I was stuck in Manila when the first of a recent series of major typhoons blew through. We know Storm Ondoy (pronounced “on-Do-Oi”), internationally known as Ketsana, was approaching but reporting had treated it like a heavy rain storm that will blow through without event. In reality, yes, it was just that. A long heavy shower. No one just realised how heavy it would be.
We attempted to go sightseeing even in the weather. Oh, we saw, heard the rain. But we figured if we did some museum hopping I would get my Philippine culture intake.
What a trip. The taxi driver, perhaps annoyed that we wouldn’t play ball on the fare negotiation process, tried to drop us off in some obscure building near the hotel, insisting that it was the only museum in the city. Right. National Museum, which we requested? Manila Casa? San Augustin? Villa Escudero? Malacanang Palace? Nonetheless, we got kicked out in the middle of a flood.
We waded our way back. On a dry day, that walk may take us five minutes. Ten max with all the road crossings. That day? Over 45 minutes. First, fascinated, I took my time juggling my umbrella, backpack, and camera to take photos of sights and scenes. Then the rain weighed me down since my sweatshirt apparently collects water very well. Finally, we kept backtracking and zigzagging to avoid going anything more than knee-deep in the water.
The following morning, the local front page compared Ondoy to Hurricane Katrina. I was indignant. The winds in Ketsana, while strong, didn’t compare the Katrina’s 100mph+. In retrospect though, having seen the construction in some of the villages and outskirts, and having experienced the rain volume myself, I can understand that it needed to be brought up that the devastation is phenomenal and, given the poor infrastructure and questionable building standards, the damage is far greater than what an American city and county would have taken under the same circumstances.