Memories of rain

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – July 21, 2019 – 12:00am

The rainy season can get a lot of people jittery about many things. There are the floods, destruction, cancellation of classes and workdays, sicknesses and expenses to worry about. For some, it can also mean great loss of lives and property depending on their circumstances. While all these are real concerns that I, too, worry about to some degree, I have a more positive attitude about the season.

I mostly like the rain. The whole rainy season is, in general, a treat for me. I must admit that unlike many people, I like to see the dark clouds, the heavy overcast and the drop in temperature. I like the sound of light pitter-pattering on the roof and a heavy downpour. I even like the thunder and lightning. It feels awesome to see nature’s power flexing itself and doing what it was meant to do.

As a young boy, I remember sitting by the windowsill and watching typhoons come and go. It was awesome. The rains would be pouring sideways, depending on which direction the winds blew. I would sit for hours enchanted at the nature show going on. Strong winds would bend the trees and tall grass. Leaves would be flying all over the place. But the rain would make the whole garden wet and fresh-looking after.

Seeing lightning was, and still is, a thrill. My life Lydia always gets shaken by it. When lightning flashes, I count one to 10 while waiting for the thunder to follow. Depending on how long you count, you can measure how far lightning will strike (if it does). The longer you wait, the farther it is from you.

When I was around 10 years old, I was introduced to The Iliad and The Odyssey, which talked a lot about Greek gods and goddesses. During storms, I would imagine them causing all the ruckus that was going on in the heavens.

In grade school, I remember walking through floods along Santa Mesa to get to our house in Pureza from Ateneo. Flooding was frequent there. After walking through muddy water, we would normally wash our shoes and put them out to dry behind the refrigerator. The next day, they would be dry enough to use for school. Sometimes, they would be too dry, so they felt kind of toasty and hard. But we were of a stronger generation so we hardly complained about such minor issues. Suffering and inconvenience built character, as I learned later on. But that’s another topic.

One time, classes were abruptly canceled while we were already in school. There was hardly any public transportation to ride. I remember my brother Raffy and I started walking home from school hoping to catch a bus along the way. But the buses were few and far between and were filled up with commuters. We ended up walking the whole distance from Ateneo to our house. We arrived home soaking wet but exhilarated at what we had accomplished.

As a high school student, I remember walking up and down our street in Cubao during that big typhoon Yoling. Torrential rain was pouring but that did not stop my brother and me from going outside to play. The winds were extremely gusty. We would see parts of roofs flying all over the place. We were reckless, true, but we sure had so much fun.

Decades later during typhoon Ondoy, I was watching the rain from my room on the second floor as people on our street negotiated their way through the rising floodwaters. Soon enough, the waters had reached up to their waists. In a short while, it was already neck-deep. It all happened in just a few minutes. I had never seen floodwaters as high as that in our neighborhood.

I actually opened our gates so people could come in in case they wanted a respite from the floods. I would call them from my window. At some point, I knew the water would enter the house. Meanwhile, I had prepared for the inevitable. I made sure some of our furniture was put on top of tables to protect it from the waters. Even if our home was much higher than the street, the floodwaters still entered the house. Thank God it was just below knee-deep. But it was still distressing.

I had forgotten about my vinyl collection of about 400 albums, which I’d left on the floor of a storage closet. When the floodwaters had receded, I looked at the boxes of vinyl. It was heartbreaking. I decided to throw all the album covers away but kept the records to clean them later.

That night, I also opened my house to a few people whose homes were completely flooded. They stayed a few days. I remember feeling guilty about how small my concerns were compared to what many people were going through.

The very next day, my daughter Erica had turned our house into some kind of relief center where many of her friends prepared food packages for flood victims using their own money. It soon spread on social media. Random strangers would come and donate money and goods. Erica and friends were able to make thousands of relief packages that they themselves distributed in different places in Marikina. I was so proud of them. Rain can inspire people to do good things.

Rain also inspires people to make music. There are songs that are great to listen to during the rainy season. One of the songs I remember when I was about eight years old was a short ditty that was played over FM stations. The lyrics went,

Everybody’s talking ‘bout the weather.

If you don’t like the weather, change it.

It had a sweet melody and was sung lightheartedly by a female harmony group. I loved the sarcasm.

Some other songs come to mind. Ryan Cayabyab’s Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka (in all versions), Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, Pumapatak Na Naman Ang Ulan, and Rain by the Beatles. There are many more.

Two years ago, during a big downpour, I actually went outside the garden into the rain. With great abandon, I took off my shirt and went for it. I stayed under a tall downspout that collected water from the roof and had an extravagant shower. It was wonderful. I caught myself one moment shouting with delight.

It all came back to me — that primal joy I felt in my childhood when my sibs and I would spontaneously just run out of the house when it rained. There was no thinking about it. No hesitation. No asking permission. It was something that we knew was fun and we just jumped into it. As adults, we think too much sometimes and become too conditional about pursuing simple joys. Rain can be liberating.

Nothing tops staying in bed on a rainy morning. The softness and warmth of pillows and blankets are comforting. There is also mild melancholia that comes with it. It is a nice feeling. One can only sigh when faced with the powerful beauty of rain. We are helpless and resigned. We willingly surrender.

“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” This gem comes from poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

So let it pour. Keep safe and enjoy this splendor of nature as it refreshes the earth and our spirit.

(P.S.: I wrote this article while watching the rain through the window).

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