Typhoon Tales

They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery so with this thought firmly in mind I proudly present my typhoon tale dedicated to Crumple, whose style I have unashamedly copied.

Of course I realize I will not even come close to the master who has the unerring ability to draw random thoughts from points A to Z and somehow make a connection however I will give it a shot and in so doing hopefully describe in an entertaining way what we all went through with the arrival of super typhoon Megi.

Megi what kind of a name is Megi? Have you ever wondered why they always name Typhoons after women? Yes, Yes I know the old joke about them being wet when they come and after they’ve gone leaving a trail of devastation. But seriously now, why do they always seem to give typhoons female names?

For this typhoon we had plenty of warning. Thanks to the modern wonder of the Internet and that godsend named Google many among us have become instant meteorologists and long before these storms hit we are warned with imposing looking maps boasting a swirl of color reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting.

I am fixated on those red swirls Jackson Pollock had nothing on the typhoon weather map.

Anyone who has lived here for five or more years or even visited just once during the rainy season is well aware of the havoc and devastation these storms create. And us foreigners are not alone, the Filipinos are all too familiar with the fury of Pacific Ocean typhoons and consequently Northern Luzon was declared a national calamity area before the storm even hit.

Talk about weather prediction but the scary thing is, they were right. The great mass of low pressure, blasting wind and torrential rain slowly built up over Guam and then traveled its torturously slow path towards Philippines all the time building in intensity until it made landfall as a category 5 Super Typhoon.

Which brings me to my second why question for the day. Even though we are prepared for the typhoons, we are aware of their approach and they come every bloody year, why then do they cause so much damage and take so many lives? Is the infrastructure that haphazard? Are the typhoons so strong that no matter what the Filipinos do they are going to succumb to the ravages of mother nature or is it because the Filipinos have destroyed so much of the natural vegetation they have cleared a perfect path for the annual mud slides?

200 Miles per hour battered Illocos province causing massive damage and loss of life.

Fields Avenue is always prone to flooding every time a major storm hits Angeles.

Then again maybe its just good old human nature. Could it be human nature to become attached to ones home and not want to abandon it or perhaps it is human nature to just stick it out no matter what the world throws at ya.

Roof what roof?

Here’s a horrible thought, perhaps it’s as I always say, ‘it’s all about the money’. Let’s face it these people who each year are battered by the storms live a precarious existence and are lucky to have two pesos to rub together as a result they can hardly be expected to build a weather proof home let alone vacate their little shanty once the typhoon hits in earnest.

But wait a minute didn’t the President just secure hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid money? Will the Philippine Government actually divert some of that money to build decent infrastructure thus avoiding more devastation and loss of life in the future? Will the Aid money actually be used to aid those who need it? Will the troops be sent to rescue some people who genuinely need rescuing or will they stick to the easy pickings of poor exploited Angeles city bar girls? Please note Jung they weren’t why questions that were will questions.

We are all familiar with the theory of global warming and if changing weather patterns are indicative of this phenomenon then the Pacific Ocean typhoons are proof that global warming really is happening. When I first came to the Philippines 19 years ago I noticed it started drizzling in late June early July and carried on well into late September and many of the major storms were down south in the Visayas or Mindanao however in the last seven years I have noticed a distinct change where the major storms seem to skirt the southern regions and instead batter Northern Luzon plus they are each year coming later and later each year.

Those Moro Liberation guys down south must have come up with a way to control the weather and are now diverting the storms northwards to batter the predominantly Catholic Luzon. And all this time we thought they were just your average run of the mil Moslem extremists.

When it comes to typhoons preparation is everything. I know this and yet every time a typhoon hits I am unprepared. There is never enough food or water in my fridge, my front yard which I have been persevering with for six years still takes on the appearance of a swimming pool at the slightest drop of rain and my Guava tree still blows in the wind threatening to tear down the power lines. I console myself with the fact that with the typhoon comes a ‘brown out’ and if I had any food in the fridge it would go bad anyway. As for my front yard, well it becomes a cool playground for my dogs and the Guava tree provides welcome shade from the sun so it can blow against the bloody power lines all it bloody wants. Having said this I must admit, 24 hours prior to the typhoon hitting I got SWMBO’s father to chop off a few of the more prominent branches as this way I don’t have to put up with a distraught landlady who is convinced my Guava tree is possessed by some evil fruit demon hell bent on taking down the neighborhood power lines.

My front yard which becomes a swimming pool with even a hint of rain

My Guava tree which my landlady is 100% sure is possessed by a demonic fruit demon hell bent on bringing down power lines every time there is a storm in Angeles.

