Thursday, July 4, 2013

Memories of Rain

When the rain comes we are born anew.  We take the form of sailors and pirates—captains of the seas! We are a one-man crew, our ships fashioned in paper, fully colored, with names, drawings of cannons and all. The seas we sail on are creeks and canals that have come to life with turbulent streams, even whirlpools. There we race and sink each other’s ships to the concrete bottom of our ocean.
I remember, all too well, a small pond would well up and we would find ourselves playing in its waters. If it had rained hard for days we would often catch fishes were we kept in ice plastics. We were, ever since, perplexed as to why catfishes and guppies managed to find their way there. Did they sprung out from nowhere? Maybe it grew from algae? Or maybe it drizzled from the skies along with the rains. There we managed to produce our own Darwinian concepts and our own story of evolution.
Among the many mysteries we—my sisters, cousins, and I—would always marvel in is to how the taste of champorado, monggo and tuyo, would taste a lot better during these times. Does weather have a direct effect on our tongues? We are also amazed on how our grandmother’s stories would sound even more enchanting as if her voice opens a portal into the past; this is especially true when electricity is cutoff and the rain lasted until the next morning.
True, I secretly long for the rain—especially during mathematics classes in primary and secondary education—where I whisper to the skies to bring the pall that will send us home. I am thrilled when it answers with a roaring thunder. My classmates and I would feign fear and bawl from the room sending our teacher to calm us down. Again, we see the bolts of lightning racing from the dark clouds and the explosion it would definitely ensue.  I know that heaven, in spite of the many unanswered wishes, still listens. Then the sound of school bell rings, nature has become our ally. Yes, how we love the rain!
However, the other month, in my volunteer work, I have talked to a kid who hated it. “I wish it never rained at all!” I thought he was kidding but his eyes seem to be gazing into depths of some morbid memories. The smile painted on my lips is gone. 
When I asked why, he said even before Ondoy, a simple rain would bring the flood water into their homes that immobilize them for days. He recalled the time when all of their belongings were swept by the flood and had to begin from scratch again. They would miss school for days and eventually returning back to the same grade the next year. His neighbors experienced even worse, as they helplessly watched loved ones gobbled by the dark water flood never to return.
Disease brought by the rain and their living conditions took toll on them too.  A brother could die from a variety of diseases such as dengue and leptospirosis, not that it is incurable, but because they have nothing to pay the hospitals with; public hospitals may come with minimal expenses for medicines and other services but still out of reach for the many who are poor.
Inevitably, he and his brothers were pushed, rain or not, to work—collecting mussels, scavenging in the garbage, usually referred to as kalakal, and many other odd jobs—to be able to live and provide for their family.  In the words of that kid, “The rain can be cruel!”
This is the paradox between our memories and our experiences. That while I long for the rain because of the merriment it brought us when we were kids is also the same rain that spells nightmare, even doom to others. In a way, this perceptual difference symbolically represents the gap among us, Filipinos, as well.
The story of the kid I met is not unusual in a country such as ours. It is a shared reality by anyone living in the clutches of poverty. It shows us how the many of us, who mostly live in dire conditions, suffer the most even by the minutest change of weather.
I know I cannot fully comprehend the gravity of hardships they encounter during times of calamity and in their everyday living, words would simply fall short. But it strengthened a belief in me that we need to unselfishly work together, as Filipinos, towards a single dream in improving the quality of living.  Too, along with the nourishment of basic human needs—clothing, shelter, education, food—a definitive change in perception would ensue once these were addressed. And that even the simple comforts life could give, like the soothing drops of rain may also be enjoyed by others either through play or in quiet slumber.

For that kid, summer cannot contain the rain. It will definitely come. But one day, as dreams are forged in unity, and as this nation awakes from its centuries of apathy, maybe one day you’ll come to embrace it. Then, together, witness the promise of rainbows that every rainfall brings. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll come to love the season that brings it!