up carrying memories of good, old days is gone. Nevertheless, memories live. I could only but thank God that nobody got hurt; my loved ones safe. What that incident taught me, and what I am thankful for until now is my non-attachment to materials things. I never shed a single tear for losing the house and everything that we had in it. Above everything on earth, whom we love and care for comes uppermost. Who and what is important to us would have its hierarchy clear to us, especially in unexpected disasters such as this one.. My faith in God also made me stronger after that. “We shall overcome!” – became my mantra. I found courage to start anew with the belief that God is always there with me. Faith helped my spirit triumphed; it has helped me recovered from whatever repercussions the fire loss had brought us.
Now, I only buy what I need. I had stopped collecting “things” and stopped painting as well. I started to collect ideas and make them into advocacy films; and in between continues to compile and publish the writings of my brother. I am now left with a volume out of five book compilation of his historical writings that I promised him. He died six years after the fire incident.