27 September 2009

A Typhoon in Manila - Let's Go to the Mall?

From Reuters - taken yesterday in Quezon city.


Just when I was about to get out and enjoy Manila, to shake off the violating theft feeling that we had incurred on our first day here, to eat breakfast and lunch at the weekly Makati Farmer's market and to tour the city with renowned (and flamboyantly gay) comedian Carlos Cedran – that is the day that the typhoon hit. Our plans of catching a night bus to the ancient rice terraces of Banaue were dashed.

We woke to an ominous sound – a loud drumming coming from the roof. "What is that?" I asked S, causing him to fling open the window and look down four stories. "That, dear, is the rain."

Now, I am a Vancouver girl and a rain lover through and through. Thunderclouds are actually comforting to me, homey and nostalgic – 'grey skies are NOT going to clear up, so put on an cope-y face.' Vancouverites don't use umbrellas unless it is like, pouring – the people in rain coats with brollies are inevitably tourists or Toronto expats unused to the constant eight month barrage of moody grey droplets - we native-born Lotus Landers can sort of dodge the drops.

I bring up the almanac of West coast Canada to illustrate that I, unlike most people, am well equipped to cope with precipitation – like a duck, or a mushroom. I will go out in the most thunderous monsoon weather without the bat of a MAC mascara-ed eyelash – but this? This is a typhoon. An actual one.

I have seen waterfalls on the Trans Canada highway (you know, out there in the wasteland past Hope on the way to the Coquihalla) that have less water pressure than the rain in Manila today. The sky has opened up and I think we made it mad – sheets of rain are pounding the street and causing floods. The lobby of our hotel is swamped by a foot of water that is mixed with shredded newspaper bits and swirling mud – the doomen gave up bailing it out hours ago.

Our hunger and sheer boredom forced us to don body condom-like plastic rain ponchos to head to that infamous of all Manila institutions – the mega mall. After slogging through the lobby we emerged on the street wet and slimy and hailed a tricycle, a pedal taxi. He was draped in a vinyl sim card ad in lieu of a rain coat and was charging 4 times the normal rate to take us down the comicly flooded street – we agreed.

Careening through the near empty streets in our human powered tuk-tuk we had to lift our feet to avoid being soaked by the lakes of rain beneath us. Our driver pedalled his heart out and we arrived at the mall.

In Vancouver a really rainy day can only mean one thing – the malls will all be crowded, groaning with bored humans waving plastic and shuffling around zombie-like. In Manila the opposite was true – there were only a few shoppers ambling around and half of the stores were closed. However, this being the Philippines, land of the monolithic shopping centre, that still left a multitude of options.

After a few hours spent killing time (and money at Topshop, as they have them here but not in Canada – go figure) we headed back to our guesthouse, where the weekly wine and cheese night just happened to be occuring.

Drinking glass after glass of a decent Bordeaux (can you believe when I was there 10 years ago I didn't like wine? Shame – deep shame) we heard fellow traveler's stories of the day. One dude who had traveled to a far flung corner of the city actually saw people swimming in the road. S himself saw a parade of drowned rats and cockroaches floating by in the gutter when he went to the ATM.

Now it is 8pm, the rain is falling even harder and S and I have nothing to do but watch Men in Black II, drink this wine and wait for the rain to abate. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to start our Northward journey to the Cordillera – but if not, well I hope the mall is open. It may be our only choice...

(We woke up to the news today that 60 people were killed and the rain was the heaviest since 1967. Truly horrible.)

*Note - as of Sep 28 the deathtoll has risen to over 90 and 250,000 people are now homeless - from our relatively dry point in the city we had no idea until we tuned into CNN. Please PLEASE make a donation to the Philippine Red Cross here for all of the victims of Tropical Storm Ketsana.

10 comments:

Dennis Hilario said...

wow i am one of your avid followers and i feel you my friend...i am from manila and its a good thing i went to the Quezon province (south of manila) last fri night thus i did not experience the super heavy rain. There are many amazing places in the philippines like palawan, cebu and davao, those are the cities that rain very seldom! hope you'll get a chance to visit them and i'll be more than willing to assist you if you have queries about the place...enjoy your stay!

Laura said...

This brings back memories of my visit to Manila a couple of years ago - luckily no typhoon but LOTS of rain and a lot of mall time and watching movies. I'd been living on a small island in Thailand for a while though so it was pretty exciting to see a Top Shop!

thatsorad said...

Dude, enjoy your solitude moment. Even if it is watching Men in Blak II :)

Although I can not wait to find out what you do after it rains! :) CS

Pat said...

Hope the rain lets up, at least not coming down in buckets, sheets or whatever,so you can get on with your travels and touring!

Hilda said...

I'm so sorry you arrived in Manila at such an awful time. I hope your trip north pushes through. Might be a bit better than being down here right now. The trees in the mountains might be a mess, but at least that's natural and cleaner than Manila's flood waters.

kanmuri said...

Sounds crazy!
We have typhoons here in Japan (the word typhoon actually comes from the Japanese word taifuu.) They're usually pretty bad around kyushuu but where I live we usually only get rain.

McPinay said...

this is definitely the beauty and madness of nature...

the cause and effect.

Anonymous said...

almost nothing over here...Barely a mention it on the 6 o'clock. It is your blog that has realized the anguish and torment set upon the Philippines for myself and many others these past few days. Thank you.

Violet Dear said...

@Anonymous - That is really strange! Here we have on CNN International and BBCWorld and even MSNBC (shudder) and it is 24/7 coverage. Try checking out the major networks for coverage?

Geeta said...

It's interesting to read about a typhoon from the standpoint of someone in one! & how it can vary between a slight obstruction in plans (and alternate ones to a mall) to the cause of death and homelessness. Oh nature...


I'm also quite envious of your tales abroad, and can't wait to return to having my own!

 
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