Does it have to be a recurring nightmare? Every time it rains, tinted with yellow and red alerts, it’s no longer just another season. It’s history in the making, carrying a load of painful memories that will be repeated and passed on to the next generation. After waiting these many decades, no president has found a permanent solution? Have we gotten so used to rescue, relief, and rehabilitation that we cannot imagine how to relocate, rebuild, renew the lives of the hapless, perennial victims of typhoons?
Comparisons between Ondoy in September 2009 and Ulysses in November 2020 couldn’t be helped. The memories were too wet and wild to stay buried in the river of our shared experiences. (To quote PRRD, he would have wanted to swim with the people in misery, except that Presidential Security barred him from stepping outside Malacañang.)
Watching the TV coverage of Ulysses’ savage sweep of anything and anyone in its path, thanks to the industry’s most intrepid field reporters with their camera and lighting crews, was nearly traumatic. On signal 3, Ulysses arrived on the heels, literally, of a super typhoon, Rolly, before which was a cluster of weaker ones – Ofel, Pepito, Quinta, Siony, Tonio – and now the weather bureau foresees five more storms before the year ends, which should take us up to the end of the alphabet, at letter Z.
Whatever we remember of Ulysses, it will be scary just thinking of the next one. Marikina had expected floods rising to 18 meters; instead the city got 21.8. NLEX in Bulacan was flooded. Water released from one dam was equivalent to the water in 200,000 Olympic-size pools. It rained for 33 hours in Dingalan, Aurora on top of a storm surge. Rescue was done by all manner and contraptions of amphibious vehicles, from jet-ski to payloader. The floods rose so quickly, reaching the third floor, tenants had no time to bring food and dry clothes up to the rooftop. Streets turned into rivers, farms turned into lakes, trees and posts turned into roadblocks. Ondoy brought 455 mm of rain, equivalent to one month’s precipitation, while Ulysses’ 153 mm was enough for 10 days.
The next president should have a plan, a roadmap, at the very least a dream.