Monday, May 3, 2010
Philippines - And I Thought We Were Turning Into A Desert
Pampanga River? All dried up!
Just last March, I left a very dry Philippines. It had been months of dry weather. Agricultural plants have withered. Water level from dams was continually covered by sensationalist news programs – while everyone waits with bated breath when this dry spell would last! I was to fly east of Manila for more than 3 hours. The moment my plane touched down Kuala Lumpur, splatters of fresh rain bounced playfully against my window, as though heralding the crossing of a geographical barrier that specifically excluded the Philippine archipelago from regions blessed with precipitation. Were we being punished?
But maybe KL’s rain was just coincidence? I went further north and travelled to Penang. The moment my ferry reached Georgetown, it rained again! For a delectable hour! A few days later, I flew for Colombo – capital of Sri Lanka, almost 4 hours further west from southeast asia! That same day, while I was roaming modern day Ceylon on a hired three-wheeler (tuktuk), Colombo skies spat a benevolent volume of rain water. Children jumped with joy, and my driver sported a grin from ear to ear; this despite his getting drenched in the downpour than lasted for 30 minutes. It had been 3 months of dry spell in Colombo.
A few weeks later, my Air Asia flight took me to the city of Kuching in the state of Sarawak in the island of Borneo, and if you look at the map, this is very near the tip of southern Philippines’ Mindanao island. Yet Mindanao was dry! From the sky, I could see rolling hills and plains of lush green vegetation (see photos below). Sarawak River was abundantly flowing! A few days later, it rained – hard! As though a message was sent my way.
Then finally I had to come home! My Air Asia flight from LCCT to Clark Field – in Pampanga (a couple of hours north of Manila)! As we were making our descent, I saw the withering rice fields; a landscape painted with the hue of earth. There is a sweeping spread of parched lands, and the Pampanga River and its tributaries have turned into dry sinewy snakes of sand and gravel!
The Catholic Diocese already resorted to oratio imperata, our desperate prayer for rain. I read that even Melbourne turned to prayers. Last March 10, 2010 - Melbourne experienced a very satisfying rainfall, it was, as others put it, "a storm". Yet all we had in the Philippines were spits of drizzle that dissipate in 5 minutes - and an increasing rise of temperature that has recently gone to 37.8 degrees in Cagayan. I am told that Shanghai scorches at 40 degrees, but who cares, they have winter and we don’t. We should enjoy temperate weather – and they can have their 4 seasons!
We do not deserve to be dehydrated by our own sweat! What did Melbourne do that their prayers were heard?
Then for the last few days, Manila had been inundated with heavy rains. How come it has turned into a case of all or nothing? Either we die of thirst or of getting swept away by the floods? Did we pray too much?
This is the Eye in the Sky!