Sunday, July 15, 2007

Walang Kurante (Powerless after Typhoon Millenyo)


No power (obviously, this entry is copied from my journal written by candlelight). Some are saying it could be a month before we get our power back. This doesn't really phase me. It's an excuse to stay in a read during the day and go to bed early. I'm kind of enjoying it..the quiet time...although I do miss being able to communicate with my friends and family via the internet.

I ran down the highway Friday morning and noticed that the one room shack along the highway was completely destroyed. The ground was smoking and the family, who I had met last summer when I first moved here..(I met them when I was sketching on the other side of the road). I'm assuming the house caught fire in the storm. Apparently, they stayed with the mother's brother the night before. The family was just sitting in a parked jeepney (the sky was overcast). The mother recognized me but averted my gaze as I ran by. I came back and asked “Ano'ng nangyari”, which means what happened. The house was destroyed in the storm. The mother who was so light-hearted and smiling widely looked so worried, her forehead creased, her head bowed over the baby in her arms. She was ashamed. I asked where she was staying that night. She said that they were on their way to barungay hall where they said they would receive help. I went back to find them but the hall was closed. I found them still sitting in the jeepney 8 hours later. I gave them a little money but I don't know how far it could really get them other than feed them for the next week and maybe pay for a single bed in a boarding house in town for a few nights. But that was just one family and our town was considered the least affected.

I saw photos at the Red Cross headquarters/later this month when I went in to get information for a Dengue campaign. An area outside Manila called Silang, Cavite which is so beautiful, all woods and farmland was greatly affected by the typhoons.In one photo a woods was stripped of many of the trees. They were ripped out of the ground completely and the wooded area containing 100 houses was completely bare and looked like a deep, fast moving river. It took them weeks to bring the water level down. Theya re still looking for bodies of those missing before the storm. Other regions affected by the typhoons were Manila City, Bicol, (10 hours south of Manila), Batangas, Mabitac, Cavite and 3 other cities nearby. Crazy. I'm trying to help start some small business projects for the people who are struggling to recover their financial losses. Red Cross and some local baragunays are going to help coordinate these small business trainings with me. I'm of course hoping to recruit some small business volunteers to help run the training.

I went to the plenke around 6 p.m., when the sun is starting to go down. The palenke is already dark inside. The market is usually busy. The streets filled with trikes weaving in and around pedestrian traffic and motorcycles (the main means of transportation for Filipinos) and the market packed with people standing around, patiently waiting in line to place their order at the vegetable and fruit stands. Tonight the place looks like an abandoned fairground, garbage littering the floor beneath abandoned and empty card tables beneath tarps. The few remaining tindehans (vendors) with scattered tea candles on their card tables barely look up at me, their heads in their hands, some sleeping. One vendor tells me business was been awful all last week and this week hasn't been much better.

I walk back down the dark streets only occasionally lit by a few trikes' headlights. I walk across the street cautiously because not all trike drivers and motorcyclists bother to use their headlights when driving in the dark. A kiosk selling roasted peanuts on the street looks like something from the 19th century with a metal kerosine lamp hooked onto the side of the cart dancing high in the windy night light a torch. We've heard there is still another typhoon coming through next Monday.

I pass Jolly Bee's and I'm disgusted. The two story structure has music blasting from speakers on the sidewalk. Their air conditioning and refrgerators are running while so many people have no power to even operate their running water in neighboring barungays. Incredible.

This power outage has made me much more aware of my energy and water consumption. I am thinking about trying to conserve more water. Washing my dishes in a basin and then dumping the dirty water on my plants. Using candles at night instead of electricity on the first floor. Only using my fan when I need it. Taking trikes only when its raining hard and walking more. I was walking a lot more in Limay. I got lazier the more buisy my life has become here.

Yes. There have been inconveniences. When I'm cooking and using candle light to cook by if I don't get home early enough to cook by daylight (before 5:30 pm) all the windows fog up and its very hot in the house (at least 10 degrees hotter on the first floor. The second floor is like a sauna all the time). It is also difficult to sleep in the heat. I find myself just lying in bed like I used to do Limay, reading (by flashlight this time) until I fall asleep from utter exhaustion.

I'm considering after Peace Corps living somewhere in a hut maybe here or somewhere in SE Asia, maybe in the states in a small cottage and living without electricity, just well water, growing my own fruits and veggies and living off my writing and short stories. That would truly be the perfect life for me.


I was walking home from the market again and there is a TV on the stage in the plaza, playing Sa Piling Mo, a night time soap opera. There are at least 3 to 40 people standing around watching the program. I'm assuming people got together and chipped in to get the generator. How funny is that! People are really serious about their soap operas here. I heard from friends in Bicol, another affected region, some people did the same thing in their town plaza.


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