THE sky was overcast early yesterday morning, and it did rain while I was prodding my son to prepare for school---our weekdays ritual. But it was no downpour. Khan-khan’s raincoat was barely wet when I left him at the campus around 7 a.m. Yet the drizzle and the sun’s absence made my 6K walk-run that morning more enjoyable.

After all those reports about the creeping El Niño, I was surprised that the rain visited our place (I am not even sure how wide the area affected was) yesterday. And it did make me feel like a friend was passing by to bid his farewell before going on a long trip. Indeed, before past dry spells intensified, a drizzle or two always preceded them.

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At the back of our house is a hill full of kabayro (ipil-ipil) and amidst them a lonely bamboo clump that has, for years, survived weather changes. The hill, green for most of the time, is turning brown, and so too the leaves of the bamboo plant. I expect the shrubs and grasses near our back fence to be the first to go, like before.

I am not prepared to call this weather episode a drought as yet. That term brings back memories of difficulties that characterized previous overly extended dry spells.

Those “droughts” were not called El Niño back then. These were simply known in Cebuano as “huwaw.” And they were not associated with “global warming.”

A few of those dry spells happened in the ‘80s when I was still in the Cebu City hinterlands. The first one in 1981 (or was it 1982?) was particularly long. I could not forget that because the trees and shrubs that shielded our hut from the view of passersby had gone bald. Farmers eventually had to look for other means of livelihood to survive.

Some of our friends in one village shifted from tilling the land to working in the coal mines, which dotted some areas in Bonbon and Buot-Taup. The process of adjustment, especially in the physical sense, was obviously difficult. One young woman ended up looking muscular after weeks of pulling containers full of coal.

One thing going for Cebu’s terrain is its ability to store water underground. Our mountains may be bald but one finds sources of water—wells, springs, etc.—everywhere. How do you think could villages have thrived up there where MCWD is nothing but a bunch of letters? But in the dry spell in the mid-‘80s much of the water sources dried up.

I was then in a village overlooking the metro plains. One of the things I liked in the place was that it was cold even in the hours going into noon and it seemed to invite fog ever so often.

But that changed with the dry spell. The wells dried up one after the other and soon quarrels erupted as sources of water became limited.

The only consolation is that El Niños are, in the end, but passing occurrences. The key word for us when these disturbances come is “endure.” But the difficulty of enduring can be eased if both the people and the government find ways to mitigate the dry spell’s impact. It’s not only about power supply. It’s also about livelihood and water sources.

My only complaint is that, for now, we seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill, sort of. I won’t quarrel with the idea of preparing the people for any eventuality.

But that should not drown out objectivity. My point is, what we are experiencing now is still far from the worst that we have been through in the past. So, kalma-kalma lang ta.

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