Payaso: Remembering Xangsane
It was September 29, 2006—almost four years to this day. At 6:00 a.m., I woke to the sound of thunder and winds brought about by Typhoon Xangsane. Here in the Philippines, typhoons are an ordinary occurrence and so, easily, I fell back to sleep, hoping to enjoy the unexpected day-off in the warmth of my small apartment.
An hour later, the rhythm of heavy rainfall had been joined outside by roofs flying off makeshift homes and, indoors, by the noise of something breaking. Half-asleep, I got up, only to find all my furniture floating in knee-deep flood waters. Xangsane had invaded my home.
Barefoot and still in sleepwear, I tried to get out of the apartment but the door knob came off in my hand. The water was rising fast, up to my waist now.
Frantically, I tried to contact friends, co-workers, the local government, the fire department, and practically everyone else in my phone book. No one came.
An Unusual Rescuer
As I called for help, I heard a group of people outside my home, trying to break the door down with a rusty pipe.
When they finally got in, someone from the motley crew came up to me. Seeing my dazed expression, he told me to hurry and take what I needed. Laptop, mobile phone, and wallet in hand, I took this stranger’s arm and we swam-walked to safety.
As I found out later, the rescue group was a mobile circus act that moved from town to town entertaining the locals. My champion worked as a clown or, in my native language, payaso. A man who made his living trying to make people laugh had saved my life.
I never saw him again.
Just the other day, one of my favorite political bloggers posted a quote from American humorist Will Rogers, "We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by." My Xangsane experience and the countless times I have seen ordinary folks, in the face of disaster, rising to the occasion prove this line wrong.
Indeed, the many stories on World Pulse are a clear testament to how women around the world, despite the challenges, strive to uplift themselves and the people around them. They show that heroism is not just about grand rescue missions. It is the small acts of kindness that count, when we stop thinking of ourselves and reach out to those in need.
I stumbled upon World Pulse by accident on Twitter. And I am delighted to find not only the wonderful comfort of being around kindred spirits but also the motivation to find the hero within myself. I hope to bring to others the same kind of inspiration that their life experiences and words of encouragement give me.
Like my payaso who rescued me and then, disappeared quietly into the storm, we can all try to be heroes every day. No applause required.