I am never one to be prepared, (perhaps that’s why I was thrown out of boy scouts), but when it comes to ‘brown outs’ I have learnt the hard way and have now invested in a number of small battery powered fans. These fans will not cool you down significantly but they will blow enough breeze to keep you from turning into a puddle of sweat. Trust me there is nothing more annoying than having nothing to do but lye in bed swimming in a pool of your own greasy sweat.

There are many problems associated with typhoons and one of them will always be the dreaded ‘brown out’. In the Philippines if it rains there will be a ‘brown out’, if there is too much sunshine there will be a ‘brown out’ and if there is a typhoon you can bet your bottom dollar there will always be a ‘brown out’. In fact I am anticipating another brown out any minute now simply because I am writing about them. Of course there is never any reason given for the ‘brown outs’ and when they happen one is brutally reminded just how dependant on electricity we really are. The brown outs force locals to adapt and live their lives around intermittent sparks of electricity.

When the typhoon hit’s the brown outs go into overtime and we lucky expatriates get to experience that uniquely Filipino phenomenon, the “rolling brown out”. More often than not the rolling brown outs are only short lived being a duration of two or three hours then an hour of power then 2 more hours of brown out etc. The rolling brown outs are annoying but in a way easier to handle than what I have termed the Super Brown Outs. I figure if you can have Super Typhoons then you can have Super Brown Out’s simply because the two so often occur together.

As I have said previously typhoon Megi was well broadcast and I knew only to well there would be prolonged brown outs coming but nothing could have prepared me for what eventually happened. The typhoon had been forecast to make landfall Monday morning and as we all braced ourselves a number of us were lulled into a false sense of security by the slight breeze blowing and occasional raindrops falling from the sky.

On the news and by text messaging we heard tales of woe from up North but so far Angeles had remained virtually untouched. I thought about this and images of the bright red swirls virtually missing Angeles on the weather maps suddenly sprang to mind. These were accompanied by the prophetic words from the likes of Thotoy and Shagger both of whom claimed “Angeles never really cops the brunt of these storms” and “Angeles is protected because it has mountains on both sides”. I looked outside at the calm surroundings and thought to myself who am I to argue with the venerable weather sages Thotoy and Shagger, looks like they were right Angeles would once again escape.

By 9PM just as I was stumbling into the shower the first brown out hit. Now when the power is cut off there is no water so one minute I am standing under a shower letting the water cascade into my sleep laden eyes and the next minute I am standing underneath a dry shower head looking like a complete idiot. I hear the pitter patter of little feet and then through the door carrying a candle comes my eldest daughter who looks at me and promptly asks why are you standing under the shower with no water dad?

By candle light I manage to dry off , get changed, don my raincoat, straddle the bike and amidst cries of “goodbye daddy” and “see you later mahal” I bravely head off into the ominous looking clouds and blanketing rain that once was Fields Avenue.

Tonight was DocJaidee’s last night and the lanky mongerer had made it abundantly clear that he expected a good time and wasn’t about to let a mere super typhoon dampen his spirits. We partied in Golden Nile until about 3AM and during that time there was continual brown outs in fact so many we couldn’t tell when we were on normal power and when we were on generator. At times I would look out on the street from my lofty perch only to see the lights on Clark fully illuminated but the lights on Fields all non existent.

While the storm raged outside the lanky DocJaidee was uncommonly subdued on his last night in town.

Which brings me to my third ‘why question’. Why is it a system installed by the joint efforts of Americans and Filipinos some 30 years ago, works better than any modern day equivalent installed solely by Filipinos? Watching the inner sanctum of Clark function smoothly no matter what the elements throw at it compared to the normal world of the Philippines as represented by Fields Ave and Perimeter Road one is forced to have some serious doubts as to the future of this country.

The night progressed smoothly until a bunch of AE members came in including Nitty, BamBam, Drummer, Jung and others. They all sat at the big tables and proudly announced “well there’s no power and we cant go home so we thought we would drop by and say hello. We knew you had a generator and we knew you would still be here so come on it’s your round”.

Now noticeably most of this group had a girl with them so I knew if there was any money to be made it would be from the drinks but at this time of night in these conditions I reasoned it was hardly worth it so when the mamasan asked, “can we close early because the generator run out of gasoline”. Even I know generators run on diesel but who was I to pick straws so I took this as my cue and closed shop.

