Rage against the rain

Rage against the rain 
By Walter Ang
August 30, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The rainy season creates for me a sort of experiencial compound noun. You know how teachers always include a lesson on compound nouns in elementary English classes? Ham and eggs. Salt and pepper. Pork and beans. That kind of thing. It's how two completely independent, separate objects have been melded by chance or choice into a collective whole and therefore considered by the grammar police as a single noun. Uhm, whatever.

I will forever associate rain with the blaring of rickety radios tuned in to AM stations crackling with static and feedback. The background sound of rain prattling ominously on rusted GI sheets punctuated with the husky voices of old invisible men droning on and on about the news and weather updates.

That's my experiencial compound noun: rains and AM radio stations. This point of association is the result of two factors. One, living in a tropical country pelted with incredible monsoon rains almost half of the year. Two, going through years and years of keeping glued to the radio in hopes of hearing an announcement that will cancel classes for the day.

On particulary dreary rainy mornings, I've always hated getting all dressed up and grudingly dragging myself to the school bus. Finally, after navigating through pot-holed, water filled streets, we reach the school gates and everybody else streams out, screaming with glee, "Walang pasok! Walang pasok!" Groan.

I once had a conversation with a friend who claimed he loved the rain, especially walking in it. While he went on about the romance of it all, citing several movies, including the scene in "Four Weddings and A Funeral" where Hugh Grant runs after Andie Macdowell, I contemplated the idea of turning him over to a nuthouse.

Anyone who's lived in Manila will attest to the fact that the rainy season is no picnic. When you wake up and hear rain banging on every available surface, you're already wishing you lived somewhere else. The moment you walk out your house, your face gets pelted with wind, water and other flying debris. First of all you have to wonder, in these ecologically unsound times, if the liquid that touches your skin could possibly be acid rain. Who has the time to purchase litmus paper strips to find out? I'm not about to use my face as the testing medium, that's for sure.

For hardy individuals who are not afraid of getting wet, the howling, intense winds pose a challenge. Yayas are forever scaring their wards with visions of little children being carried away by the wind. Scarier stories include decapitated heads courtesy of wayward flying pieces of GI sheets.

Sometimes, you can't even venture out of your house anymore. A few minutes of rain will transform the streets into virtual lakes. Only, instead of beautiful multi-colored fish swimming around, there will be all sorts of trash and human waste bobbing up and down in all their glory for everyone to see.

Aside from having to navigate through unidentifiable foreign objects and hoping you don't fall into an open manhole, you have to worry about all the vile Leptospira interrogans swarming in the floodwaters. These vile bacteria can enter your body through cuts or lesions, causing leptospirosis -- wreaking serious damage on your muscles, kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. Shudder.

One of the amazing things is that, in spite of all these conditions, you can never stop the entrepreneural spirit. It's a fascinating to witness a whole economic system being born whenever it rains. Evil taxi drivers charge exhorbitant rates just to travel a few kilometers. Creepy neighborhood toughies charge people to cross their makeshift wooden boardwalks to avoid wading in the flood.

More enterprising souls charge for banca rides to your destination. Banca rides may look and feel good in a movie, where there's mood lighting and romantic background music, but Hollywood this ain't, ladies and gentlemen.