Milenyo (international name, Xangsane) started threatening with a steady downpour the night before (Wednesday) it arrived in Manila. After getting up early the following morning, even if still groggy from my erratic night’s sleep due to the pellet-like raindrops incessantly tapping on my window and the howling of the wind, I still managed to prepare and eat my breakfast while tuning in to the early morning show Unang Hirit. Perhaps the show’s network was the first casualty of the typhoon when the channel only showed black and white static about the same time I was all ears waiting for the magic words “Walang pasok sa lahat ng kawani ng gobyerno…” (All government office work for the day are cancelled) to be announced. Even if I wasn’t able to hear the awaited music to my ears, I read those sweet words on the banner of the TV.
I would have savored my last few moments in the civilized world while browsing the web and afterwards watching TV had I known that I was using the last few current of electricity flowing through our outlet and that I would be thrown back into the Dark Ages for the next two days. The blackout struck us around 9 in the morning. With no TV and internet connection (and phone line was also down), my activities (or lack thereof) were limited to reading a back issue of Newsweek, strumming The Beatles tunes on my guitar, and best of all, hitting the sack as the cold weather blankets and lulls me to sleep.
By 12 noon, the sun’s rays almost came through as the skies cleared up. The few minutes of sudden stillness caused me a bit of discomfort, not knowing if Milenyo‘s wrath is over and done. The silence was gradually broken by the sound of sweeping besoms on the streets, hammering of GI sheets, and faltering tricycles passing nearby. Apparently, Milenyo just took and held its deep breath. After an hour, it released an equal fury if not a much stronger one with its second wind.
My only form of entertainment was the FM radio of my cellphone, which has already proved useless with my network’s system down (even until now!), though we could have sponsored a party after cooking food fit for a feast to avoid its spoilage in the fridge.
Day two of our powerlessness caught up on our patience. I opted to help out in the sweeping of the leaves of our calachuchi tree strewn all over our little patch of garden, garage, and street. In the afternoon, we decided to hit the road to go to the hospital for my mom’s check up. I already had a strong hunch that we were not the only ones to look around and see, in true Filipino fashion making usyoso. Despite moving traffic, cars filled the roads as if needing some warming up after a day or two of stagnation. Some fastfood joints that were open were bursting at the seams with people queuing up. A water station for sure was raking in the big bucks with water containers snaking in front of its shop. It could have passed for a tamer version of a scene from War of the Worlds, if not for the absence of the tripod aliens and their killer beams, people’s frantic screaming, and their eventual disintegration.
After parking to eat our dinner of fastfood delicacy like some famished refugee in the car, we went to the almost-empty church to commemorate my late grandma’s birthday. Later, we drove to Starbucks, which, I tell you, almost didn’t exhibit any hint of the blackout in our side of the city. Pin lights, cold coffee drinks, and piped-in mellow music were all thrown in to provide comfort to the patrons seeking escape from the conundrum and ravages left by the typhoon.
Oddly, like a switch for the streetlights, a lucky stretch of the road was suddenly lit up in front of after a distant explosion. We surveyed the streets still inconclusive if we indeed already have electricity as we drove home my brother’s friend.
It had started to rain again as my brother and I made our way home. When we arrived, I found our house still lit by a solitary candle, somberly greeting us of our return. Today, as I was able to write this, thankfully, is another story.