[Thank you for stopping the rains, especially in Marikina, Cainta and other low-lying areas, Lord. Please help Pinoys recover soonest. ]
THE ENDLESS monsoon rains, stranded helplessly without a ride home, and a vaguely hopeless feeling that one would never be able to help the people who truly needed it. This was the three-headed hydra of immutable, timeless classics that mocked me over and over again last time I was back in my hometown, with an unexpected bonus: I was stung by the hydra with each of its heads in one day.
The vaguely hopeless feeling I got when I finally kept a promise to Mom to visit my Ninang (godmother) K, something I knew I wanted to do but dreaded doing: I dreamt I saw her at her pitiful worst, in a most decrepit state, weak, dirty and uncared for. (Mom had done her best to extend help, but she had her own problems.) She had no words for me but moist, accusing eyes that seemed to say : now that I need you, where are you?
When I approached the familiar door of her tiny apartment, it was even tinier than I remembered: she had sublet the small flat to at least two or three other tenants who neither saw or wanted to see her regularly, despite the fact that their rooms were less than a couple of meters away from her own. The sight of Ninang was even worse than imaginings of my nightmares: she looked like a disheveled gray-haired doll with patchy skin, soiled diapers and a bedsore here and there. I could not bear looking at her.
Her first few words were : ang init-init dito, gusto ko nang mamatay. (“It’s so hot in here, I want to die.”) A few moments later, I realized she was waking from a bad dream, but the reality was not much different. Her adopted daughter was in and out, shared what little earnings she made but not without berating her for being a burden. My little offerings of fruit and a little cash seemed puny next to her giant dilemmas of perpetual aches and pains and undying discomforts.
I pleaded being late to a prior engagement and places to go, people to meet but in truth I felt helpless just beholding her vulnerable state. I didn’t know which was worse, knowing of her continued days of lonely suffering the remainder of her life, or knowing that unless I struck the Lotto jackpot or became an iPhone Apps gazillionaire, I would never be able to help her avoid the inevitable final dramas of life : growing old, sick and alone.
As if I was being punished for leaving my Ninang just like that, a deluge of the Great Flood-like proportions greeted me just a few seconds outside Ninang’s door. Giant raindrops and abyss-like gutters and potholes pelted me and swung me left and right as I vainly tried to get to the main road. In around 20 minutes, I could no longer see the concrete of the narrow roads that only an hour ago were as dry as dust. I ran to a rusty eave of an old two-storey the side of Pedro Gil, and without thinking I instinctively knew I would not be able to hail a taxi for at least an eternity.
Even my conservative estimate was proven wrong. I stayed under the Chinese water torture of the rusty eave for about 90 minutes before a taxi driver hesitantly idled beside me, and it was only because of the bumper-to-bumper traffic. I was drenched split-end of hair to tip of toenail and instantly shivering in the nippy cold of his air-conditioned cab, but he didn’t immediately understand when I requested that the aircon be switched off. When I insisted that the thermostat be lowered at least, he reasoned that the resultant warmer air inside would cause the windshield to fog up, and so I shivered in the traffic jam that was to follow, between Paco and Galleria.
Believe it or not, the rain did not stop for the next few hours. People around the streets, the city, the region did not seem to mind. Children were dancing in the rain, adults continued to eat kwek–kwek, fishballs, adobong mani and kikiam from ambulant vendors in the seasonal torrent, the rains a necessary evil that cooled everybody down after the microwaving sun.
By the time we reached Mandaluyong on Shaw, the floodwaters were cascading from all over and drowning engines apace. Only the hardy jeepneys and ever-present Toyota Tamaraw FX (utility vehicles) were enjoying the monsoon, cars everywhere else were sputtering and dying. I myself was approaching hypothermia, but dared not complain lest the taxi driver kick me out of his vehicle.
Something had distracted a lot of Metro Manilans from the traffic jams, monsoon rains, and the mundane dramas of their lives, a sixth-sense told me, and a luckless commuter like me confirmed it : Midnight Madness in Glorietta, Annual Sale in SM City, and mall-wide credit card discounts in Trinoma, all held on the same Friday the 13th (bad luck for everyone else). What a surefire formula for heavier-than-usual traffic Metro-wide.
By the time I reached Galleria to meet with esposa hermosa, I was trebly guilty : guilty from shutting out Ninang from present worries, guilty of pushing away monsoon rains from future worries, and guilty of being nearly rid of the famous Metro Manila traffic that never stopped driving me crazy in years past. But it wasn’t over: in less than 30 minutes I was still going to look for another taxi to bring me and esposa back home to Cainta.
Thanks for reading !
- between dreams & wakefulness, on edsa, ayala, philcoa, paco, marikina & cainta (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- Monsoon Rain Floods Manila (arthurvanmegen.wordpress.com)
- Tuesday rains surpass Ondoy’s 2009 rainfall – Pagasa (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Monsoon flooding worsens in Manila (radionz.co.nz)
- 60 dead from monsoon rains in Philippines (gulfnews.com)
- Pagasa: Weather to improve but monsoon to continue bringing rains (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Sun rises on metropolis (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Philippines: 62 dead, 2.4 million affected by habagat rains, floods (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Street Food: Filipino Recipes And Style (prinsesamusang.wordpress.com)
- ‘It’s like Waterworld’: Monsoon rains swamp Manila, force 270,000 to flee (photoblog.nbcnews.com)