I SMELL rain.

I’m writing this hours away from the grand procession capping the nine-day novena for the Holy Infant, Cebu’s favorite son.

This year the route seems to be longer than the previous ones. Walking in the rain will certainly be different.

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A drizzle accompanied some of the novena masses I attended. “Blessings,” one priest said in a homily.

When I was a child, playtime in the rain had no word to describe it.

But the rain is just chill to me now. Around me, umbrellas are unfurled. I see many look at a leaden sky and see it as only heavy with obstacles. Traffic. Sickness. Flood. Tardiness.

Under the pellets of rain, the balloons bob up and down in the vendors’ hold. They remind me of children pulling away from the grasp of handlers.

Escape? Processions mean crowds.

And water bottles.

In Cebu, where most people prefer to ride than to walk and political demonstrations do not count as local pastime, any massing on the streets nearly always has religion at its roots.

This year the faithful are called to protect the environment.

In a few hours, will we see what we’ve always seen in the past: water bottles discarded along the procession route.

Man left his footprints on the moon. Why not water bottles?

Processions involve walking.

And walking is thirsty work.

Throw in vendors who flit in and out of the crowds like mosquitoes, hawking bottled water and whatnot.

A trail of plastic tracks the paths taken by devotees. Piety is also a form of thirst.

This year, can we desire to replenish more than lost bodily fluids?

Can we keep with us a lightweight bottle emptied of its contents as easily as we carry for hours a representation in wood or resin of the God of all creation?

Can we expect trash receptacles labeled for segregation to be as conspicuous as festive arches and buntings along the streets?

The Copenhagen Summit in December 2009 recognized the role of each one in keeping temperature increases to below 2C.

Reducing CO2 emissions seems disconnected from the tiny figure in red and gold bobbing in a human sea. So grand, so distant.

In the crowd, I am closer to the children and youths darting in and out of the procession, collecting water bottles in the sacks they carry.

More than once, I’ve seen a youngster fish out bottles that fell in open manholes or canals. Does anyone see them, the clogged waste and the child knee-deep in filth?

We walk. We desire to complete the circuit. We chase a vision.

We cross paths with these unappointed street sweepers. We find them a nuisance: they break cordons, get in the way, distract us from the red-and-gold vision.

Ignorant of Copenhagen, the plastic chasers also ignore us. They see only the litter they can convert to cash.

Driven by different kinds of thirst, our lines snake back to where they came from.

I smell rain but don’t for a moment believe that it can wash us clean.

(mayette.tabada@gmail.com/ mayettetabada.blogspot.com/ 0917-3226131)