Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weather breaks

RAIN, rain, go away.

I remember this childhood chant when brooding skies open up these days. Squeezing inside a jeepney minutes after an early morning downpour raised the stakes in the usual dementia of reporting for work on time, I noticed how, aside from nearly interlocking passengers’ knees blocking the aisle, I had to go through a gauntlet of furled and dripping umbrellas.

Once upon a time, we referred to them as parasols. They came in summery or frothy colors because only women could be induced to carry these in their purses.

Now, even man bags are flipped open to reveal a black or neutral-colored umbrella when the skies open. Though not quite as indispensable as the mobile phone, umbrellas guarantee a livelihood beyond the assembly line.

In our neighborhood, a fellow regularly does the rounds, crying out for umbrellas to be repaired. Once, I asked him if the fee he was asking wasn’t too high, considering the flood of cheap imports.

Have you tried relying on this in windy weather? was the rejoinder.

Darn, I said to myself as I surrendered my disabled “payong” to the king of sales rap, who had already made himself comfortable by our gate, enthroned against bristling spires of recycled umbrella ribs.

The search for the longest working umbrella is, fortunately, only what’s preoccupying me these days. Remembering the flash floods that immobilized many parts of Cebu City last January, I am glad that it is not yet necessary to tote a pair of boots, a foldaway boat or complete diving gear.

I believe, though, in the daily necessity to have a plastic bag or two in my purse.

When I was a teen, my grandmother took out from her smart black purse a thin square that she shook out to become a plastic bag. With this, I was able to dump the sticky tamarind seeds I had been clutching because I ate first and looked in vain for a trash receptacle only later.

I stashed this bag holding the remnants of our fruit repast and only remembered to throw this in with the household trash when I had to empty my knapsack for a needed wash almost a year later. At least, my garbage didn’t end up on the face of a motorist, as happens when you jettison stuff out of the window of the vehicle you’re riding.

I live by my lola’s advice to always carry a disposable bag or two “in case of emergency”.

Does today qualify as one? A little rain nowadays means watching anxiously the gutters for the steady rise of waters. You walk out to the streets for lunch and kick yourself later why you didn’t just row out in a boat after a downpour makes one of those startling urban makeovers, converting a street into a lake, a dusty spectacle into a muddy obstacle.

Invest in boots, a friend advised my husband, who relocated to Manila when the skies were bright and dry. This week, we sound like a pair of bloody Englishmen, opening and closing our chats with a comment or two about the rain. A 30-minute drive from the office stretched to three hours, he reported, sounding several scales less chirpy than Kuya Kim, my favorite weather commentator.

Keep a green bag or two always in the car, I advise. You might net yourself a passing tuna or something for dinner.

In Dumaguete City last weekend, it rained and rained. I didn’t even see a puddle for motorists to swerve away from on Perdices St. or in the minor tributaries. It became even more surreal when walking into one of the quiet tree-lined streets that seamlessly blend the commercial with the residential areas, I saw children play in the afternoon drizzle.

No, they didn’t sing “Rain, rain, go away”. I still watched them for a long time.

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* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s June 26, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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