Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Sometimes there’s nothing more beautiful than a tropical sunset, the kind during which the entire horizon turns yellow and orange and red as the sun takes its leave and moves on to burn people in other parts of the world. It bestows a peaceful feeling, a comforting assurance that the world is on your side and wants you to be happy. And it’s something that’s been in rare supply lately in this part of the world.
Don’t get me wrong, even in the midst of typhoon season the sun manages to pop its head out from behind the clouds sometimes. Unfortunately, these times coincide rather exactly with my bike rides to work. In a place where it’s hot even when overcast, I don’t appreciate the company.
Except for these times, the past couple weeks has been almost constantly cloudy and wet in my part of the country. Now, we have it pretty easy compared to Luzon, the northern island, which has been slammed by two major typhoons – one of which did an about-face and paid a second visit – in as many weeks. Typhoon Ondoy, the storm that hit while I was in Manila about three weeks ago, inundated the capital and other areas – causing the worst flooding in Manila, they’re saying, in forty years. The next week typhoon Pepeng hit farther north, exacerbating the problem in the more rural areas away from the metropolis. Then it turned around and did it again.
Compared to these disasters – and they were disasters, killing hundreds of people and displacing hundreds of thousands more – the weather in Iloilo has been positively clement. But if you’d told me that one night last week, as I trudged home through the rain with a broken and quite useless umbrella slapping me in the face, I’d have pushed you into a rice field – where you’d be eaten by the crocodiles that, as I’ve solemnly told my kids, live in rice fields.
On a bike trip to Guimaras a few weeks ago, I managed to get the worst of both worlds: I forgot to put on sunscreen and so, over about five or six hours of biking, got a nice red sunburn; and I also managed to get caught in a massive downpour. I had reached the safety of a roadside shelter before the rain started in earnest and spent half an hour or so smiling awkwardly at the group of Filipinos who were also hiding out there. When the rain eased up, I left and they stayed. Not three minutes later I was whimpering in the meager shelter of a large tree, trying in vain to get my umbrella to do something besides be inside-out while buckets of rain fell from above. I dared not face the shame of biking back to where the Filipinos, safe and dry, were no doubt sniggering wildly about the crazy American, ang buong nga cano.
I managed to make it to my destination – a beach, of course – changed out of my wet clothes and dried off before jumping in the ocean. Which makes a whole lot of sense. Crazy American.