'Local hero' shelters 70 in his home after Philippines floodingBy Natalie Slater
October 07, 2009
A Woodley man became a local hero in his hometown in the Philippines last week when disaster struck and floods left thousands homeless.
Ariel De La Cruz, who lives in Scott Close, had been sent on business to Manila and was nearing the end of his trip when the island was wrecked by Typhoon Ketsana in September.
As his family home is on a hill, he was able to shelter around 70 family members and neighbours for the night, feeding them all with one chicken and a bag of noodles and helping to try to salvage their belongings.
He returned to his home in Woodley on Sunday and was welcomed back by his mother, stepfather and brothers and sisters.
The 37-year-old said: “To see natural disasters on the television is one thing, but to be there in the middle is totally different, when I look back I feel very sad about what has happened but at the time I was acting on adrenaline.
“We had seen on the news that a typhoon was coming but it was not supposed to hit Manila, it made a change of direction for some reason and wreaked havoc with no warning at all.
“I was up working late and it was raining really heavily, I was staying at the house that belongs to my family and my cousin came up to the house to say the water was getting really high.
“We were lifting televisions, fridges and freezers without a second thought. I don’t know how, it was like we were just on automatic mode.
“When the water was up to our chest, I said we had to go because it was not safe, we went up to my house and that was under water too but luckily people had moved all my stuff to the first floor.
“My uncle is 67 and has lived there all his life and had never seen anything like it, it was total destruction so I invited my neighbours and family, there were about 70 people, and we all sat in the first floor of my house waiting for the water to subside.”
Mr De La Cruz lost his father at sea in the 80s when his ship sank but said he did not think about the relevance until later.
He said: “It didn’t really cross my mind about my father until later, I was just busy trying to help other people.
“That night we fed 70 people on one chicken and a bag of noodles. I don’t know how, there was a lot of sauce, I guess!”
Mr De La Cruz had around 40 members of his family still staying in his house when he left and he bought building materials for them to help rebuild their homes.
He said: “I was relieved to be home but sad at the same time, there are so many people who have been left with nothing, I wanted to do more but I have had to be realistic while being sympathetic at the same time.”
Mike Lacey, Mr De La Cruz’s stepdad said: “His mother is from the Philippines, which is why we have a house there and he was there on business. We did not have much communication with him as electricity went down due to the flooding.
“The speed at which the Marikina River burst its banks took everyone by surprise, Ariel’s work was essential.”