Friday, May 23, 2008

Nothing...But A Croaking Frog

One night we were disturbed by noisy people down the road. The exodus of young and old as they went up to the mountain hurriedly and frightfully were difficult to understand. The widespread rain-shower prevented us from inquiring as to what was really happening. The unfolding event sent us scampering for safety.


I was in the province undertaking a building project in our town. That was in the month of August that rainy days and typhoons were prevalent. Our house was in a remote area, some five kilometers from the town proper, near the river and Salagan Bridge, just along the highway leading to the elevated and mountainous area. It was eight in the evening and we were preparing to go to bed. There was no electric supply as the recent typhoon knocked-out many towers and transmission lines. It was all dark and we have no outside source of communication, cell sites were toppled as well as the cable for television entertainment. The night was dull and you can hear only the croaking frogs and murmuring lizards.


Suddenly, we heard from the roadside, not too far from our house, a shout presumably from our relative: “Arise, get up, and move to a higher ground ….tsunamis are coming!” She kept on repeating the message as her voice faded away in the dark.


We hastily prepared to evacuate, brought some food stuffs and started the van on the road. Whitie, our dog was left behind and seemed to be not disturbed by the impending danger about to happen. All the members of the household were in and we speeded going up the hill. There were people on the road who managed to get a ride. The rain became denser, blurring the way. Only the painted white line on the shoulder kept me on track. I was shocked but able to evade a hiker on the road a few meters in front wearing dimmed coat. Rain water flooded the way and driving became too difficult.


We were able to pass the low level area and started the uphill climb. The rain had stopped as we ascended slowly. The moon begun to shed its faint light from behind the waning clouds. Fireflies were everywhere but there were flashlight and torch of people trekking up. We noticed their number was increasing as we reached the half-way uphill. We slowed as people crowded the road. Others were already setting and some have made a makeshift tent and were taking rest. We parked on the peak of what they called “Cuarenta”. There were other evacuees on the other side of the mountain apparently came from the other community. We converge and met on this summit where there were also settlers who offered us some foods and hot coffee. They were stunned as to why the people gathered there. There was one, Mang Pepe narrated: “Before we came here, we crossed the Dayap River and we noticed the unusual ebbing of the tide. The water receded and too shallow we’ve never seen before. There was rumbling from the nearby seashore and we hurriedly gone up here!” He disappeared in the crowd and we overheard from someone: “It is from him we got the message of tsunamis, he showed us the text messages.”


We waited for quite a time. Some kept an eye down the road. There were those who were clapping and slapping their arms as mosquitoes were pestering our ears. “This is the fruit of ignorance and nervous reaction,” I mumbled with myself.


As the night was getting deeper without being dug, the aura gradually changed. The terrified faces of people we cannot imagine before was substituted by the sigh of relief. Some were smiling, others were laughing aloud! The tense and horrifying situation became a mountain-summit- bonfire assembly. It was an environment of fun and merrymaking.


“Ah, what have they done? Where was the message originated? We got the words of the croaking frog. There’s no tsunami, no unusual happening!”…. everyone cried out loud.


The moon was already overhead and the stars were mushrooming and contributing to the brightness of the surroundings. As if it was a day time eclipse, you can recognize the people from a distance. No more fear on their faces.


Still, we have no contact from our relatives from the city although we were positioned on a higher ground and in spite of the countless attempt of dialing and a reply of “message sending failed.”


It was already dawn and longing to get home for a much needed rest. Since we encountered no strange and alarming event that might warrant our continued stay in the mountain top, we entertained the idea of going down. We have heard all sorts of catastrophic stories and a thirty-meter high tidal waves and tsunamis. We have pitied with the story of a funeral wake in which the remains was being carried by the evacuating mourners. And we have laughed with the story of a newly-wed couple who refused to be awakened in spite of the commotion and shouting of their neighbors.


We were the one who started to fall out of the group in a story telling sessions and decided to return home. Others refused to budge and the fear was still in their minds. We slowly rolled down and have our senses activated, ready for any eventualities.


The roads were already dry. The sun rays were creeping behind the thick leaves of unmolested trees. Down the highway, the herons and other bird species were already feeding on the greening and irrigated rice field. Ducks were wading, bubbling up and down, on the murky streams. We approached our farm gate. Whitie came waggling her tail, unmindful of the frog croaking … the tsunami message joke.

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