(The following essay was published in the Manila Standard Today on June 15, in their section Diaspora. Thanks to Ms. Chua and Ms. Ortuoste for the encouragement.)
Weather watching and talking about the weather is something new for me. I learned that here in the US. And it’s not that I became a meteorologist, it is for some other reasons.
Back in Manila, nobody really paid attention to the weather forecast. I recall that as I was growing up in Manila, I could almost recite the weather prediction by Amado Pineda: ” Mainit at may manaka-manakang pag-ulan” (warm with occasional rain). And this can be true the whole year round, except if there’s a typhoon. The only time I cared about the weather was if the storm signal is raised to 2 or 3, to check if classes would be suspended (though classes can be suspended due to flood too, especially in UST, with the Espana “river” swelling after the rain).
With Manila’s monotonous climate with temperature ranging from 60’s to 90’s F (20’s to 30’s C) the whole year through, there’s really nothing to talk about. With our 2 yearly seasons of “hot” and “very hot”, you don’t need any significant change in your apparel. T-shirts and jeans will be appropriate for any season. No need to change to a sweater, or a light jacket, or boots, or a parka.
Though I remember some people wearing leather jackets in Manila, just to impress others. The only thing you may need to carry is an umbrella (which I hate to carry) for the occasional rain, but newspapers can be used for the same purpose too. And if you get wet? The heat will dry you quickly.
But now that I am living in the US midwest, everything has changed. The temperature can swing from -30’s to +90’s F (-30’s to +30’s C) through the changing seasons. In fact 2 weeks ago, our temperature dropped from low 90’s to high 50’s F in a little more than an hour. That’s more than the range in Manila for the whole year! People say here that if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes…… it will change. That’s why it is necessary to know your weather forecast; it will definitely affect your activities for the day as well as determine what you need to wear.
During winter, snow storms and ice storms can develop. It is so cold that even my brain freezes. It could be 2-3 months straight without the temperature rising above freezing point and with temperature hovering just above 0 F (-18 C). It is during these days that I often wonder if hell could be as cold as it is hot, for it surely feels like hell! And if I need to go out, I need to wear my underwear thermals, a sweater, heavy jacket, snow boots, gloves, hat, and muffler. It’s a wonder I still can move around with all these articles of clothing. Snow can be beautiful though, especially if I’m looking at it from inside my heated home, and as long as I don’t have to shovel it nor have to drive through it.
During late spring to early summer, temperature can be very comfortable (40’s to 90’s F). But with wild swings of temperature, violent storms can form quickly. If it’s just thunderstorms, well, I can deal with it, as I’m used to that in the Philippines. But tornadoes and hailstorms? Those simply scare the daylights out of me!
In a tornado you have only a few seconds warning to seek shelter. That’s why houses here have a basement; that serves as a tornado shelter. Over the years that I lived here in Iowa, there were a few tornado warnings in our community with the sirens going off, but thankfully no tornado has touchdown yet in our area. I hope it never will. Some communities are not that fortunate though, and I saw the devastation after a tornado hit. Nothing is left standing. I’ll take a typhoon any day over a tornado.
Last year, there was a town here in Iowa, that experienced a hailstorm with hails as big as baseballs. It damaged the roofs, windows and walls of every house there. It flattened their crops too. You can just imagine being hit with those baseball-size hail traveling at more than 100 miles per hour! I don’t think an umbrella is of any use during a hailstorm.
Being appreciative of a beautiful day, is something that I learned also from the American culture. Everybody talks about the weather, and everybody express their appreciation of a beautiful day.
I remember years ago when I was still in New Jersey. I just transitioned from the streets of Manila to an idyllic town of Morristown New Jersey. It was summer and I was walking alone at the town plaza. Then a stranger greeted me and exclaimed, “What a beautiful day, isn’t it?” I was taken aback. I have to check if he’s really talking to me. First of all, being raised in Manila, when a stranger greets you, you look at him suspiciously as you check your wallet if it’s still there. And secondly, who talks about the weather in the Philippines! It felt so foreign to me.
But now after experiencing the extremes of weather, especially here in Iowa, where a beautiful day comes far in between, I can see clearly now why they appreciate a beautiful day. Perhaps I took for granted all the beautiful tropical days I had in Manila. Sometimes, we don’t treasure simple things until we lose them.
I am thankful for today. A beautiful sunny summer day. Tomorrow’s forecast: thunderstorm with tornado watch.
I read your essay in Manila Standard Today and learned that you are currently residing in Iowa. By the way you described the temperature changes, I can understand now the dilemna of my sister, who is living in Ames. She always talk about the weather there, specially during winter, how cold it is. I pity her sometimes, but I always tell her, its her choice, and she has to live with it. She’s taking PhD at Iowa State University, and shes been there for about a year. She came from Morgantown West Virginia, which she said that the weather is more friendly than there in Iowa.
Thanks for educating us through your essay and hope to read more in my favorite newspaper.
Yes, the winter here can be brutal. But it’s something that you can learn to adapt to. Thank you for your kind words.
this is helpful ^_^
Fantastic piece! SAlamat at pinagbigyan mo kami ni Editor Adelle. We look forward to more of your pieces appearing in MST! Here’s the link to the online edition: http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideOpinion.htm?f=2010/june/15/diaspora.isx&d=2010/june/15