Editors note: The following is part of a series by Julius D Mariveles, executive editor of DNX, and other field reporters of The Paper who covered the impact of Typhoon Odette in Negros Occidental province, Philippines.
Mariveles led the team that included Banjo C Hinolan Jr and Rolando Padol Jr who covered the landfall of Typhoon Odette in Kabankalan, one of 13 areas in the southern and central parts that were placed under Storm Signal No. 4, one of the higher classifications by the State weather bureau.
KABANKALAN CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – “Wala na gid ni ayo ang sinugba nga bangrus, pwede ni baynchingko lang (Can I get the grilled milkfish for P25 only?)” a mother with her son in tow pleads with the inasalan (barbecue eatery) owner.
“He just had an injection for an infected wound,” the mother says but the owner implores: “fish is expensive because of the storm,” as she uses a cardboard to fan the charcoal embers sputtering with pork fat.
Out on the street, traffic was thinning in this southern city, one of 14 areas placed by State weather bureau PAGASA under Storm Signal No. 4 as Typhoon Odette threatens to make landfall in the southern corridor of Sugarlandia.
As of 5pm today, 16 December 2021, Odette’s sustained winds were measured at 195 kilometers per hour, its gustiness at 270 kph, faster than a passenger bus speeding on the highway.
Veteran weather observer Jose Maria Vargas compared Odette to Typhoon Ruping in November 1990, also a third quarter storm, that felled trees lining the highway here, and cut power for weeks in the entire island.
It was 6:45pm. Moonless.
A time when eateries and roadside joints here are supposed to be filling up with diners as quarantine restrictions eased across the province during the Yuletide season, and as people have money to spend during the tiempo suerte or the milling season.
Inside the isawan, three cream-colored plastic tables were filled with diners, oddjobbers and pedicab drivers who were having early dinner.
“Busog dapat pagtupa sang bagyo (We should have full tummies when the storm arrives),” says one of the drivers who had just arrived as he greets the husband of the eatery owner who was seated inside in front of a television, his back to the patrons who were also glued to what was on the boob tube.
The newly-arrived driver passed our table as he raises to his chest his wifebeater, which could have been white once upon a time, and strokes his tummy.
This writer noticed a whiff of dried sweat, typical of someone whose last bath could have been during the Semana Santa.
“Tagpila ang maskara (How much for the barbecued pork cheeks)?”
“Baynchingko (Twenty five),” the woman griller replies in pidgin Spanish.
Here, officials have Hispanic surnames for the longest time.
A young woman arrives on the back of a motorcycle driven by what seems to be his boyfriend.
Even without the name of a department store on her collared shirt, she was unmistakeably a sales lady.
She had on a skirt and wore stockings on open-toe heels.
“Linti ka kusog ba (Damn, it’s strong),” the middle-aged husband of the griller said as the news bulletin of a giant TV network gave an update on the typhoon.
The diners said almost in unison “linti ba.”
The husband, a man in his 50s, poured another swig of cheap rum, the preferred liver pickling solution in the island for the masa, on a recycled plastic cup of instant noodles.
Pretty soon, the network switched to a singing contest.
There was to be no videoke that night, the man announced. They had to close by 9:30pm.
Outside, a tin sheet started to rattle as the wind started to pick up.
“Wala na Pilsen, sir,” the wife-owner said to one of the diners who ordered San Miguel Pale Pilsen, a popular local brand.
It was the eve of this writer’s birthday and given the situation, it was the best celebration we could have.
We – Banjo, Binggor, and me – decided it was time to go to the hotel and wait for the storm.