Summer storm

Rain in summer is always a welcome break, especially at a time when the fields are starting to dry up, crack in some parts, and even the hardy trees wilt under the onslaught of the all-too-powerful sun.

When two weeks ago, within a day, the skies over Ormoc turned dark, pregnant with nimbus clouds, I waited with anticipation for the rain. You see, I hadn’t taken a “rain shower” in years; finally, I had enough time on my hands to enjoy one. Funny how we become too caught up with worrying where we’re taking our lives that we forget to live through the simplest things, like relishing the sensation of rain.

I was in for a disappointment however. Instead of coming in the late afternoon, my awaited visitor arrived in the darkness of dawn as I was sprawled on top of the bed hovering between slumber and wakefulness in the humidity. With a roar reminiscent of a thousand engines switched on, it pelted my window like an angry urchin armed with stones, stirring up the dust in the driveway and consequently the smell of relief — acrid, yet calming at the same time.

The rain, however, brought along an uninvited guest, who was far from welcome and who stirred an unutterable terror in me for a brief moment. The rain’s companion moaned, shook the trees in the yard and banged on the walls of the house, demanding to be let in.

My brother, who was sleeping beside me, suddenly jumped up and off the bed, ran to the windows and slammed the panes shut. “Bagyo! Mata diha! (Typhoon! Wake up!)” he cried as he shook me.

I pretended to be irritated (I was still counting on going back to sleep after all though I was half-awake), called him a scaredy cat and said he should have listened to the news last night — the weatherman had reported Leyte was under signal number 3 as it was in Auring’s path. Before we could start another of our silly arguments however, we heard mother call from the next room to a brother, two cousins and a help staying at a nearby house, asking them to come over for the other house had large open windows.

Like most typhoons following the El NiƱo phenomenon’s rise and the consequent changing of global climate patterns, Auring left Ormoc less than an hour after it arrived. In the weak light of morning, its power was no less impressive however. A couple of trees down the street were felled like toothpicks, our own santol lost a large branch, and a piece of roofing had been wrenched away and lay cracked and useless on the ground. Downed lines rendered a large part of the city powerless for the next couple of days. The most memorable however — as with any disturbance — was the human toll.

Four people drowned and one was missing after a boat anchored near the city market capsized. Word had it that the victims, all of the Camotes Islands west of Ormoc, had chosen to stay on the boat because they had no place to take shelter on land. Elsewhere in the city, three people were crushed to death by falling trees.

Will we ever get to be known other than as a land of disaster? I wondered upon hearing of the latest fatalities (true enough, Ormoc landed on the front pages of papers across the country, again).

Then I realized the reason for that momentary surge of terror within me the night before: like the storms that regularly visit this place, death will always be in season.

First published in Cebu Daily News, March 31, 2005