Seeing so much nature shows on TV has lulled me into a false sense of complacency. There isn’t anything amazing about rain in the tropical jungle or the thunder and light show that illuminates the purple night skies on certain times of the year. But Mother Nature has a way of jarring ahedonistic inviduals, such as myself, out of their complacency.
It happened last Saturday, February 7. Nothing much. Just a strong downpour that beat a steady roar on our tin roof when I woke up to the alarm at three in the morning. I had the morning shift that day. But with the downpour going on outside, I hit the snooze button, reasoning to myself that at three AM, the waterworks will have a chance to peter out by four or half past four. I went back to sleep and dreamed happy dreams. Until the alarm sounded again at four fifteen.
It was still raining.
Urgh. Who wanted to climb out of a warm bed and tiptoe down to the cold bathroom to endure sub-zero water temperatures in order to have a bath? Sometimes, I rue that I was born Asian. This business about having baths daily is sometimes too taxing, especially if one is an Asian woman who has the morning shift and has to be smelling clean and fresh in time for the dawn shift at her office… too taxing if it is still in the dead of the night and no one else is up and about.
So… reasoning out again that maybe my team leader would be gracious enough to understand if I am tardy for the day. After all, it was still raining out. And the roads are probably a bit flooded. I set the alarm clock again to five thirty.
Five thirty came and went. Still, the rain outside didn’t let up. In fact, it sounded as if it was gaining force. I had a feeling that things would be worse later in the day. So, instead of sending SMS to my gracious team leader that I would be tardy, I told her that I can’t make it to the office. Then I slept again. Snored and proceeded with the continuation of my dream.
The day opened dim and wet. The Sun isn’t his cheerful self. So, I went back inside and curled up under the covers. It was raining and raining and raining still. The canine and feline members of my household snuggled in corners they could find, tight furry balls dreaming their own doggy and catty dreams, with no mood even for meals. Us humans were damp and chilled to the bone. Ta went out, bundled on a double layer of jackets and armed with my yellow umbrella, on the pretext of buying cigarettes and didn’t return until late afternoon. I slept for the better part of the day, waking up once to a lunch of chicken soup and hot chocolate.
I got up when I heard Ta coming up the bedroom stairs. He had news.
“You should have seen Dumaguete,” he said. His eyes were wide with horrified amazement, if that is possible.
“You went to Dumaguete? In this rain? What were you thinking? You were you with?” that was my nagger self, interrogating the detainee.
Apparently, the heavy rains did not deter Ta’s curiousity. He went to Dumaguete with one of his friends who did his weekly grocery shopping. After they bought the goods, they decided to drive around the city to see what redecorating Mother Nature did to the topography.
Ta wanted to share the experience. He told me of the floods and the devastation. Having spent all day sleeping, I felt that I could use some cold wind on my face to get the blood going again. So, it the middle of the whipping wind and Ta’s sister’s disapproving glare, Ta and I set out — on the motorcycle — to see how extensive the damages were. It had, after all, been raining the entire day in a steady downpour, an unprecendented phenomenon in the recent history of Negros Oriental.
On the way down the tropical jungle, we saw caved-in portions of the road where the onrushing water flowed as if the entire area was a river bed. Some flat areas used by the mountain folks as tiny patches for their vegetables resembled brown lakes. The asphalt streets became white-water areas. On each side of us on the road, water coursed down from fields and fences, and converged in a roaring surge into overflowing stormdrains that were chocked with the detritus of the forest — leaves, palm fronds, tree trunks, coconuts, sand, and hapless two-legged and four-legged creatures not strong enough to fight the strong current.
All the way down, we both exclaimed at intervals, “Did you see that? See that? Look there!”
What really horrified me was that streambeds that have been dry for more than half a century became roaring, earth-grabbing rivers in that one afternoon.
We hung around for a bit in the town marketplace and heard stories from different denizens who came from the lowlands. There were impassable bridges, asphalted roads that became dirt tracks. Then, stories about houses by the river banks being washed away began arriving. There were nervous jokes about building boats, like as wont to happen when floods arrive unexpectedly.
The power was out and, since we left home at late afternoon, I was nervous about riding under the darkness. I nagged Ta that we go home soon. Maybe he was nervous, too, and he agreed readily.
The next day, we explored the city some more. One of the biggest devastation I’ve seen is what happened to one of the newest bridges built in Dumaguete. I took a picture of the bridge when Ta, Faith, and I drove on it on a detour home from an excursion May of last year.
And here’s the bridge after the flood last Saturday.
As with major catastrophes, there were people who became homeless overnight. Some lost loved ones. And it might take a long time for the province to recover from this tragedy.
Here’s Lurchie’s account of what happened. She lived close to one of the main rivers passing through Dumaguete.