Summer – the insufferable season when the true colors of the tropics is revealed.
As a child I enjoyed the torrid city heat. It meant school was over and I was free to spend the humid afternoons playing outside, unmindful of the ashen face I brought home and the salty sweat which stuck on my sandos. As a university student, summer meant out-of-town trips with foolish friends, or cordial, if not dull, family vacations to the province.
By the time I started working, I loathed it. The sun bore down on the narrow, traffic-clogged roads of Manila and left the air above it difficult to breathe. It also left commuters and pedestrians dazed, desperately looking for the rare patch of shade in the metropolis. Inside rickety jeepneys and ordinary buses (because the air-conditioned buses were always crowded, thus equally humid and sticky), the accumulated heat from summer afternoons evaporated with the fading light. And since work abruptly changed my biological clock to adapt to bizarre working schedules, I found the humid evenings despicably tormenting. On summer’s dusty wake was a shortage of sleep – countless nights rolling in bed trying to doze off when the evening was just as hot as the day.
For the middle class who could only afford air-conditioning by going to the office or shopping malls, it meant pushing the electric fan to its limits, and leaving the windows and terrace doors dangerously ajar to let any sort of breeze assist in comforting me. It also meant unnecessary overtimes to enjoy the cool of the office for a little longer, or going to the malls not to shop, but to stroll inside the air-conditioned halls until one’s skin had absorbed enough chill to last until somnolence.
Still, there is one thing beautiful about the season – summer rains. These two words, when combined, could claim to be, arguably, the most beautiful. The afternoon thunderstorms delighted me as a child, and I played, against my parent’s orders, in the rain. And not just played. I danced, revelled, sang, and swam (in dirty, half-flood streets). Soon as grey clouds rolled in to loom ominously over the dried cityscape, my heart would beat with joy as I anticipated the first drop of rain, and I could be whisked into a soaking dalliance.
The best summer rains are the ones which lasted for hours. Shorter downpours do little to console the sun-wearied soul, and only lend a more unbearable heat as streets release its exhaust of the humid, the hot, the humbling. While the virtue of summer is brevity, the beauty of rain depends on its length of stay. The more it overstays, the happier I am (until of course, monsoon rains and worsening flood situation in Manila finds the young, middle-class professional in me inconvenienced, and stranded in the office).
Up to this day, I look forward to summer rains when the sky would finally be taken by pity and release its sympathies on our ant-like civilisations; when thunder rattles walls and ceilings, and the roars vibrated to the thinnest of surfaces; when the night crackles electric and the morning presented moist streets with puddles of liquefied rainbows. The rains clear the streets of the summer dust, and cloak the few greens in a post-precipitation sheet of moist and gleam which intensifies their hues. After the rain, the city becomes vibrant to me, as if a blank canvass resurfaces for the stories of people, places, and pollution would demand for another downpour. Manila is most beautiful post-downpour (but sadly, sometimes, most tragic and traffic-clogged too).
And so while it is terribly wrong to wish a force of nature to come to this country, the possibility of the first, real rains of summer from an impending tropical storm excites me. I can already imagine the nippy charm it would bring, and the first long and good sleep I will get as our house is gradually cooled, and my bed sheets absorb the stormy chill. I can already wax nostalgic about my childhood affairs with the rains, and afford to be drenched, not in the rain, but in the memories of the consolation a shower could bring. I can already reinvigorate myself, even with just the thought of the storm, and remind my soul the greatest pleasures come after the thorniest of pains.