Manila — It turns your city into a cesspool. It wets your shoes and socks, spatters the hem of your pants with dirt, and makes you feel cold and wet especially when it dumps heavy amounts of water, diagonally or in all directions depending on the winds that shift the rain's downward gravitational direction.
That's what the rain does when you live in a concrete muddle of streets, sewers and canals, notwithstanding roads that are being excavated and left idle for some time. The scene worsens when the floods leave you looking for a higher slab of concrete to step on and continue walking. But most of the time, you have to walk with your feet already damp and icky.
When I was a little girl growing up in the northern part of the Philippines, I never feared or hated the rain, except when I had to go to school with mud all over my shoes because of heavy rainfall that wet the soil the night before. Or except when the rain is accompanied by terrifying thunderstorms and lightning that disturb my sleep.
But the rain was always a dream. Where I grew up, there was a wide expanse of agricultural land around us. In the last weeks of summer and upon the approach of the rainy season when the rice fields are taking a rest in between cropping seasons, I and my playmates would wait for the rains to transform the fields into wide swimming pools with weeds.
We swam, waded, splashed at each other, and looked up with open mouths to savor the rain water. It tasted sweet. Or it was sweet probably because we tasted the sweetness and happiness of playing under the naked rain in sheer abandon.
I think I spent most of my memorable childhood moments in the rain. There is never an amazing time than being soaked wet just watching the sky break down and descend unto the earth, in an act that mimics crying a bucket of tears.
As a grownup, my most recent encounter with the rain was when I was taking a dip in a swimming pool in one of my travels and suddenly, the rain fell. I felt twice-blessed already being in water, although chlorinated, and then showered again from above with rain, which shouldn't be dirty from smog, or would it be acid rain, I hoped not. But after that happy experience, I got chills and had fever.
What happened to my love of the rain? Like everyone else, I duck for cover when the rains suddenly fall on a sunny day. I open my umbrella. I put on a coat and hat. During the monsoon rains, I experience weeks of darkness. In a tropical country where I live under a bright sun and clear blue skies, it feels gloomy not seeing the sun even just for a few days.
When I try to skip flooded areas, I sometimes think that there is more to the rain than floods. The farmers need it for their crops. The trees and plants need it. The earth needs it to cleanse the air.
These days, I savor the rain indoors, sometimes over a cup of coffee or tea. Or I listen to it as I lay down. Someone said the nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. So the best thing that we can do when it is raining is to let it rain.
When it rains, I remember my childhood. The crickets sing after the last raindrops have fallen on the trees. We kids looked for the rainbows. We floated paper boats. We shook the wet trees and waited for the beetles to fall so that we can play with them.
The rain can cleanse our spiritual cesspools and shower our spirits. We can find joy and peace in it. And if you want to purge your heavy heart, you can walk in it. Charlie Chaplin once said, "I always like walking in the rain so no one can see me crying."
Diane G. Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila.