Like the weather*
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Like the weather*

The color of the sky as far as I can see is coal grey.
/>Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again.
/>With a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather.
/>A quiver in my lips as if I might cry.
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/>Since typhoons Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma) hit the Philippines, Filipinos have become anxious about weather and climate reports.
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/>Last night’s TV Patrol newscast, for instance, reflects this changing attitude towards the weather. The headline story was a live report straight from the PAGASA weather bureau, with the reporter sharing satellite photos of Typhoon Ramil (Lupit) making its way towards Northern Luzon. The last has become the first.
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/>(Incidentally, the media competition to provide a fix for the Filipino’s new hunger for weather news has apparently made Kim Atienza into a pop meteorologist. Asked by anchor Ted Failon in that same newscast which of the satellite photos was the most accurate in showing the storm’s path, Atienza answered confidently it was PAGASA’s when the most prudent thing to do was to ask PAGASA officials themselves. Atienza may be a son of the country’s environment secretary but he is no Amado Pineda.)
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/>Complicating matters for PAGASA, which means “hope” in Tagalog, is the widely-held view that its forecasts cannot be fully trusted. There have been many instances when it rained when PAGASA forecast sunny weather, or it was so hot when it said Manila would have cloudy weather. Many online Filipinos have done the next best thing: Refer to foreign sources to “validate” or “confirm” PAGASA’s reports and forecasts.
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/>One unforgettable incident soon after Ondoy’s arrival was PAGASA’s admission that they failed to more accurately forecast that supertyphoon’s impact due to the problems with their instruments that monitor a huge swath of Luzon.
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/>Elsewhere, town mayors in Pangasinan have joined calls for the shutdown of the San Roque Multipurpose Dam Project, citing another potential humanitarian disaster should earthquakes from two nearby faults cause damage to its structure.
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/>Already the subject of opposition from minorities already displaced by the dam’s construction as well as environmental issues raised before the United Nations, many have pointed at the SRMDP as the culprit behind the most widespread and worst flooding seen in Pangasinan. The local governments and the public have assailed the dam managers for failing to inform them adequately that water from SRMDP would be released during the height of Ondoy’s onslaught.
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/>People are eyeing other dams which also released water for allegedly causing floods in their areas: La Mesa Dam in the outskirts of Metro Manila, Angat and Ipo in Bulacan, Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija, Ipo Dam, Magat Dam in Isabela, Ambuklao and Binga Dams in Banguet.
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/>No political leader has asked the hard questions about these dams, even as they are now the subject of a Senate investigation. While I don’t exactly dislike dams – they are good sources of electric power – I think the Philippines will be better off if they are not built near fault-lines or heavily-populated areas, including those considered as ancestral domain of our national minorities. While power generation is important, the government must make sure that lives are zealously protected especially during calamities that routinely visit the country.
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/>On a lighter and more personal note, many Filipinos appear have become so traumatized by Ondoy and Pepeng that not a few are quick to react at even the lightest rain. Many would go on Twitter, Plurk and Facebook to post their fears that the rain may again go on for hours like Ondoy and that the rains may cause floods of Ondoy proportions.
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/>Unfortunately, the Arroyo government is not meeting this national trauma head on. There appears no major move by to finance the upgrade of PAGASA’s forecasting instruments when it is now very obvious that a country in the path of storms and which is located in the ring of fire badly needs the most scientifically-advanced monitoring possible. Add to this the need to mitigate the huge cost in terms of lives, livelihood, income and infrastructure lost when calamities strike.
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/>We need more scientific solutions, more accurate forecasts and more modern climate equipment. But we are left to fend for ourselves, scout for alternative weather news sources, or are asked to just pray the “oratio imperata” for protection.
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/>The color of the sky is grey as I can see through the blinds.
/>Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again
/>with a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather.
/>A quiver in my voice as I cry,
/>”What a cold and rainy day. Where on earth is the sun hid away?”
/>I shiver, quiver, and try to wake.
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/>* The title, prologue and epilogue (both in italics) of this post come from the song “Like the weather” by Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs.
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