January 31, 2009. The day that turned my world upside down (almost literally). The day which almost became my last. But thank God I’m still alive. He saved me. No scratches. No bruises. Just a shocking memory that I will always remember.
7pm. Bus station near Taft Avenue. Waiting in line seemed like forever. We’re making our way to our church’s retreat. We’re 11 all in all: Ate Flo, Sarj, Cappy, Karen, Dwight, Chame, Lowie, Viv, Marj, Jen, and me. We’re all bored but we managed to let time pass by sharing funny stories. As we near the front of the line, waiting became more boring and tiring. I was patiently carrying my luggage and my laptop. I’ve decided to travel a little lighter since the retreat would only take a day or so. Then we started planning where to sit inside the bus and who sits with who. We came up to a plan to sit together at the back seat of the bus.
9pm. After 2 freaking hours, we started loading the bus. It’s a new Golden Dragon bus owned by a company named Erjohn and Almar. We got a little bit disappointed because we weren’t able to take the back seat. So we sat by pairs on the seats near the driver. I think I was seated on the 6th row. The bus was jam packed. There were passengers standing on the aisle. From Taft, we traveled along Coastal road. Lowie and I were sitting beside each other sightseeing while listening to Chris Tomlin’s heartfelt music. I started making short naps along the way. People started dropping off upon reaching Bacoor/Imus (whichever came first) leaving us with more space.
10:30pm. Lowie woke me up offering a box of snacks. I ate from it as if it was my last (thank God it wasn’t) to satisfy my craving for sweets. People are going in and out of the bus. We’re in Silang, Cavite during this time. I took another nap before something terrible happened.
11pm. The bus suddenly stopped putting an end to my sleep. I saw a thick mist outside the glass window. We thought it was fog. Then I smelled something different. The smell of burning oil. Then someone shouted, “LABAS KAYO BILIS… SASABOG!!!” It actually took me some time to process it in my mind but Lowie run in an instant. Upon seeing the other passengers running out like crazy, I made my move and got up holding my bags. I turned to my right and saw nothing but thick white smoke through the glass window. I turned to my left and saw people panicking, trapped, trying to make their way out of the bus. There’s definitely no way out. I saw Dwight making his way from one bus seat to another but still was trapped. Ate Flo was trapped too asking where our friends are. I got my chance to go the aisle dropping the iPod (which I was still able to put inside my bag). Then I felt the bus started moving in a direction that I don’t know. Still, all I can see is the thick white smoke outside. The driver and the bus conductor weren’t there anymore. Who’s gonna save us? People started shouting as the bus accelerates. I also heard banging sounds which gave me an impression that the bus is hitting on something outside. I saw and heard Ate Flo shouting. I was standing on the aisle shouting my heart out too. After a little while, we heard a loud crash from the back of the bus, then it came to a halt. We ran for our lives because the bus might explode and burst into flames. Thank God the bus didn’t explode. I was still able to save my stuff. The bus crashed to a house (we later found out that it was owned by a retired colonel). Viv and Lowie came running to us. Ate Flo asked them where the girls are. Viv told us that they were all able to jump out of the bus before the it started to accelerate. We ran to them, nervous and traumatized. Chame, Marge, Viv, Lowie, Karen, Cappy, Jen, and Sarj were able to get off the bus before it started traveling by itself downhill almost half a kilometre leaving Ate Flo, Dwight, and me inside. Jen got a small wound on her head. Sarj also had one near one of her elbows. She got bruises too. Everyone’s damn nervous. We started calling Melvin to tell what happened. Thank God everyone’s safe.
11:30pm. Everyone’s safe. No one’s hurt badly. A few of the residences lead us to a nearby clinic because some of us need to be checked up especially Sarj and Jen. But someone was brought to the nearest hospital by an ambulance. I don’t know how badly the guy was hurt but we saw him shivering on a stretcher. We prayed together as a church, thanking God that no one is badly hurt but still crying of what might have happened. We hugged each other giving words of love and comfort. That could have been the end of us all. But each of us could attest that God has been so good in His own special and unique way. Maybe, He wants us to realize something as a church.
12am. We waited for Melvin and Emman in front of the clinic while sharing our own stories. They came after an hour or so with a jeepney to pick us up. They gave each one of us a comforting hug. Emman actually sent each of us a Bible verse (Philippians 4:8) while we’re waiting for them. Then we shared our stories to them on our way to the retreat house. We found out that the place of the incident was very near Tagaytay, which has more dangerous and steeper roads. God has been so good to each one of us.
2pm. We arrived at the retreat house tired but relieved. We got inside our respective rooms to prepare our beds. We had little talks about the incident before we go to sleep and we still managed to joke about it. We’re already safe.
This is definitely an experience that we would never forget. Obviously, it’s not a nice one but I know God is telling us something. The eleven of us had the same traumatic experience but like what I said, God talks to each one of us in a unique way.
I’m blessed to have Stillwaters as my church. It’s not a perfect one but I can confidently say that God is always in our midst whatever circumstance we have. I can’t stop thinking what might have happened. I can’t stand the fact that I might have died that way. My words are not enough to express my deepest praises to God, our Heavenly Father, who saved us.
Thank God we didn’t take the back seat.