Two Savages in Southeast Asia

Maring'd in Manila

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Typhoon Maring continues to ravage Metro Manila with impressive ferocity. We awaken to some distressing news: all roads to the airport have been declared impassable, so all flights have been cancelled for the day; the city is in a state of emergency, with all government offices and many businesses closed; there are three more typhoons on their way, with no indication if they’ll hit Manila. Our Melting Pot proves to be a welcome refuge from this chaos. The staff are super-friendly, and have even taken to cooking evening meals for stranded guests. Fortunately, affluent Makati City is mostly flood-free, owing perhaps to its newer (and therefore superior) drainage systems. Such is the power that money brings…

After spending most of yesterday holed up in the hostel, though, we’re yearning for something a bit more active. We ignore the advice of the staff, who all tell us that the historic downtown quarter is completely swamped, and head off for the elevated public transit lines. The train has shut down for the day, but the LRT and MRT are still in action. Once at the LRT/MRT junction, we catch a glimpse of what flooding truly means. You can’t actually exit the station without plunging into waist-deep floodwaters, thick brown with a slurry of human waste and garbage. Nevertheless, some adventurous (or perhaps just displaced) souls are wading through the mess. There are passengers sitting atop cyclo-taxis as the drivers push them through the water. Red Cross vehicles plow through the floodwaters, sending out raft-equipped rescue teams to help those in need.

It gets even worse as we near the old town. In some places the flooding is neck-deep. At Central Station, it’s the same story: exits are flooded, and few dare slog through the water below. The closest we get to seeing the old town is a panoramic view off the platform of the surrounding moat, which has since been converted into parkland. I’m not sure how to describe it – as a Torontonian, I’ve never had to worry about truly disastrous flooding. Valkyrie says that the place she lived near Houston saw periodic flooding, but nothing like this. When we get back to the hostel, we share a chuckle with the staff over our foolhardiness: what, did we think flooding meant a bunch of small puddles we could hop over? Apparently this is nowhere near the devastation caused in 2009, when floodwaters reached the third floor in some areas.

Well, I suppose we’re not fated to see anything in the Philippines this time around. Oh well; we’ll just have to come back!