Hul 10, 2002

The Rains by Any Other Name

I miss the familiarity of the names of the old storms. I remember how I relished those names as the radio announcer interviewed the PAGASA representative about it. I kept rolling them in my head like some ear candy, hoping that my "horse" will win me a signal number two or three.

How I loved suspended classes! Even for my grader brain, the nursery rhyme did not make any semblance of sense.

Rain, rain go away,
come again another day,
little children want to play.

No way man! The rainy day was best spent for play! The young and the showers seem to have an unwritten understanding and everything is preempted when their fancies meet. It was a liquid contract, as slippery as a child's mood but as intent as the wind's course. It is scattered but all-powerful. The germs of imagination are planted there, in that frenzied sowing.

What I hated was being in school when it did rain, trapped in a uniform that was best left dry, with eyes best left hinged on the blackboard, and ears best left hung on the teacher's drone. While outside, the rain pitter-patters on. I follow the howl of the wind that I'm not supposed to hear.

Sometimes, even without a storm, the rain falls hard or long enough at night till dawn. Then the garbage-clogged sewers of my urban universe grant me the boon of floods and the long-awaited "No classes" from Father Rector or Father Principal via the airwaves. Sometimes there would be a storm and I would still enjoy myself. The lost crops did not appeal to my youthful sentiments. GNP points and the millions of pesos lost at the wake of every storm's passing bore no meaning at all. Politicians pointing fingers at each other was just part of the news. And rains were almost always good news!

It was rain, man. It was pure.

The names of "Yoling" and "Pining" were sweet. The tone always made me feel like I was in my province where I first heard such names. The "ing" ending was the usual way we candied Spanish names like "Yolanda"and "Rufina" into Filipino endearments. It never struck me then as funny that storms were named that way. It was as if the drops named themselves. There was total acceptance.

Was there any other way to name storms?

Years later, I would sit here, far from rural Rizal, with feminist discourses, linguistics courses, economic concerns, political convictions, and lost loves fermenting in my convoluted heart. And I cannot embrace the rains as I did before. Not for the life of me.

For one thing, I hear it sound differently. "Hambalos" and "Gloria" seem to belong somewhere else. Maybe in some cryptic sentence, some suggestion or violent reaction. Or in an agenda.

But it's not just in the naming. It's in something more. Something akin to the fact that one cannot cross the river twice. Or no drop falls on the same head again.

It's not as raw as before. Or as raw as it seemed to a younger self. It's different. Now I see the life it can foster or the destruction it can unleash. I hear songs and memories as it showers kisses on my galvanized roof. I hear the cries of the unhomed. I smell the flood. I taste the acidity.

For better or worse, there's still the future. A time and a place where our kind will either all cherish the water or all perish by it. But for now, we live life as we can, with our heads never entirely dry.

Thank heavens for you, sweetest raindrop.

Life cannot but be action now, that's decided. But I will stop whenever you decide to fall on me. Already I know, there will be lovelier meanings. I can see it in your prism.

Meanwhile, take cover. It's gonna rain.

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