27 September 2011

Stormy Weather

When I was a little child, storms triggered fear. I was deathly afraid of the sound of thunder and of being struck by lightning. At night I slept in a ball with my blanket up above my head. Darkness was my solace, because streaks of lightning in my window terrified me.

As I grew up a bit and went to school, stormy weather meant no school and staying in bed until noon. I had grown out of my thunder and lightning fears because there was no way I was more of a scaredy-cat than my little brother. I teased him to no end, the hapless brat. I began to love the cold weather, having champorado (chocolate porridge) for breakfast, the longer play times, and being able to read my Sweet Valley Kids novels and my other children's books the entire day. Instead of having to learn the feminine and masculine genders of animals (peacock and peahen, duck and drake, cow and bull ugh I hated those a duck is a duck) I read about things they don't teach in school, like dinosaurs and killer-plants, how airplanes fly and why we can only see stars at night. The only time I remember hating a storm is when I was seven or eight and electricity got cut off for more than a week and I had to go to school in un-ironed uniforms. :D

It was the same throughout high school, maybe the elation over cancelled classes even increased as the subjects got harder and less fun. I think you never really care much about bad weather as long as you stay safely ensconced in four solid walls with a loving family and hot chocolate. It never occurred to me, and if it did, likely only in passing, that storms did some actual destruction. Even the news seemed too remote to feel real.

In med school I started to see things differently, although initially I only saw storms as minor inconveniences. Storms in Manila meant floods, and floating garbage and animal detritus. They meant cancelled classes that would never get taught, topics we would have to read on our own for our exams. They meant having to stockpile on food and living on instant noodles and corned beef until the floods got a little lower. But I never worried about my or my family's safety. Storms were a hassle and annoying and "bad trip", but it wasn't scary nor terrifying. Scorn me for naivete, but that was the way it was.

And then Ondoy came. I was on duty at the Labor Room /Delivery Room (LR/DR) of the Philippine General Hospital. I was only a clerk then, and during that time, we were still included in class suspension decrees. We got the call from our monitor a little after lunch hour, saying we could go home, etcetera. We still had patients though, so we decided to stay a little longer. When we were about to leave late in the afternoon, every exit from the hospital was flooded up to mid-thigh. Patient-watchers were in a panic, and all food from the hospital cafeteria and the cooperative store had been bought. We called McDo, Jollibee, Chowking, Domino's, Yellow Cab -- nobody was delivering to our area because Taft Avenue was submerged. Eventually we found an eatery that was willing to deliver goto. It had no meat, but it was one of the best meals I've had.

The storm let up after a while and we were able to leave around 9PM because the path to Robinson's was clear. We stayed over at a classmate's place, played Rockband and ate Jollibee for breakfast. I went home, thankful it was over. But it wasn't. We had no classes for a week. Even after the storm subsided, the college gave us time to help those who were affected by the storm. It was the first time a storm terrified me again since I was little. My friends and I holed up in a condo and read the Left Behind series (about rapture and the end of the world) and joked about the apocalypse over fried chicken from mini-stop. But behind the jokes, I felt real fear. It was the first time I saw a storm as capable of so much destruction. 

After that, whenever a storm arrived, I'd take the two hour trip home if I could. If I couldn't, I'd say a silent prayer for Him to keep me and my family safe, text my parents several times a day asking for updates, and hope that the storm will pass soon and with no to minimal casualties. Gone were the days when storms meant enjoying the cold air and the extra time to stay in bed. 

Today I experienced my first big storm as a non-student, and back at home. This morning I woke to the sound of a large branch falling near my window. I said a little prayer of thanks that my dad's flight made it yesterday and that all of us were home in bed, and went back to sleep with the sound of rain and wind in the background. Later I ate champorado with danggit (dried fish) and listened to my dad as he told us about another large branch that tore a hole through our garage roof. 

I am grateful to be home. I am once again ensconced in four solid walls with a loving family and bowls of champorado, in a neighborhood where flooding or landslides has never been a problem. I am safe and secure. And for now I have nothing to worry about.

But I will always know how much havoc a storm can wreak, and never again will images of destruction remain only images. I feel despair for those lost in the storm, for the damage it has cost the city I have called home for the past seven years. I say a prayer for all who are away from family, for all whose houses are less than secure, for all who have lost something in this storm, be it a loved one or possessions.

Taken by Marian Pastor Roces, initially posted by @Jimparedes.

Storms always remind me of this song. Someday, on a stormy night like this, I will sing this song to my child.


  1. Your writing is so pristine with emotion.

    Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts.

    The PostMan

  2. That's wonderful to hear, thank you! :)


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