Once SWMBO and I got outside I saw that it wasn’t to bad in fact there was hardly any wind at all and the rain wasn’t exactly heavy either. We straddled the bike then just as we were nearing Bunny Burger SWMBO whispers in my ear that she is hungry. Now I don’t know how many readers have experienced the wrath of a hungry Filipina but let me tell you its not a pretty sight and behind that soft diminutive whisper is a world of demand unparalleled by western women.

Knowing full well the consequences of taking an angry unfed Filipina home I deferred to my cowardice and promptly made a sharp left turn bringing us to a stop outside the ever beckoning Bunny Burger.

In the Philippines there are numerous restaurants that claim to be open 24/7 but in reality few of them are. Bunny Burger however is the exception. When we got to Bunny Burger I noticed there were several customers inside even though it was 4AM and the conditions outside were rapidly deteriorating. I asked the girl at the counter where is the delivery bike expecting her to tell me sir we cannot make delivery on night like this but instead she smiled and simply replied “the boy deliver order Sir Martin”. Hearing this I thought to myself it’s hats off to Bunny Burger. When it comes to food delivery this joint is to fast food what Wells Fargo was to mail delivery 200 years ago “we deliver come rain hail or shine”.

Baby back ribs always popular with Filipinas typhoon or no typhoon.

Having had my assumptions shattered and being put firmly in my place I realized not all Filipinos are lazy, disorganized and corrupt. In fact sometimes under adverse conditions the Filipino male will excel and their tenacity and willingness to work are clearly demonstrated.

With take out firmly tucked under her arm SWMBO ordered a trike whilst I braved the elements on my motor bike. Once home there of course was no power so our Bunny Burger was consumed by candle light which kind of made for a romantic setting and no sooner was it finished than I found myself on top of SWMBO doing what a man and a woman naturally should.

By the time we had finished copulating with the sound of wind howling through the Guava tree and the rain pouring down outside it was 6AM and I fell into a fretful snooze with visions of flood water flowing through my living room.

Now in a typhoon with no power I will normally sleep with the windows open so as to capture some sort of breeze and keep things a little bit cooler. My windows are covered with wire mesh thus preventing dengue carrying mosquitoes from devouring me and it is actually quite a pleasant experience. That is until you are rudely shaken out of your slumber by the sound of the neighbors roosters crowing, (yes they even crow when half submerged in flood waters), or the sound of the taho vendor advertising his wares at full cry.

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with the Filipino food named Taho but basically it is bean curd topped with caramelized sugar and sago. This is normally considered a delicacy for breakfast but can also be enjoyed anytime of day and night.

With the inclement weather conditions I wasn’t expecting the Taho man to be doing his rounds so when I was jolted out of my sleep by his ringing voice I could hardly believe my ears. Normally I would have been pissed off being deprived of my precious sleep but for some reason this particular morning I found his familiar voice strangely comforting and I found myself grudgingly respecting this guy who no matter what the conditions lugged his heavy metal containers of bean curd and caramelized sugar around with him to make a grand total of approximately 400 hundred piso daily.

8 AM in the morning and this guy is out selling Taho no matter what the weather conditions.

The brown out had now been going for approximately 8 hours when all of a sudden in the midst of the storm the power came back on but only for a minute and then out again. Shit I thought to myself this power supply is like a prick teasing bitch, it gets you excited with its seductive promise only to pull away at the last moment leaving you frustrated and hot under the collar.

Throughout that day the wind continued howling and the rain pelted down like some giant god pissing on humanity trying to drown the entire world in his urine. The power would come back briefly only to be snatched away again in a momentary heartbeat.

There was no TV, no water, no lights and nothing to do at home except write down notes for this article whilst watching the flood waters in my front yard steadily rising.

It is now 12 minutes past 10 on Tuesday night. The rain is pelting down harder than ever but the wind seems to have died down. I have been texting Drummer who has rapidly become the local weather expert and he has explained to me how typhoons travel in a swirling motion and what we are now experiencing is the typhoons tail. This is all very well but I have seen the maps on AE and I know that the front of the typhoon is larger than the tail which leads me to my fourth and I promise very last why question. Why is it that we had more rain from the tail of the typhoon than we did from the front?

The tail end is significantly smaller than the front yet in Angeles we received more rain from the tale than from the front.

Being about as knowledgeable of the weather as I am of a woman’s mind, this typhoon tail business means nothing to me but even though it is raining outside we still have power and I have found time to finish this article. My air-con is working, my electricity powered fan is blowing and after my performance earlier this morning SWMBO is looking at me with what can only be described as a look of intoxicating expectation. Typhoon or no typhoon my little universe is alright and I certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

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