Friday, June 24, 2011

The 23rd of June, or How the Rain Fell So Hard, It Gave Us All a 'Good' Time

No image will be provided for this post in honor of the gifts of imagination, resourcefulness, creativity, and intelligence.

Outside, the sky was bleak, the atmosphere dreary. From where I stood, I glimpsed people in uniform scurrying down the sidewalks, bags in tow, folders and envelopes or what could pass for a temporary, mobile roof unsteadily held upon their heads. Inside, many were seemingly oblivious to the pitter-patter of rain on the windows, instead almost entirely immersed in the activity at hand. Then, the warning came.

"The chancellor has called off all classes and school activities. We are advised to go home now, since the weather is getting worse by the minute - and many of us still have a long journey ahead." 

Text messaging is certainly an unquestionable wonder of our era. In a matter of minutes, the word had spread like wildfire across campus. Had we been the naive and wide-eyed grade school kids that we once were, we would have broken into applause and our cheers would have drowned out the rest of our instructor's words. But we were past that stage. There was hardly any sign of bags being packed, chairs being pushed back, or people slowly heading for the door. There was only talk - orderly discussion as to what's happening and what to do next - and so we were given the option.

"We could, however, stay a little longer for you to finish up. Would you prefer that? I'm not yet leaving anyway."

Our instructor's words betrayed a calloused Manila spirit, hardened by a life spent dealing with the horrendous traffic and unpredictable floods and all that brouhaha that continue to plague the city. They say the weather's getting really bad. There'll be flooding for sure. But what's life without that, yes?

Her sentiments weren't just her own. Like the stereotypical to-be doctors, we agreed to go on with our work - at least, for as long as we were allowed inside the room. Did we have any choice at all? To some, it would have been quite unbecoming to rejoice and think only of home at the mere whisper of 'classes cancelled'. Think of the imprudence. Were we to just leave like schoolkids, flitting from thought to thought, from work to home, from responsibility to recreation? How embarrassing.

So we stayed.

A couple of hours later, we'd be among the many struggling to escape the rising waters, struggling to reach an impermanent shelter where we'd finally be dry and warm and cozy. We'd first be the chatty and sociable throng of freshmen gathered amongst the transboxes, waiting for our lecture transes to arrive. We'd gaze at the sky or the soaked asphalt pavement, or we'd be totally heedless to these inanimate things and be solely focused on our shifting conversations. The transes would arrive and we'd cheer in slight mockery of those who cheer the way we did (in other words, children).

By that time, however, we'd already take notice of the rain gathering momentum and pounding the earth in such barbaric fashion. Consider that our initiation. We'd see the pavement slowly disappear beneath the water, and the water slowly creep towards higher ground (otherwise known as the transbox area). We'd all laugh and ponder at the same time at the thought of being stuck together in this tiny place for the night - or how we'd all be eventually forced to wade through waist-deep waters teeming with roaches and rats. Of course, the latter would only happen the day the sea rises as scientists say it someday would.

Then, the cars came. Shoes got soaked. People were forced to tread on ankle-deep waters. People slipped and fell on the water. People continued to laugh. Spirits were still high and cheery, in perfect contrast to the heavenly gloom. By that time, the goal was to get out of campus at all costs. Chairs were turned into improvised walkways, and so were huge, unsteady pieces of stone.

How everyone eventually got out of the area, how we summoned resourcefulness and creativity to make bridges and elevated pathways, still leave me beaming with pride. In the end, though, I was the only one left.

I was the last one out, but funnily enough, I was relatively dry all over. Thank God. 

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