As I write today, I marvel at how brightly the sun is shining outside my window – draping the leaves on the trees and bushes with its warm glow. The computer monitor is positioned in such a way that even as I glance at it, I have a clear view of the backyard, if I so choose to train my eyes above the screen.
How time flies, and how time moves on so swiftly, as though what happened a few days ago can be so easily forgotten. And how well we humans cope with the fleeting nature of time – we move on with it and bravely march onward.
Looking at the backyard now, who would have guessed that earlier this week, the same trees and bushes that are now bathing under the sun were drenched. Everyone’s roof tops are dry once more, providing houses with shelter from the sun’s heat, whereas a few days ago, many rooftops in the Metropolitan Manila area served as safe refuge from the rising floodwater.
“I always worry when I learn that a typhoon is in your area,” my friend Lynne once wrote all the way from South Africa.
“Don’t worry Lynne,” I assured her after she expressed worries over tsunamis. “We live far away from the shore.”
I live with my family in the biggest of 7,100 islands of the Philippine archipelago in Southeast Asia. Home is in the suburbs of Metropolitan Manila, a congregation of 16 municipalities in the island of Luzon. Home is far away from the shoreline, safe from tsunamis, but not from typhoons which hit the country from August to October.
Typhoon Trami was the first strong typhoon that visited this year. From Sunday evening onwards, we listened to the rain pouring over our rooftops. Living in a country that lies in the typhoon belt of the Philippines, I have learned through the years to discern the strength of a typhoon by the amount of rainfall that pours over our roof. I knew it was no ordinary typhoon – if there is such as thing – this was a deluge. In the wee hours of Monday morning, electric supply was shut down in many areas of the metropolis, including ours. I prayed for the families that I knew would be greatly affected by Trami.
After lashing out on Taiwan, Trami is in the Fujian region of China. In the Philippines, as the sun shines, the clean-up continues; families who evacuated have gone back to their homes to cleanup and pick up the pieces of their lives again, as they have done so many times before.
Trami dumped 626 millimeters of rain on the National Capital Region in two days, equivalent to more than a month and half of the average rainfall in the country. The city where I live had been declared under a state of calamity – the first time in many decades. Five provinces, five cities and several municipalities have been declared under a state of calamity. Thousands of families fled their homes and 15 people lost their lives.
In the midst of the typhoon, when the sky gave us a respite from the deluge, I went outside the house to clean up a bit. Our house is on high ground, amidst many trees, so we were safe and sound. Trami did not bring much wind so there were neither broken branches nor fallen trees, only hundreds of leaves on the ground.
While clearing the ground, I found that a three-year old Cattleya orchid was, for the first time in full bloom, with another flower opening up and a third bud hiding behind. Seeing the blooming orchid brought joy to our hearts – it was like a symbol of the strength that shines through during difficult times.
I brought it inside to shelter it from the unrelenting downpour. And now, as the sun shines brightly outside, the Cattleya continues to be a reminder of how we can all blossom inspite of difficulties and hard times.