Rainy days, then and now

published August 8, 2012

Rain and all it brings have always been part of our collective life as Filipinos. Some of these memories change over time, while some are constant.

When I was in grade school, news of the suspension of classes was usually obtained at four o’clock in the morning, over the AM radio. My grandmother who raised me was an avid fan of the late radioman Paeng Yabut. She and I patiently awaited announcement from the then-Department of Education, Culture and Sports in between repetitive advertisements (“Acebedo Optical, Acebedo Optical, Acebedo Optical”).

I remember the distinctly soothing voice of education official Dr. Nilo Rosas, who always carried with him the good news: “Classes in all levels are suspended today.” No power? No problem – Lola always had her stack of size A batteries on standby. I got ready for school – or slipped back under the sheets.

These days, kids and their parents could get the news from many sources. There is Twitter, where one can follow one’s university, one’s student council, or just regular networks which usually provide a comprehensive, updated list of local governments (where the task of deciding the suspension was devolved) or schools which have made announcements. Some tech-savvy mayors are Twitter- active, as well.

Facebook, especially if one is friends with or a fan of a school administrator or a local government official, is another source of firsthand news. Just make sure you’re friends with the real person and not a poser.

Local television networks also have early-morning shows with their multi-screen formats, giving an up-to-the-minute summary of schools or LGUs that have decided.

Now as then, it is a relief to hear there are no classes. Imagine being saved from worrying if the kids aren’t getting wet, if they’ve had enough to eat, if they are plain safe! Relief on their part—sometimes bordering on jubilation—is an emotion we remember well enough. The thought of having everybody at the lunch table, enjoying a good meal on a cozy day, is delicious in itself.

In my time, there were limited options for entertainment when we were told to stay indoors. There was nothing much on our bulky black-and-white television screen especially when the wind messes with the antenna on the roof. Today’s kids can complain that they are not productive if they are not able to do anything on the computer or watch tv in the event of a power outage.

What to do? I tell my kids stories of how it was back in the day, when we played jackstone or bugtungan to while away the time. And then I take out Scrabble or Chess or Boggle or Da Vinci’s Challenge —not digital versions but the real board games. They roll their eyes but join, anyway. Just this weekend I taught my 10-year-old son the indoor games I used to play as a kid: Jack and Poy, Pitik Bulag, Nanay-tatay, Around the World. We ended up having a great laugh.

Knock-knock jokes are fairly commonplace in our household – rain or shine. The neighbors must think we are a pretty rowdy bunch.

Evolution does have its advantages. I did not have any musical inclinations when I was a kid (okay, until now). Now my kids have their respective instruments and sometimes the joking turns into jamming. Believe me, there is no sweeter way to prepare dinner than have a live private concert right in your own living room.

As we saw this week, the rain does not only occasion good times in the family. It also reminds us how fragile everything is.

Rain and flood have caused destruction since the olden times. As a child, I sensed that these tragedies were extraordinary and fleeting and temporary, until life flowed back to normal again. Now, with recent memories of tragedies here and abroad—thanks to the Internet and cable tv—we are aware that these disasters are not isolated.

Instead they form part of a general worsening pattern, creating freakish weather, occasioning new highs—and new lows.

You fear for your life and those of your loved ones. You are scared you would lose all you have worked for. Why, the water could seep right into your own home and rapidly rise until it forces you to the roof!

Suddenly you are confronted by the thought that the earth under your feet is not at all stable and life as you know it can change – in an instant.

This week’s protracted downpour – we don’t even have a name, like Ondoy, to refer to it – may have shaken most of us anew. It may help to remember that however hard it pours, it does not rain forever.