Friday, January 23, 2009

Wet Start

Old timers in Lianga are used to some degree of wet, rainy weather at the start of every new year. In fact, that is primary reason why although the town's patron saint is the Child Jesus or the Sto. NiƱo, the annual town fiesta is now celebrated in the middle of August, during the less stormy months of the year, unlike in many other places in the country like Cebu which commemorate that patron saint's feast day in January.

In the old days when roads in this part of the country did not yet exist, traveling to Lianga by sea during this time of the year was simply too risky and exceedingly dangerous for those who made it a regular habit to partake of the local folk's legendary hospitality during its annual fiesta.

True to form, the first two weeks of 2009 were indeed rainy but as the rain continued to fall day after day, accompanied by periods of gusty winds and hurricane-like weather, residents here began to get worried. They may have been expecting some rain but certainly not the prodigious amount they have been getting.

After about a week of continuous rain, many of the local folks within the town poblacion found themselves struggling with flooded streets and houses. The situation was even worse in many of the outlying villages or barangays where drainage canals and flood control infrastructure were largely non-existent.

Traveling to and from Lianga along the still largely unpaved dirt roads became problematic as road sections became rivers of sticky mud or were cut off from the main highway by floods and landslides. The fact that many of the roads and bridges around the Lianga area were still in the midst of a massive, on-going rehabilitation and concreting program merely aggravated the situation. For a day or so last week, in fact, the town was virtually cut off from the rest of the province by roads rendered impassable by the constant rain.

On national television, the weather news was perplexing as it was bleak. All the weather bulletins pointed out to a high pressure front from from northern China aggravating the seasonal monsoon winds thus bringing heavy rains and causing temperatures to fall to record lows all over the country. There were no marauding hurricanes, not even a low pressure area within the country's area of responsibility but for those in many areas of Surigao del Sur province, including Lianga, being whose houses were being buffeted by strong winds and were trying to keep dry from the constant and unceasing rain, that piece of weather news was no consolation.

It was only in the past few days after more than two weeks o the deluge when, to the delight of the people here, the rainy weather suddenly broke and the sun reluctantly started shining again. For a day so so, like many local residents, I held my breath and crossed my fingers, wishing and willing the mild weather to hold and persist. When it finally did, everybody here heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Finally, the seemingly endless days of being cooped up we can come out into the streets again, smell the fresh air and bask in the sun's warmth. Life can once again continue.

Many of the local people have always considered themselves to be extremely lucky to be spared the hurricanes, floods and all other kinds of natural calamities that seem to regularly visit, year after year, many places all over the country particularly those in eastern Visayas and northern Luzon. This time, however, they were reminded that even they can be as easily struck down and victimized by rampaging bad weather when it arbitrarily chooses to do so.

They were lucky to have come off lightly this time. The next time it may be an altogether different story.

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