This Too Shall Pass

It’s 3am but I still can’t sleep. The wind’s starting to howl and I imagine a spinning twister pass just outside my window. I scour through an online forum for foreigners, taking comfort in replies that say this storm’s a sissy. I hope they are right.
 
Matmo was supposed to arrive at 2am. But it wasn’t until 4am that he partied hard, fiercely. At some point, I heard a heart-attack inducing fall of what seemed like a big machine, a tank of water, or perhaps an aircon. Shit. Aircon? I woke up with a start to find my aircon sitting soundly like a well-behaved kid inside its hole. My heartbeat dropped to normal speed, though I still remember what my aircon’s cage looked outside. It was more of a holed tray actually, a couple of steel bars providing support to another steel bar that covers the corner butt of my aircon.
 
Typhoons aren’t new to me but I’m not fond of them despite the cancellation of classes, and here, even work. Honestly, I’d rather work a long busy day with the sun shining brightly than get cooped up at home wishing the typhoon would go easy on us all. Back in my home country, I always have that small fear inside me during typhoons. I’d remember hearing how our roof waved and flipped like a blanket being blown by the warm summer breeze. Only, the picture paints a gloomy image of us waking up to a jet of water and a raging cyclone overhead. 
 
As I tossed and turned in bed, glancing at my aircon every now and then, I remembered the earthquakes I experienced at the most unprecedented times. 
 
I was at a basement level restaurant, eating my lunch, when an intensity 6 earthquake struck Taipei. The restaurant was full and suddenly, all the laughter and conversations died down as each and every one of us looked up and observed the swaying bulbs overhead. The restaurant’s ceiling was designed to be bare—the big pipes snaking along with the occasional vents for aircon, peppered with steel bars that have bulbs hooked on them. I imagined the bulbs were dancing and that people were simply mesmerized by the way they were choreographed. After 4 or 5 seconds of rocking, I got used to the rhythm beneath me. It wasn’t so bad but my heart still pounded like a steady bass drum playing. Sometimes, there’s nothing else to do but think of happy thoughts and get playful. Because sometimes, that’s all you can do.
 
Inside the comfort of my own apartment, I’ve experienced intensity 4-5 earthquakes too. I’ve woken up to it on my bed, been thrown off balance while standing up, and distracted while surfing the internet. The worst shakes would last for 7 agonizing seconds, then the aftershocks would tease you that it ain’t over til it’s over. I would get the affirmition that it is an earthquake, not a case of iron deficiency, if I see the hangers on my clothes hamper start to sway. While the whole shaking sensation is happening, I would quietly observe the cracks on my wall, look up to my ceiling, and count myself to calmness until everything stops as I reach 15. 
 
Typhoons, earthquakes, and manmade threats.
 
Just last year, a local fisherman was fatally shot by officials from my home country. The news spread like wildfire, burning fiercely because local media stoked its flames with drama and hearsay. I was, for the first time, thankful that I can disguise myself as a local. But I felt the threat around me whenever people would stare hard at me or talk to me using their local language. Inside the MRT, I would feign interest over my phone or a book. Being with so many locals suddenly felt suffocating. 
 
I was able to buy things from outside, contrary to reports. I didn’t get hit physically, as some people claimed happened to some of my own countrymen. But every now and then, open-minded locals at work would tell me to take care. Avoid certain places in the meantime. That they cannot understand why our country just wouldn’t apologize to end all this. I tried to reason the One-China policy and learned that politics, if you are a foreigner, is really a topic that must be avoided unless you are a foreign diplomat. The office became a sanctuary. The rest of the island became an ominous trap. It took a few weeks before everything subsided. I avoided taxi cabs. I shied away from public parks. I had to unwillingly play the role of a local when asked about my nationality. 
 
It was the most painful disaster I ever experienced. I never wanted to deny my being a Filipino ever again. I hope.
 
Matmo’s party was over. Quakes were not happening recently. I hope with all the hope I can muster that a manmade disaster would never happen again, at least while I’m here. Would I trade all of these for a peaceful more quiet life back home? 
 
I wish I can say yes, but honestly, I would say a firm and calm no. As ironic as it may seem, I’m quite thrilled to have been through all of these on a foreign place, on my own, with nothing but myself to save me.
 
Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.

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