Friday, May 18, 2007

Floodwaters of Sampaloc

I have seen health advisories on television that warned about wading through city floodwaters. The murky waters, according to the ad, is home to billions of germs that could cause one to have ailments ranging from the common cold to more serious ones such as bubonic plague from the urine and feces of rats, snail fever, and a variety of nasty skin afflictions.

City floodwaters is thick primal soup, a brew that brims with malevolent things more noxious than the concoctions that any of the hags from Endor can put together.

Growing up in Maria Cristina, a narrow eskinita in Sampaloc, a district in the city of Manila, one looked forward to typhoons that brought about flooding of the streets, an occasion to enjoy the long wet walks just wearing a pair of worn out rubber sandals. We would slosh from one street to another, my cousin Ric with a wooden toy boat in tow to carry interesting flotsam fished out from the muddy water, finding out which street had the highest waterline and just having a splashing and refreshing romp in the flood. Suspension of classes was a bonus and this gave us almost unlimited time to enjoy the watery pleasures from the aftermath of a typhoon.

Maria Cristina was a dead end street. The eskinita was cut off by an estero that flowed along a course parallel to Lealtad Street. The eskinita’s declivity was towards the estero so every time it flooded the water current flowed towards it.

The young men in the neighborhood hanging out in the Chinaman’s sari-sari store in the corner of Espana and Maria Cristina would float paper boats with large sails. On the sails they scribble the names of some of the girls in the eskinita and all sorts of amorous messages to the delight of the young ladies who were along the path of the armada of floating paper and at the end of the street, downstream.

During the floods the estero would have stronger currents than usual because of the elevated water line. The boys in the neighborhood would stand by the edge of the estero to witness a parade of all sorts of trash, dead animals and interesting debris coming from the public market.

One of the boys in the neighborhood was audacious enough to dive into the raging waters and swim with the current in the midst of the flotsam until reaching the pedestrian bridge in Dos Castillas Street. He would come running back through Espana and repeat the same feat for about three to four times. That boy never got sick and neither did we suffer any disease coming from our wading in the dirty waters of a city flood.

Despite the happy childhood memories I never allowed my children to wade into the city floods and much more vehemently my precious grandchildren. This is one pleasure they could forego.

No comments: