Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rainy season part two

It’s interesting the kinds of reactions that we receive when we describe some aspect of our new life in the Philippines. Americans often comment about how we are adapting or on how their understanding of life here is growing:

“The logistics of how you manage to meet your basic needs is very interesting to me.”

“I enjoyed your blog on the shopping trip. Gives your readers a very good perspective on life in the P.I.'s.”

Filipinos’ comments are more along the lines of how we are surviving in their culture or how we are pointing out every-day things that they take for granted:

“It is interesting to know how you cope with the new lifestyle and learn the country's culture.”

“I have never really paid too much attention to such details and yet, after reading your commentaries gave me a different perspective on life in the Philippines.”

Back in June we talked about how different “rainy season” here is from the weather we were used to in the Midwestern United States. We explained how it can rain day after day, and that the rain comes in waves. We had been experiencing this for the past week, due to a typhoon that passed by, followed by a stationary low pressure system about 100 miles north of here. Each day we were getting two to six inches of rain, usually in downpours with calm periods in between, day and night, with rare and very brief glimpses of the sun. (We bought a rain gauge when we were back in America. We could not find one here. The locals think we’re “gago” (crazy) to want to know how much it rained.) It’s just possible that we are in for some sun today. We received a total of 18 inches of rain in the past six days from Typhoons Labuyo and Maring.

The Philippine Coast Guard here on the island monitors the weather, and on days with high winds they issue alerts called “signals.” Depending on the level of signal, small bancas may or may not come from Bataan, and Sun Cruises may be forced to cancel their trip as well. This leaves us isolated from the rest of the world for a day or more, the record being 21 straight days, or so we’ve been told. That is why we stock up our storeroom with enough canned and dried food that we should be able to weather the storm, so to speak. In the event of an emergency, one of the on-island bancas will provide transport to Bataan.

Corregidor is an island that is part of the caldera of an extinct volcano. As such, there are almost no flat areas; it’s basically up and down—Topside and Middleside Parade Grounds and Kindley Field being the exceptions. This means that the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers had to design a series of channels and culverts which could handle massive amounts of rainfall in very short periods of time, sending the water to the bay without washing out the existing roads, railroad beds, and buildings that were being simultaneously constructed.

Water is not something easily diverted; it goes where it wants and takes the path of least resistance. The hills are steep so of course the water rushes downhill. No doubt the engineers spent a lot of time during heavy rains observing just exactly where the runoffs occurred, and then planned accordingly. The systems were so well designed that most of them still operate flawlessly today, almost 100 years after installation, as long as accumulated debris is regularly cleared.

One morning we decided to get out of the house and see what the island is like during a period of moderate rain. Wearing our rain jackets, we walked from our house at Middleside along the road up to Topside and back again in a loop that usually takes us about 45 minutes. Immediately we were impressed by the number of channels and culverts that are in place. We have observed them in the past but never seen them in operation, and of course they were now quite evident, whereas normally you wouldn’t pay much attention to them. We did spot a couple of blocked culverts, obvious because the water was running across the road.

Interestingly, two spots that rainwater pooled were at the mortar batteries. Battery Way had a small lake in front of it, and the road past Battery Geary was under water. We’re not sure if these are due to design flaws in the drainage system or if there are blocked runoffs; much more likely the latter, given the high-level engineering apparent all over the island. In either case, the water is shallow and will undoubtedly be gone before the tourists are back.

Even though Sun Cruises is not able to operate right now, normal work by maintenance staff goes on. Grass and vines grow very quickly this time of year, so clearing is a continual process. We observed grass cutters out with their weed-whackers not only cutting grass but sending water spraying as they cut. The rule here is “you don’t work you don’t get paid,” so whenever possible, work goes on no matter what the conditions. Who knows? Maybe the grass cutters prefer working in the rain, with its much more pleasant temperatures, than battling the heat and dust of other times in the year.

Due to the extremely high humidity, moss is particularly active right now. Rocks and rock walls are covered in the stuff. The walls at the entrance to Battery Crockett are particularly green this time of year. The moss is almost pretty, but does have an obvious odor to it. It also grows on shaded sections of the roads, making them very slippery when wet. There is a black form (dormant?) which is extremely slippery when wet; Steve fell—gently, thank goodness—just the other day on the steps of the bodega. It felt as if he had stepped on a sheet of ice.

As we’ve mentioned before, getting laundry to dry is a challenge: knowing when it is as dry as it is going to get, even more so. Our clothes line is now completely covered by the tin roof over our dirty kitchen. Even so, when the wind blows hard, mist manages to find the clothes. It is so humid that paper such as book pages absorbs moisture. So we are sure that even if we had a clothes dryer and that the clothes came out bone-dry, they would soon feel somewhat moist.

Also, most of the cooking on the island is done outdoors with firewood. It has been so wet that even firewood stored in a dry place sucks up enough moisture that it is hard to start a fire. We have an indoor gas stove in addition to our outdoor cooking area, so it is not as much of an issue for us as for others on the island.

By the way, the small town from which we moved a year ago is called Eaton Rapids, Michigan. The locals say that it is the only Eaton Rapids in the world. In front of our house is a temporary waterfall; it is only there during and right after heavy rain. Nevertheless, we are tempted to christen the area Eaton Rapids, Corregidor. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. That's what we call"Buhay Pinoy" Filipinos are mostly easy going but full of patience and perseverance.They take life easy and deals mostly with the present and absolutely very persistent.I remember my mom said when dealing with problems;"No undertaking is difficult if pursued with perseverance.When worrying about the future;I remembered my mom told us; to her seven children"A bag full of money isn't worth as a mind full of knowledge.She embedded in our young mind that education is the best investment in life and nobody could take it from you.