Wednesday, July 17, 2013
With Rainy Season Comes Baha
for survivors of Tropical Storm Ketsana
With the rains come baha. My uncle tells me the stories when Bituan, the house my grandmother lived in, would fill like an indoor pool, water rising and rising and the objects in the house -- the chairs, the side tables, the clocks and vases -- the icebox and toaster, the oven -- would float right out of the kitchen and into all the rooms, like guests at a party. My Lola Clara would sit, he said, on top of the piano in the sala and watch their things circle her. Outside the storm would pound the earth, crashing like a giant tidal wave upon the neighborhood. The roof resisted the rain, felt like it wanted to collapse, but refused.
When I spend my summers in Metro Manila, I watch from my window, the way the streets become rivers. The way the cars roll down the avenues, water splashing everywhere. Everything is dark and wet. I listen to the news as they announce landslides in Antipolo or brownouts in Quezon City.
When she was still living, my bedridden Lola Charing would be carried out the house in Macabebe and placed onto higher ground as the water rose high as a four drawer dresser just underneath the bedroom crucifix. I think about that now, how I'd visit her and see the watermarks on the walls. Baha is part of the rainy season and my Uncle Boy kept a little row boat tied to the front porch and it would rise as the rains fell. That was how he made it around Macabebe then, maneuvering that little boat down canals, through the grasses and to my grandparents' graves. Rainy season.
But this is different. Too many people are dying in this rain.
My nieces write me and say Tropical Storm Ketsana has consumed the first floors of our family homes -- the cars are underwater. They wade waist deep in a storm that has infiltrated all our private spaces. The appliances are floating once more. This time, the family climbs to the second floor and the water follows. But not everyone is blessed with a second floor. Not everyone has the luxuary of drying their feet.
I saw the streets of Makati, a route I used to take down Ayala on my way to yoga, and the waters have filled all the subway entrances. The people, holding onto heavy ropes are pulling themselves down the street, their children on their backs. On their faces you can see they are resisting the tide. A wrong move and they could drift out into the city never to be found, swallowed by the river that was once Ayala Avenue.
Pray that the rains stop. Pray that the sun comes out. Pray that everything dries and that illness does not breed in that damp nation that is the seven thousand islands now drowning in that sea.