Rolling with the weather

By: Reyshimar Arguelles

BEING in a country located within the Pacific Ring of Fire, we should treat typhoons as a normal thing. Unfortunately, we haven’t gone past the need to improve our weather monitoring capabilities and the way we respond to serious natural phenomena that could potentially cause widespread casualties and infrastructure damage. This has somehow forced us into accepting our fate as “typhoon testers” as though it were a fundamental fact of life.

It’s either we’ve grown so much used to extreme weather that adaptation has become an afterthought, or we’ve already come to grips with our own mortal futility in the face of factors beyond our control. The phrase “weather-weather lang yan” originated from the idea that we’re all at the mercy of a sky that couldn’t care less about causing knee-high flood and storm surges as tall as coconut trees.

Seeing there’s nothing we can do about our situation within the Ring of Fire, the best we could do is to roll with the wind. We can never change the weather, but we can always find a way to take advantage of it.

We are well-adapted to the weather, and this is evident in how pedicab drivers operate makeshift boats when heavy rains cause the streets to swell with floodwater, or how soup kitchens turn into halo-halo joints overnight when the summer season takes its turn. Our lack along the lines of resiliency overshadow our knack to make light of dire situations when there’s nothing else for us to do other than to let things run their course. To a nation that has had to serve several colonial and neo-colonial masters for a course of four centuries, every situation no matter how bad presents an opportunity waiting to be tapped.

Growing up as a child who found solace in cartoons, I was always eager to know when the next typhoon would arrive. Nothing could excite the kids back then quite like announcements of class cancellations. These would mean having to spend the entire day watching cartoons, drawing grotesque characters that could have landed on the pages of a counterculture magazine, and watching shows you didn’t get to watch on Saturdays and Sundays. Heavy rains meant being at home on a weekday when you’re supposed to listen to a science teacher talk about the mitochondria.

During those years, you could wish for storms of cataclysmic proportions, hoping that the school would be wise enough to cancel classes. Nothing has changed since then. Class cancellations are a delight to everyone’s ears – only if they’re done before the entire city turns into a marshland. I could still remember wading through floodwater just to get home safely after classes were cut short. And that was when the only way you can get the word out about cancellation is through texting with a Nokia 3310.

Compare that with the functionality of today’s smartphones that provide access to social networking sites. But while new technology is supposed to make things easier and simpler, it did nothing to improve how we interpret weather data and come up with better decisions over whether to cancel the day’s classes or not.

No one wants to be caught in the middle of a maelstrom. This week saw knee-high flooding which trapped students and teachers in their schools. Someone has to be blamed for this and it better not be the weather.

The city government might not have properly gauged the intensity of Typhoon Falcon or that there has been a failure to act on the information provided by PAGASA. But at any rate, it still has to do a good job at making announcements that won’t put students at risk. Safety is just as important as taking tests.

But I have to admit that students have it better. At least they get to stay at home and do whatever they want while they keep themselves warm indoors, which is something you would really want as you work a 9 to 5 job.

Is it me or am I just realizing the inevitability of growing old? Either way, I’d just have to roll with the weather.