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Both Sides Now


It was drizzling outside when I woke up this morning. I debated whether to go biking or not since it was raining. In this pandemic, the mind is always a riot of pros and cons even with the most mundane of decisions. Biking in the rain means the possibility of getting colds, which leads to the possibility of getting Covid. It does not make sense but what does these days? Fortunately, the fun part of me won over my cautious side and I went sloshing in the rain.


I have always loved the rain.


In the boondocks where I grew up, rain meant all-out fun. My grandmother’s draconian house rules somewhat softened at the pitter-patter of rain. Outside work like gardening, weeding, and sweeping were suspended. The only work left was to scurry to the yard and help gather the clothes from the fence and clothesline. Because our house was medium-sized and there were seven of us children, staying together indoors was not an option. To prevent pandemonium, we were encouraged to go out and play in the rain.


When it’s talithi, the Ilonggo word for really soft rain, we played our usual games — lagsanay, taguanay, tubiganay, and syatom. During downpours, we jumped up and down on the puddles. We made mud balls and threw them at each other. We waged water wars, which involved throwing as much water as we could against each other. Any water would do — rainwater, pump water, canal water. Our childhood bonanzas came with the rainstorms that caused floods. When the streets were flooded we played stupid games like who could swim fastest in the surging waters, or throw and rescue your tsinelas, or even catch the butete (tadpoles) that frantically swam in the canal overflow. We paddled to the irigasyon and floated leisurely along the canal all the way to the kangkungan. Ignorance really was bliss. We did not know anything about bacteria and diseases like Leptospirosis and toxic fertilizer overflow. It was just raining fun.


When I became a mother, I was circumspect about dirt and diseases, but that did not stop me from pushing my two sons out of the house when it rained. They did not appreciate being pulled away from the television or their gadgets to go out in the lame rain. But after a few minutes of whining, they would start to have fun. They jumped up and down on the puddles, waged water wars against each other, and launched paper boat races. Same riotous rain fun I had when I was a kid.


Maybe because I love rain it seems to follow me around wherever I go. Almost every time I land in a city or a country, chances are, it will rain. It rained in Cuzco, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Sedona, Stonehenge, Paris, Luang Prabang, Brunei, and more. It even rained in Cairo and Uluru in Central Australia, both hardcore deserts.

Now that we are still in lockdown and traveling seems so far off, rainy days are breaks from the monotonous sameness of sunshiny days. I stare through rain-splattered windows. The gray skies and the black cawing crows seem to be omens of dark days ahead. Rain these days seem to be tears that trigger grief for family and friends who passed away during this pandemic. Of the incalculable changes and deep losses that we have all sustained. I long for things I used to take for granted like long lunches with friends, watching movies, and traveling. I even wish for the things I used to hate — long, boring meetings, the commute to work, and even shopping.


There is a song I loved when I was a kid, Both Sides Now, written and sung by Joni Mitchell. The song talks about the songwriter’s earliest recollections about clouds, “Rows and flows of angel hair. And ice cream castles in the air.” Adulthood came and clouds became a nuisance, “But now they only block the sun. They rain and snow on everyone."This is how I feel about rain now. The sight, sounds, and smells of rain trigger memories of my childhood in the boondocks. At the same time, it also brings waves of sadness, like the world is weeping for all that we have lost.


Then there are days like today when I am both happy and sad about the rain. About everything. This morning, I took my sad and tired self out for a ride, sloshing in the puddles, freewheeling while it was pouring, slipping in the mud, and stopping to rescue a fat and slimy snail slogging it out in the middle of the road. With the wind ruffling my hair, raindrops in my eyes, sweat trickling down my back, and my hand slimy from the fat snail rescue, I realized that my heart is still heavy but at the same time, I am also riotously, ridiculously happy.




lagsanay - tag

taguanay - hide and seek

tubiganay - like hopscotch merged with tag

syatom - a game of sticks and a lot of running

tsinelas - slippers

butete - tadpole

irigasyon - irrigation canal

kangkong - watercress


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