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The storm in my heart

The rain reminds me of a small town in Bicol, where the rushing floods, the howling winds, the hammering rains nurtured my sense of calm and my capacity to dream.

I was raised in a town where fear fell from the sky, rushed into homes, and toppled them. Where fear uprooted trees, tore off roofs, and ruined houses. Where desperation was a fleeting thing that came and went, like the typhoons that carried it. Where hope and happiness were always waiting to shine, like the sun after the storm.

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I remember Supertyphoon “Monang.” I was probably six or seven years old then. The rain was battering our nipa roof. The wind, like the nosy visitor it had always been, was trying to pry the windows open. Water had begun falling through the holes of the roof. As my parents rushed to gather our things, I looked up and thought, There it is—fear. Fear is falling from the sky.

We had to move to my grandparents’ house then, where we spent the next couple of days watching the angry typhoon beat the living daylights out of our town. I remember the frightened look on people’s faces. The talk of destroyed houses and of lost pets. I remember my sister’s drenched books. But I also remember the silly jokes about flying roofs. The inspiring stories of dogs braving the flood to find their masters. The sense of community. The certainty that when the wind stopped blowing and the rain stopped pouring, life would go on.

I remember Typhoon “Rosing.” We had to climb up to the unfinished attic of our new home because of the flood. I would peer into what used to be our living room and watch the water claim it as its own. The sound of water slapping against concrete became too familiar to me. And there, as I watched this unwelcome guest take away from my family what we had dreamed of and worked for for years, I thought to myself, There it is again—this fear, rushing into our home.

I remember the sound of the rain against the tin roof. I remember the neighbors who were not able to save any of their belongings. I remember the uprooted trees. I remember the sense of desperation. I remember the fear—Oh, rain, please stop, rain, please stop.

But I also remember the day after that, as I peered out the window and saw a little bird standing there. I remember the laughter of the kids who swam through the dirty floodwaters as though these were the finest thing they had ever seen. I remember the wonderful news of how my aunt had given birth to a healthy baby girl in the middle of the storm.

After that, I stopped taking note of the names of the typhoons. Once there was a typhoon that almost tore down our kitchen. Standing in that kitchen, as the roof flapped open and closed, as the walls shook violently, is one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. I remember the sound of the wind, of the rain, of my heart. Later that day, as my father and I sat by the window, we watched our neighbor’s house collapse as the wind brought it down. In an instant, the house that had stood proudly fell to the ground, and soon after, it was as if the house never stood there at all. And I thought to myself, In this world, everything is fleeting.

But what I always found remarkable about my memories of typhoons was how we always somehow knew that everything would be okay: The next day, the neighbors would pass by, the kids would be at play in the flood, the menfolk would exchange funny stories of lost roofs and scared pets, the women would rejoice at the discovery of useful items in the flood.

The day after the storm, it always seemed like people were a little bit braver, a little bit stronger, a little bit more appreciative of family, of friends, of life.

This is perhaps how I learned to dream. In my town, not even the strongest typhoon could drown our faith, our hope. This is also perhaps the reason I have developed a sense of calm. The world outside may be in complete disarray, but there is a place inside me that no supertyphoon can ever tear down. Typhoons come and go. Sometimes, they leave nothing. Sometimes, they leave us with nothing. But through all these, life goes on. Life always goes on.

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Eleanor Nellasca Balaquiao, 25, is in her senior year in the University of the Philippines College of Law. She hopes to graduate next year and pass the bar.

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TAGS: bravery, Eleanor nellasca balaquiao, Fear, featured column, typhoons, Young Blood
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