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Lipa City in the Dark

The 6th of September in the year 2013. Nothing pretty much out of the ordinary until about 3:20 in the afternoon. I was watching the concluding episode of ‘My Little Juan’ when the power went dead. I was actually taking a peek at Facebook when the power conked out, so what made me aware of it was the UPS chirping.

There was an ongoing thunderstorm. Thus, my immediate thought was that times have become really strange. In the old days, lightning was followed by thunder. These days, by power outage. In other words, not the first time this happened in recent memory.

Other times, though, power is restored after a few minutes. This time, the minutes turned to agonising hours. So, I tried calling Batelec to find out what was wrong and for how long the outage would last. Each time, all I got was the annoying busy signal.

In fairness to Batelec, the volume of callers must always be immense whenever there are outages. So, it was either too many people were calling all at the same time; or Batelec disconnected its public line.

And because we are all inhabitants of the 21st Century, the modern thing to do in order of priority was to plug the fridge back in, charge the drained cell phone battery, plug in the laptop and open Facebook!
Pity, though. A recorded explanation on the PABX system would have sufficed for many callers and a plus on the cooperative’s public relations.

Nighttime fell and it was becoming increasingly apparent that power was not coming back anytime soon. My guess was that the thunderstorm had something to do with it. But then again, without information, all that I could do was to speculate.

I started texting people to find out the scope of the outage; and from my contacts soon discerned that the outage was city-wide.

I still had half an hour of power in my laptap and posted an item on Facebook to see what others had to say. Somebody said that power was not getting to the Lipa grid from Batangas City. The obvious question was WHY.

On to the next morning and still no power. My personal situation had deteriorated to this: cell phone low-bat; laptap no-bat; information completely blank. An instant throwback to the Dark Ages.

At least, where I live, there is always water even through these power outages; no small consolation when I come to think about it. After all, you hear people saying all the time that they can live without power but definitely not without water.

Agree wholeheartedly and spin-a-win!

Experience told me to stock up with food stuff that would not spoil; and so, off to the supermarket I went.

Most people naturally not having the means to access official information, of course everyone entitled themselves to speculation. “Matagal daw ‘yan,” Ate loudly told a companion inside the jeepney. “May transformer daw na tinamaan ng kidlat.”

But of course, Ate’s theory was no more valid than my own speculation even if hers was similar to mine.

At the supermarket, I went to the shelf where the candles were because it was my Mom’s death anniversary. Tatang was inspecting some candles and assumed that I was buying some because of the power outage.

And started talking to me...

“Pinababahô ang mga taga-Lipa,” was Tatang’s pick-up line. I smiled politely. But Tatang was the friendly type and kept talking, “Anything from three days to one week daw ‘yan. Tumawag ang anak ko sa Batelec.”

“Ganun pô ba?” I replied politely. I restrained myself from asking if his son or daughter had a pleasant time talking to the busy signal.

“Sigue pô,” I bade him goodbye. It was late in the morning and I was already hungry.

At the counter, upon seeing my candles, the cashier asked, “May tubig sa inyo Sir?” Yesterday must have been World Talk to Strangers Day and I just wasn’t aware of it.

“Meron naman,” I replied pleasantly.

“Hanggang Tuesday pa raw pô walang kuryente,” the cashier continued. “Mauubos na pô ang stock ng kandilâ sa dami ng bumibili.”

The night before, one of my players who owns a printing shop complained that the outage had cost him already half a day’s income. Well, at least, the candle makers were having a field day in terms of sales.

Naturally, all the fatalism makes one brace for the worst. But something good was always to come from the sense of dread that was enveloping the entire city.

When the lights came back on late in the afternoon – more than 25 hours after power went out – it was totally unexpected and was, therefore, something of a pleasant surprise. The cries of glee all around the neighbourhood were a story in itself.

And because we are all inhabitants of the 21st Century, the modern thing to do in order of priority was to plug the fridge back in, charge the drained cell phone battery, plug in the laptop and open Facebook!

How so in the Dark Ages we have all become without any of these!

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