Is it just me, or is it rainier than usual this year? It rains practically every day, and apparently we’ve had four storms this month, plus the usual suspension of classes and work in government offices (not the private sector though. bleah). Still, every time it rains people are still taken by surprise; at the sound of rain they look out the window with furrowed brows, asking “Ulan ba yon?” as if having a downpour in the middle of the monsoon season is the most unbelievable thing in the world. This will usually be followed with a remark on whether they brought umbrellas that day – either “Hindi pa naman ako nagdala ng payon ngayon!” or “Buti na lang may dala ‘kong payong.” Because there are people who, by optimism or sheer forgetfulness, still neglect to bring their umbrellas. I got the drift about a week ago, having been surprised by a couple of downpours so, and have taken to bringing my umbrella every day. Well, most days, anyway. Sometimes I forget. No surprise there.
But these rains. Yesterday I went to Infanta, Quezon, which, in December 2004, was the site of disastrous flashfloods and landslides that killed more than a thousand people (the link, by the way, will lead you to an article I wrote about the incident. It’s not a case of shameless plugging; it’s just the easiest reference I could think of. It also raises questions whose answers still escape me). It’s just the first time for me to visit the place, and I couldn’t help but look around and imagine how it was when the disaster struck. We talked to Alex, who provided us with a brief eyewitness account. He pointed to the walls to show us the spot the water level reached, to the roof where the waitresses in the restaurant we were in climbed to seek refuge. He used to do the weather broadcast in the local radio then, and he remembered that he did a broadcast around lunchtime. The national broadcast, from PAGASA – your usual rainshowers and gusty winds and the signal number in force. There was no local broadcast. Little did Alex know that at the moment he was doing his broadcast, the mountains were preparing to surge through the town, burying everything on its path.
Other than noting that some of the houses under construction tend to be at least two stories up, I barely saw any trace of what happened almost two years ago. The town buried its dead and went on to rebuild out of what they had. But when it’s raining, as it have been for several days now, they look to the sky and they get worried. It’s not just a matter of whether they forgot to bring an umbrella.