ONE of the hazards of not speaking the local language is that even after ten years of living in Baguio, you may miss out on a term that perfectly describes a unique experience.
Yesterday, my friend Kora asked me, “Nakita mo ba yung joke ni Frank kahapon? Patron Saint of nep nep is St. Tina. As in Tina Monzon-Palma.”
“Oh, no, ‘di ko na gets ‘yung joke,” I answered.
Kora was kind enough to explain. “Nep nep is a local term for non-stop rain for several days or weeks. Sa Baguio lang ‘yan. Parang equivalent ng siyam-siyam sa Tagalog. So the Monzon in Tina’s name is monsoon…”
It was 5 a.m. when we had this exchange on Facebook messenger. She had been up since 3, and I since 4. We both could not sleep because even if there was no actual typhoon over our part of the world, it sounded like there was a Category 4 whipping wind around and dumping gallons of rain upon our houses. The neighbor’s tree had to be tied with rope to prevent it from falling. The renovation of my husband’s editing suite had to be halted because the cement wasn’t drying. We have been wiping Pledge on all the wood in the house but somehow inside it still feels moldy and water-logged. The downside of an A-frame-shaped house with high ceilings is that it is nearly impossible to get it to feel dry with a single dehumidifier.
So, the monsoon has a name, nep nep. I associate it with the Tagalog word inip, as in nakakainip na ang ulan na ito. Upon this writing, it is already the 12th day of rain. When the rain stopped for about an hour yesterday, my children and I came out of the house. We had coffee with our neighbors. We played with the dogs. When we found the blue sky again through a hole in the thick cloud cover, we actually whooped with joy. In the street above us, we heard people rejoicing too, and that made us laugh in solidarity. After nearly two weeks of non-stop rain, we felt the heat of the sun on our skin once more and it was delicious. We hoped that the sun would stay a little longer, but after about ten minutes, it began drizzling again.
“When are we going to see the sun again, Mommy?”, my daughter Mimi asked wistfully.
“I don’t know, baby.”
The longest non-stop rain I experienced in Baguio was back in 2010. For three weeks in August, I was constantly cold and wet, clocking in time at my job in the Victor Oteyza Community Art Space. We actually took a day trip to San Fernando, La Union because we wanted to feel warm again.
Alas, with this pandemic, last-minute day trips to the beach are but a thing of the past.
Last year, we practically had no rainy season. It was no small blessing, for we were all in the thick of fear, still finding our way through the uncertainty of the pandemic. As if to balance out those energies, God gave us the longest run of beautiful weather in Baguio. No matter what I felt inside, all I had to do was look out my window, or sit outside underneath the blue sky, the pine trees and angel’s trumpets, listening to the birds twittering and the cicadas singing as creamy, colorful butterflies flew blithely past. I was so grateful to be living in our own little paradise in spite of the situation outside. It truly helped me keep on going, even on days when I felt I could no longer healthily manage my feelings.
I looked back at my daughter and asked her, “Remember how beautiful our summer was, Mimi? And how you were biking and playing every day?”
“Well, it’s going to be like that again soon. This rain isn’t going to last forever.”
We smiled at each other. We held hands as we walked back into the house.