Tuesday, September 4, 2012

i shall return...

So I am finally coming "home" after almost 4 years, my longest absence from home country. I must admit I have gone quite distant from my feeling of longing for the Philippines.

I vowed not to return after a long time after the traumatizing experience I had during the Ketsana typhoon and flooding which turned Manila overnight into an Asian apocalyptic version of Kevin Costner's 90's hollywood flop Water World. From my last trips to Davao, Cebu, Boracay, Iloilo, Batangas and Manila, storms and water followed me incessantly and it even came all the way here to Cambodia where it flooded for the first time due to Ketsana reaching its borders.

I still recall hanging on to my dear life traversing the sea from Samal Island to the Davao City wharf with a small speed boat in the middle of a deluge at 3 am just so I can make it to my 5am flight to Cebu. I was living the set of The Perfect Storm and it was probably only my tongue that didn't get the lashing of the rain and sea water coming from all sides. I arrived at the Davao International Airport looking like a wet puppy, shaking from the cold and from the experience.

Then came Boracay and Batangas which were suppose to be perfect postcards of a thousand glorious summers. Coming there on September is probably a very bad idea, especially if you're there for work - shooting resorts and the destinations for a brochure. The search for the perfect sky and light is like looking for a lost 1000 peso bill in Divisoria.

Then the perfect coincidence of Typhoon Ketsana lashing its watery might to Manila on the same day I was flying out back to Cambodia. I was happily going about with my last minute shopping in Glorietta, but after an hour, I discovered that all its mall entrances were blocked with water and there were no taxis in sight. The underpasses were filled with water as well and I didn't happen to bring my scuba gear with me, so technically, I swam over to dry land to find a taxi to bring me to get my luggage in San Antonio Village where I was staying. Imagine my surprise when the guards at the village entrance told us the taxi couldn't go in anymore because the water level inside is already more than a meter high! So I had to fetch my 80-kilo luggage (3 bags - I know, this deserves another post!) on my own, in the middle of the waist deep water whose current is enough to make the Niagara Falls blush. Thankfully, my heavy luggage kept me anchored until I traversed the 1 kilometer journey safely - twice!

But of course, finding a taxi, getting your luggage and surviving the raging water is one thing. Getting to the airport is another.

As Manila's busy streets were instantly turned into rivers, we got stuck on the road for 8 hours. My flight was at 230pm so by 5pm, it was clear that it's impossible for me to beg Thai Airways to wait for me. At 8pm, I finally managed to find a hotel room (probably the last one) in Makati's red light district after Manila residents scrambled to find shelter in hotels.

I have stayed and lived in Manila for almost 5 years but this is probably the worst troubles I've ever seen the city tackle.

Now, this is my first time to go back after that, but even if I still picked the same month when the sunshine takes cover from the wrath of typhoons back home, I am still positively excited about it, considering how resilient my country has been, and how my fellow Filipinos who, even through the face of near cataclysmic events that come their way almost every day (typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, protests, bad fashion from moms of millionaire boxers, bad presidents, etc), everybody still lives their lives with a big smile on their faces.

And that alone is enough to make me go back.

And of course, there's also the Pastillas de Leche donut at Go Nuts Donuts.