Today is probably one of the worst days my city has encountered in recent years. The rain has not stopped falling for two weeks straight, and the rains these past two days have not only been continuous, but also heavy. Lightning fills the sky in frightening shocks, followed by the crashing thunder. It is a miracle we have electricity, and more shockingly WiFi. Outside there is floodwater as far as the eye can see.
The flood has reached proportions I have never ever encountered in my life. And here I had thought I had tasted the worst of it when I had to wade through waist-deep water to get to my street and get home years ago, in the wake of typhoon Ondoy. It’s a memory people look back on and reel from up to this day, but I guess it has been trumped today by none other than the southwest monsoon. It’s not even a typhoon and it has been pouring in ridiculously copious amounts of rain. The water just keeps piling up with nowhere else to go except inside houses and cars and schools and buildings. It’s insane.
Our street doesn’t usually get flooded because it is in a high area, but today the floodwater has seeped into our garage and up into our ground floor that serves mostly as our storage area. We had to move the important things to higher ground but I know that this is nothing compared to what my countrymen are going through in other parts of the metro. While the floodwater here rose up to chest level around noon and has somehow dropped to thigh level despite the continuous rain, I know for a fact that in other places, the streets are impassable because the floodwater has reached way above a person’s head.
Maybe you’re thinking, ‘People in the Philippines are probably used to floods. It floods there all the time.’ As true as that may be, no one will ever admit to it being any easier each time it happens. I know of some people who have to evacuate their homes every single time a flood hits their area, leaving behind all their belongings, their dry clothes, taking only themselves and each other in search of safety. And I guess the silver lining is how natural disasters can bring out the best in some people. There is never a lack of rescue volunteers, and as the day turns to night, people in less affected areas are preparing dry clothes and canned goods to be passed around evacuation centres.
As for me, I feel so removed, even though I’m gathering old clothes and some food here. You know that feeling when you want to help but you don’t exactly know how? All the heavily affected areas are so far away from my city, and the biggest question is really how to get there without needing to be rescued myself. I’ve been praying for the rain to stop so that the floodwater will have some chance to recede and more people can go out and assist with the situation, and better yet, so that stranded people can go home, but so far the rain refuses to stop even as I write this. I fervently hope that everyone stay safe, the rescuers included.
I’m pretty much stuck here at home but there are worse places to be stranded in; in the middle of the road, for instance, with a broken down car. Early this morning, a man had driven right through the flood and his car had broken down near our house. We took a big slice of the herb foccacia I made a few days ago from the freezer, heated it up, and gave it to him. It’s a small thing, but I hope it helped somehow. He ate it before wading his way home. He says he lives a few streets down, but his car’s pretty much staying on the road until the water becomes manageable.
Garlic Herb Focaccia Bread
adapted from A Couple Cooks | Makes one 10 x 15-inch pan of foccacia
For the dough:
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
1 teaspoon sugar
For the topping:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced to get about 2 Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (or dried, if fresh is not available)*
Kosher or sea salt
1. In a bowl, place 2 cups warm water and 2 teaspoons yeast. Let stand for about 10 minutes.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or food processor), add 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, the yeast mixture, kosher salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, and sugar. Stir the mixture together a bit using the dough hook from your mixer to start the mixture.
3. Attach the dough hook, and then start to mix the dough on low speed for about 12 minutes, slowly adding the remaining 1/2 cup all purpose flour as the dough mixes, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough by hand on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, adding the additional flour in the same way to get the dough to a smooth and elastic consistency.)
4. Turn the mixture out into an oiled bowl. Cover with a towel, and wait about 1 1/2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
5. Coat a 10 x 15-inch baking pan or jelly roll pan with about 1 tablespoon oil. Punch down the dough, then knead it into a ball.
6. Using your fingertips, spread the dough until it fills the baking sheet. Let it rise for about 30 minutes in the pan until puffy.
7. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 475°F (250°C). Prepare garlic and herbs for topping. You can use more or less depending on your taste.
8. Once dough is ready and puffy, drizzle the bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with minced garlic and herbs and several pinches of kosher or sea salt.
9. Using your fingers, make small indentations across the top of the bread, about 1/2 inch deep and about 1/2 inch apart.
10. Bake until browned, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Storage: The bread may be frozen well-wrapped for up to a week. Bring out a few minutes to soften before popping in the toaster. Best eaten warm.
* I used 1 tablespoon dried basil and about a half tablespoons of dried rosemary.
And in case anyone wants to help, you may do so through this Red Cross link. You can also check the hashtag #ReliefPH on Twitter like Mr. Neil Gaiman has. Any kind of assistance is needed and largely appreciated.