My Sunday was spent attending to my young son whose vomiting episodes forced us to bring him to the facility nearest our place, South General Hospital. I therefore didn’t have time to monitor the rage of typhoon Ondoy, which brought floods to Metro Manila, killing more than 200 people, displacing thousands of others and destroying properties..
President Arroyo called Ondoy a “once-in-a-lifetime typhoon” not because it carried strong winds but for the amount of rain that it poured on Metro Manila (a month’s worth of rain fell on the area in only 12 hours). Devastating storms like Ondoy tend to end up in some people’s minds as myth-like, remaining on their lips for even a lifetime.
I used to hear my old folks talk about typhoon Amy. I did some research and found out why my late father Tiyong, who was from Tudela, and my mother Juling, who is from neighboring Poro, all in the Camotes group of islands, referred to Amy with awe. It struck Camotes and other Visayas islands, bringing havoc that took years to forget.
Retired Department of Education division superintendent Elsa Suralta was a young girl when Amy struck Tudela, and she remembered the “diaspora” that happened after that. The storm destroyed coconuts and other agricultural produce of the town. The hardships people suffered forced my uncles Inok and Desing to relocate to Mindanao.
For the next generation, Ruping was it. Cebu is not often hit directly by typhoons, thus the damage brought about by Ruping scarred many Cebuano’s memory. I was in the residence of my brother in Danao when the storm struck. The compound, which was also used as a warehouse of a soft drink firm, was not as exposed to the wind as the others..
Still, the experience led me to write an essay published in Sun.Star Weekend on Dec. 2, 1990. “I can still recall what I felt at the height of Ruping’s fury,” I wrote.” I felt fear. In the dark, I listened as the howling winds lashed mercilessly. I was helpless, unmoving in the midst of the sweeping force I would never have the capacity to control.”
“For me,” I continued, “the most important period is after the storm. For there the lessons stand out clearly. We discover our positive and negative attitudes during stress, and are able to assess the damage and build a stronger foundation in preparation for the next test…The poet Emily Dickinson phrased it beautifully:
“Essential oils are wrung:/ The attar from the rose/ Is not expressed by suns alone,/ It is the gift of screws.”
(I wrote this for my October 1, 2009 Candid Thoughts column in Sun.Star Cebu)