When it rains
My brother and I often slip through the downpour in my childhood, jumping with the falling rain in careless abandon.
The enticement begins with an irregular tap-tap-tap before it transforms to an irresistible tarantella. The static is our cue, and once mists turn into slopping rivers along the windows, we sneak off to embrace the deluge like a resurrected superhero.
This country of monsoons nourished these rituals as I grew up in Quezon City in the 90s. Apart from the temporary highs, the typhoons also became an inchoate of folklores and supernatural beasts. During my adolescence, the heavy pelting invites the muse.
Today, we no longer feel thrilled submerging in the rain. The rain does not come with stories of the supernatural. Instead, we share stories of destruction and survival. We talk about calamities. We count dead bodies.
When Ondoy came in 2009, I was one of the few who were lucky enough to arrive dry at the newsroom. Fellow journalists were either soaked from waist down, lining up in the washroom to dry heavy jeans. My friend Rosy, was trapped at the second floor of her house picnicking on biscuits as the waters submerge ethereally slow. Another colleague, Ate Reyma, had to cling on to a rope tied to a neighbor’s balcony during the onslaught. Mang Nestor, a barker in Manila watched as his home gets pulled by the rivers. Ondoy killed 464 and inundated 1,786 barangays including Metro Manila that day.
In the same year, Pepeng hacked 5,486 barangays in Luzon. In 2010, Basyang came and left with 106 casualties. Sendong upped the ante with 1,268 casualties and damaged 866 barangays in Mindanao in 2011.
Sendong was considered the deadliest typhoon in 12 years until Yolanda arrived last year to demolish Tacloban. A landmark 6,201 people were reported dead, 28,626 were injured, and 1,785 remained missing. My mother’s co-worker had to leave for Tacloban the night after the storm, worried sick that his mother had been washed away by the raging currents after Yolanda’s landfall.
When Glenda visited Metro Manila earlier this year, I was left without electricity for one whole day as power lines were taken down by the storm. Other parts of the capital had to wait for three days or more.
Luckily, my family was spared from these floods. My encounters with the murky muddy waters were always during coverage. Inadequate city planning age-old sewage systems, and unsustainable waste management, plus an extreme torrential rain is the perfect formula for the yearly flooding and in a span of 6 years, I lost count of the times I waded through the waters in frustration. When it rains, Metro Manila goes underwater, submerging my soles, my ankles – even my knees – in putrid coolness.
“These weather situations are the new normal,” Dr Tun Lwin of the Myanmar Climate Watch said. This, he attributed to the continuous warming of the planet because of carbon emissions. The rising temperatures are messing up the weather systems and the sea levels. And poor developing Philippines, like its Southeast Asian neighbors, are the ones who are most affected by these changing patterns.
Two words: climate change
Different stories emerge from different parts of the world. If mine were of the cascading floods, some were of wildfires and drought, ebola outbreaks, and pests. It is not a surprise that around 400,000 climate justice activists have taken to the streets of New York City last Saturday, September 20, to demand for political climate action. The momentum was for today’s much-anticipated United Nations Climate Leaders’ Summit, where more than 100 world leaders are expected to discuss their environmental priorities and agendas.
Around them, voices are swarming together to create a chorus: A unified global #call4climate action until the Lima Convention this December and further until the Paris Conference in 2015—where country leaders are expected to sign a new climate change protocol. Pocket marches happened in another 166 countries, including the Philippines.
The clamor is more than timely. Living in a high-risk country, Filipinos, like me, have first-hand experiences of the many faces of climate change: students stranded in school during an onslaught, farmers losing valuable crops and livelihoods, families with missing relatives, displaced indigenous communities.
Civil society groups and non-government organizations are mobilizing, forming coalitions to further push this cause in the public sphere. Those who cannot take it to the streets turn to social media. Those who cannot rally turned to writing – it’s high time to get involved.
As if to further stress the point, Mario came to the capital last Friday, September 19, bringing the usual strong winds and hail, trapping me in my batcave the whole day. The tapping in my window elicited a throbbing further exacerbated by the gnashing winds. The rain ceased being romantic and wind chimes, in turn, fluttered an angry battlecry. I cannot sit here and wait. – Rappler.com