Diary of a Typhoon – Part 2
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I wake up to a hot and stuffy room and the realization that I should have paid much more attention to this storm. The power’s off, so no more air-conditioning. My room is like a tomb, with no ventilation. According to the forecast, the worst is yet to come…
Wow, big wind! Am not sure what’s going on outside, but things are really banging around. The windows are made of frosted glass so I can’t see what’s happening — and I’m not opening my door to have a look. The roof is rattling, but seems to be holding. A little scary.
Yay, the power’s back on! Or else the hotel has started a generator. I can’t believe that I didn’t even bother to ask if the hotel HAS a generator. I hope everything’s okay at home… At least I’ve got air-conditioning again, so hopefully I can sleep through the rest of the night.
The power’s off. It’s on. It’s off. It’s on. Damn, it’s off…
I can’t get back to sleep and it sounds bad outside. But not overly bad — fingers crossed…
Still awake. Storm intensifying. Rain coming horizontally now, beating against the windows. Is the storm center still getting closer or is it moving further from us? I wish I had my barometer here — it would tell the story. Power’s still off and no internet, impossible to know what’s going on. Martin not answering my texts.
The sun will be up in about an hour. Life always feels better when it’s light.
Must have dozed off. Woke up because I thought I heard silence. So much banging and crashing that silence is out of place. Unfortunately, must have just been the typhoon catching its breath. Still roaring outside. The power hasn’t come back and my laptop battery is down to 12%.
Not sure what it’s blowing out there because my room is somewhat sheltered from the wind. I’d guess it’s a steady 50 knots, gusting much higher. The rain will be the biggest problem, I think.
Haven’t heard from Martin. I hope all is well at the house!
Am going back to bed with my iPod to try to drown out the noise. How I wish I could find out if we’re now on the backside of the storm…
A definite easing of the wind. Still raining hard. I’m hungry but not too keen to leave my room, which seems to have sprung a leak somewhere. Water pooling on the tile floor.
Just woke up. It’s over! No wind, no rain. I can hear a broom sweeping outside my window. Hurray! Dogs are barking, a baby is crying, roosters are crowing — the beautiful sounds of an ordinary day in the Philippines. From extreme violence to peace — just like that. Such a waste of energy, it seems to me. What is the purpose of a typhoon?
Still no word from Martin.
I hadn’t noticed how hungry I am.
Jesus Christ, what a mess!!!!!!!!!! The city looks like — well, it looks like a typhoon just hit it…
I’m no stranger to Batangas. I know its downtown and residential subdivisions all too well. Though we had separated, I visited my American husband, Edward, here every week for five years. Edward died in Batangas last year. My bank is here. I do my grocery shopping here. I go to the post office here.
Even on its best day, Batangas could never be called pretty – but today is the worst I’ve ever seen it. Streets are flooded, trees are down, traffic lights are unlit. I see no police to direct traffic or represent law and order in a scene ripe for looting and chaos. Yet there is no looting or chaos. There’s just nothing. Almost every store is closed, metal security grilles still lowered.
I walk through empty streets, searching for food and a cellphone signal. Post-apocalyptic. Is anybody out there? There is no choice but to wade through flood water that is cold and dirty, already streaked with oil.
Even in disaster, Filipinos are friendly and smiling, posing when I point my iPod camera at their stricken city. People speak to me, warning me. “Be careful, Ma’am”, they keep saying, pointing at potential dangers. I only know that I’m very, very hungry and I don’t want to talk. The only thing I can think of to say is “wow”.
I feel disconnected, like I’m not even here. This is a problem for me sometimes, flying between continents in mere hours, especially going from rich to poor. My body arrives, but the rest of me takes a while longer to catch up. Right now, I don’t know where I am. I can’t even say that I’m still in Canada, where I’ve been visiting my family. At this moment, I’m just alone, lost inside my head. In limbo. I certainly know that I don’t want to be where I am right now.
I seem to be the only white person in Batangas. I always joke that the difference between a white man and everyone else is that everyone else will walk around a mountain and not mind the trip. A white man will blast a hole through the mountain. Watching white men battle against nature exhausts me. But apparently, all the white men blasted their way out of Batangas yesterday, while I slept in my hotel room…
It turns out that McDonald’s is the only game in town. I hate McDonald’s, but if I don’t eat a Big Mac I’ll have to start gnawing on my arm.
A black and white kitten is meowing on the sidewalk near a pile of debris. A young boy kicks the kitten and laughs. What the fuck is wrong with people, I wonder.
A woman is selling flowers. They are the only beautiful things I have seen today and she must have spent a lot of money on them, but this is a very bad day to be selling flowers.
I don’t want to be here. I want to go home. How many times must these thoughts run through my head?
I’m back in my cell with a full stomach. Going to sleep now, nothing else to do.
Woke up thirsty. Went to the hotel office and bought bottled water and a warm beer.
For some reason, I’ve been thinking about Edward. If Edward were here, things would be different. Edward, a mountain-blasting white man, would have left the hotel room this morning, tracked down the owner of a hardware store, bribed him to open his door, helped him bail water from the shop’s floor, probably would have taught him how to create a syphon to do it more easily, then would have bought a portable generator, which would now be hooked up — and we would all be sitting around The Come Inn in a blaze of lights, drinking ice cold beer. I never saw anything stop Edward, except his death.
I couldn’t be bothered. I’m hungry but too lazy to go out looking for food again. I’ll be home tomorrow. I’ll eat then.
An old lady in the hotel office gave me a candle and matches for my room. It’s a crappy candle, the wick keeps falling into the wax. They’ve stuck the candle into an empty shrimp paste jar and secured it with a crumpled brown paper bag. The melted wax is dripping onto the paper bag, which surely must be a fire hazard so I’ll have to keep an eye on it.
The power’s still off, and given the amount of damage I witnessed today, I’ll be surprised if it comes back during the night. We are cut off from all news.
Still no communication with Martin. No bars at all on my cellphone. I can’t get onto Facebook anymore through my 3G Kindle. The Come Inn is filled with stranded travelers, all of us now running low on battery power. I need to charge my batteries but there’s no place nearby with electricity.
All I know for an absolute certainty is that I am safe in my room, with a wobbly candle for light. I need to shut down my laptop now. Battery at 5%. Will go to bed.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Got up early, eager to get home. I’ve been away for one month plus two days.
I said a quick and unsentimental farewell to The Come Inn. All in all, it wasn’t a bad place to ride out a typhoon. The roof held and the walls didn’t crumble.
Made my way to the pier, where all the boats were up and running. The Verde Passage was flat calm, impossible to guess there was a typhoon yesterday.
Back on my home island, I hired a jeepney and three porters to deliver my 150 pounds of luggage to our front door.
I walk inside the house and look around. Right away I see what isn’t there. Horror.
“Oh my God”, I shout.
An unsmiling Martin says, “Things have changed…”
To be continued in “Homecoming”.