this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on december 14, 2010.
THE LAST time I enjoyed a rainy day, I was in the province. The morning had been hot and sticky and we just had our lunch. The rain came as a surprise, like an unexpected sweet dessert after a meager meal. The raindrops came slowly, dropping lightly at first, and then without warning, they came crashing on the roof. I heard the sound of a thousand coins dropping carelessly above. It was not a sweet sound, yet I felt happy. I had forgotten that rain could make me happy.
With the soaking it got during a sweltering summer, the earth gave up a pungent smell. I used to put Vicks or any balm on my nostrils to wipe out that smell. And it was a smell that had been lost from living in the city where rains fall on cemented roads and people are always in too much of a hurry to stop and smell the earth. But that afternoon, I relished the smell like I was smelling it for the first time.
I used to love rainy days. Rain was like snow to me—cool, soft and wet. When I was a young girl, I loved getting wet under the rain. My siblings and I looked forward to the darkening of the sky. We would chant “Rain! Rain! Rain!” and when it did rain, we felt like we could be children forever. We would make paper boats and watch them float on murky puddles or we would race our paper boats in the gutter. Sometimes we would join the children in the neighborhood who never let us win in paper boat races (or any other game we played for that matter), but we played with them anyway.
One of our delights then was a torrent of rain falling from a roof. We did not worry whether the water coming from the roof was dirty. It was our waterfalls and we giggled as the water fell on our heads.
We would sometimes come home with cuts and bruises but with happy smiles on our faces. Our parents would scold us but they never stopped us from getting wet. The only time they got mad at us was when we went up the roof while it was raining and there was lightning and thunder.
Sometimes we would catch colds, but when we were well and the rains fell, we would go out again and had fun. Maybe my parents loved rainy days, too.
Rainy days also meant delicious meals. Breakfast would be champorado with tuyo or hot chocolate or coffee and hot pan de sal. For lunch, there would be something with soup to warm us. My father loved to cook and rainy days were a signal for him to make something delicious for the family.
When I was in high school, my friends and I would go to the beach on rainy days. The beach would be cold and empty, except for stray dogs or cats. The sky would be gray and so was the sea. My friends and I would not swim. We would huddle in a cottage, watch the waves and talk while eating peanuts and junk foods, drinking and smoking.
I had my first smoke and my first taste of alcohol on a rainy day. My first puff was unremarkable. I did not cough and I puffed like a pro. After many rainy days at the beach I had tasted all the cigarette brands available in the sari-sari stores.
It took some time before I started drinking. I was afraid that I would get drunk with my first shot, and so for many rainy days, I smoked while my friends smoked and got drunk.
My first drink was rum, and I washed it down with a glass of soft drink. I felt fire flowing down my body. I did not get drunk but I did not enjoy it either, so on our later trips to the beach I would just have a shot.
Sometimes when we ran out of soft drinks, my friends would have menthol candy or kalamansi for “chaser.” We also tried gin and lime. I had fun mixing them by turning the bottle of lime upside down and putting it on top of an open bottle of gin. I would watch the white and the green colors dance inside the two bottles until there was only green.
On some days we would have beer and when we had little money, we would just buy gin and pomelo juice.
It was a long walk but we loved walking along the shore to the town and back home. On the way, we would take an occasional dip in the cold water to wash away the smell of alcohol and smoke. We loved it more when it rained because the smell of alcohol and smoke dripped away with every step we took.
My happy memories of rainy days in the province were forgotten when I came to the city. Raindrops are depressing to watch on glass windows. Everything looks colorless—the buildings, the people, and the city. The rain can also be harsh. On rainy days, going to school, work or home becomes a torment. A drop of rain on my clothes makes me feel cold and angry. Heavy rain brings fear.
When I went back to the province, the happy rainy days of my life flooded my memories. I did not think I was too old to run under the rain again. My cousins and our dog played and got wet in the yard. In that rainy day, I had no umbrella, no raincoat, no waterproof jacket—no feelings of exasperation and fear. I felt the touch of rain and remembered my youth, and it was a great feeling.
Rainy days in the city never tempted me to go out and play. Rainy days did not make me want to smoke or drink. When it rains in this place they call Metro Manila, I would rather stay in bed and curl under a blanket.