Culture Environment

Urduja Floodwaters

Living in a rural area of the Philippines is not without it's challenges but if you look closely enough there are little pockets of joy even in things like the Urduja floodwaters.

Estancia, Iloilo is located in a far-northern corner of the island of Panay and sits at the very end of two major bus/traffic routes. Being so far from major cities and commercial centres, Estantancia often lacks regular supplies of what most westerners would consider basic necessities.

Fresh Milk (actually only milk you can get in the Philippines is the 1 litre cartons of UHT), wholemeal bread, cheese (apart from Kraft or Eden shelf cheese), salad ingredients, coffee beans,  and vegetables like cauliflower are hit and miss (or a 4 hour bus ride).

But life has certainly become much easier in the four years since I have been coming here. I remember back in 2014 the difficulties in getting stuff. Like times when the market shelves were loaded with cereal (but there was not a carton of milk to be had in the entire municipality). Or the milk stocks finally arriving and no cereal for weeks.

About a year ago a couple of stores starting including a meagre stock of wholemeal bread on their shelves and at the same time a new Mercury Drug Store at the far end of town meant I could always buy real butter. Wow.

family riding a motorcycle and trailer to Balasan
The family riding the motor-bike and trailer behind us this morning were grinning to see a Filipino boy riding with a foreigner. They happily posed for photos as we rode along.

And even better, last February a shopping mall opened in the next municipality (Balasan) which has make things easier again. They always stock milk, wholemeal bread and sometimes I can even buy a small lettuce or piece of broccoli. So after all the rain and deluge of Tropical Cyclone Urduja of the last few days, our destination this morning was Balasan Mall to buy stuff for Christmas.

empty rice sacks filled with sand packed along the entrance to a steep walkway
Empty rice sacks filled with sand packed along the entrance to a steep walkway.

Getting to Balasan involves grabbing a ‘Balasan’ tricycle in the centre of the Estancia market place. A tricycle seats roughly 6 passengers and the tricycle will sit and wait until filled. Sometimes it’s a few minutes, sometimes it’s a lot, lot longer. Today it was just few minutes.

So Jerry and I loaded into the back seat and had an excellent view of the receding flood waters and flattened rice during our 20 minute ride to Balasan Town (taking a few pictures on along the way). Estancia tricycles are not allowed into the town centre so we got out in front of an iMart convenience store and started walking the remaining 1km to the mall.

That was until Jerry started begging if we could please pay 20 pesos and ride in a bicycle rickshaw. It’s a request I usually deny but thinking about all that mud and yuk and slippery roads, today I actually said yes. It’s amazing how fit and strong the drivers are, and how well they can maneuvre those gearless, brakeless bikes between buses, trucks, motorcycles and masses of people.

So we’d been in the rickshaw for more than a few minutes (stopped in traffic) and I was getting antsy telling Jerry we should have walked, until I finally realised the cause of our delay. “May baha gid” I heard a woman’s voice shouting ahead, (there’s a big flood) and wow there sure was.

Jerry shrieked (listen to him in the video) that he didn’t want to go into that water but in a few minutes was laughing because we both had wet bottoms and didn’t want to get his slippers wet. (Slippers are the local name for thongs/flip flops/jandals). Haha.

As you can imagine the shopping mall was closed and the tricycle drive was delighted with the 50 pesos I paid him for getting us through all that water. He even turned around and came back for us when he realised we would have to wade through the water back to the road.

Back in Estancia our friends and neighbours were in flood cleanup and laughing joyful at the break in the weather and the video of a waterlogged shopping mall on my iPhone.

These past few years I haven’t always been the positive and joyful person I could be, and I continue to be inspired by the stocism and buoyant nature of Filipino people who always seem to find joy in the difficult things.

group of girls in floodwaters from Urduja, balasan philippines

PS: dont’ forget to send some love and prayers to the more than 220,000 people affected by Tropical Cyclone Urduja (including the families of those who lost their lives at sea or in landslides).

© 2017 Melinda J. Irvine


  • Daily Post: Meager
  • I’m part of Post A Day 2017
  • Location: Balasan, Iloilo (Philipppines)

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