MY mother called and asked about the weather in Manila. She said there was a storm brewing. I answered an incredulous “Really? I thought that was in northern Luzon. It’s just drizzling here. And there are no winds,” I told my mother. It was the morning of Tuesday, July 13.

In the afternoon, I confidently texted my mother, “The rains have stopped and the sun has come out.” Oh well, I really should have known. Having lived in the tropics for most of my life, I really shouldn’t have spoken too soon. As the afternoon progressed, the sun slowly left even though it wasn’t time for sundown yet.

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The clouds darkened and the rains came. I wasn’t alarmed, though, because, according to the weather bureau, the typhoon was not hitting Metro Manila. The rains became torrential for a brief time sometime after four in the afternoon. I worried for my niece who was in school without an umbrella. By the time she came home at eight in the evening, though, the rains had stopped.

It was midterms week and my niece had a lot of studying to do. We were both up when the storm started showing itself to all of Metro Manila. Sometime after midnight, the sounds outside our window began to change. And while the rains had started earlier, now, it was pouring. Unknown to us, closeted on the sixth floor of our condo, Taft which was actually just a stone’s throw away, was already flooded.

Around 1 a.m. of Wednesday, July 14, the lights went out. By this time, the winds were already howling outside and obviously, it didn’t seem like it was only Signal No. 1 in Manila. I knew that it was only a matter of time when the lights would go out. When the lights flickered, I ran for my flashlight. It was probably still a full minute before the black-out finally came.

And so there we were—-my niece and I, huddled under the covers while outside, the sea seemed to rage. It actually felt like we were in the middle of the ocean. We looked out the window a few times and the majestic School of Design & Arts building of the De La Salle University College of St. Benilde was all lit up—I guess, powered by generator. Security seemed to be patrolling all the areas of the building probably monitoring and inspecting possible damage since the building has an all-glass façade.

For a moment there, I did feel fear though I kept it to myself as I didn’t want to alarm my niece. At the height of the storm, the winds got so strong I was actually afraid the windows would get smashed and we’d be unprotected from the elements. Power didn’t return to the building till 20 hours later. Since everything was powered by electricity in our condo, we couldn’t do much. After a while, I realized there was power in the hallways through the building generator so I plugged my cell phones there.

Since classes were suspended, my niece and I spent the rest of the day sitting side by side by the window reading Jodi Picoult novels. My niece had been egging me to read some of her books for some time but I could never find the time to do it. Well, I finally did-–thanks to Basyang.

(sunstarcebucolumnist@yahoo.com)