October 1, 2006
There are probably many ways to survive a storm, just as there are many ways to survive if you were trapped on a deserted island. For me, however, there is one crucial element that must not be taken for granted: You have to be with someone you can stand. Forget about love, forget about like. When you’re stuck with someone for four days, with absolutely nothing else to do but be with each other, it really boils down to tolerance.
The day typhoon Milenyo hit, Paul and I were in SM Mall of Asia because there was no electricity at home and nothing else to do. We witnessed the LCD screen on the mighty mall’s entrance get sucked out by the wind (and then probably smashed to pieces); we saw the ceiling on some parts of the mall literally disintegrate right before our very eyes; we witnessed the panic on people’s eyes when they saw pieces of corrugated steel flying straight at them. Being trapped in front of the mall’s entrance, just when the storm was peaking and sending all sorts of things flying every which way, was one of my most horrifying experiences. But then it also showed me just what kind of a man my partner was, and it made me very grateful that it is he who I am with through the most trying situations.
Later that afternoon, when the heavy winds had subsided and when it was relatively safer to be out on the streets, we took a slow drive home to survey the damage that Milenyo left behind. Ceilings had been ripped off, large trees had been uprooted, billboards had collapsed. Paul and I both felt that we were in the middle of a wasteland, and that it was important to: one, document the storm’s aftermath; and, two, help out where we could.
So we went around the Buendia-Roxas-Vito Cruz-Taft route several times, taking photos of uprooted trees, collapsed electric posts, floodwaters, ripped billboards, and other such tragic images. We also made plans of transporting stranded passengers through a certain route, until it occurred to us both that we were fast running out of gas and in no shape to be Good Samaritans this time around. Still, it mattered a lot to me that I was with someone who knew the importance of taking stock of experiences and then seeing how we could help others. Other people in our shoes would have probably taken the quickest, safest route home and then stayed indoors while complaining about the heat.
The next day was worse: there was no power, no elevators, an impassable “fire exit”, and no way out. Most of my colleagues at work had gone back to the office already, but I was stuck at home with no signal, very low battery power on my mobile phone, and absolutely nothing else to do. I was feeling very frustrated, but Paul and I ended up spending the day talking, making plans, and making each other laugh. When power was temporarily restored at night, courtesy of our shabby building’s generator, we went down to the boxing gym and enjoyed a candlelit training session—and then feasted on the meat that we retrieved from our ref and had grilled by the suki barbecue stand—with some newfound friends. That day, I knew what it meant to enjoy the little things and to really be best friends with the man I loved.
If I had been with somebody else (and I did get flashbacks of very frustrating situations with exes), I probably would have wanted to kill myself of either boredom or frustration. On the other hand, Paul makes me want to bear witness to everything—large or small, good or bad—that was happening around me. He makes me unashamed of my innate inclination to see the world as inherently good and to immerse myself in it. He doesn’t think it’s a waste of time to help (or at least to want to help) other people. He reminds me of how good it feels to share what you have with others who have none.
He makes me want to be so alive.
I’ve been with other men before—men who either swept me off my feet, put me on a pedestal, or nursed my wings so that I could fly. But never have I been with someone who was all these, and more—not just on special occasions, but even in the worst of situations. I could be living in a mansion or in a shanty, and I would love life just the same—because this person makes every minute worth living.
There are many ways to survive a storm, but if you survive it with someone you can’t stand, then you might as well wish that you were dead.