Remember your childhood backyard? You knew where every tree was — the guava in the corner, the macopa near the poso, three kaimito dominating the center. The dwarf lived under the culvert, and the sweetest aratilis grew over the neighbor’s wall.
Carlo and I learned to fly over Central Luzon. In the lazy summer heat, we smelled the parched rice fields even from 1,500 feet. When we banked steeply over the twisting Pampanga river, the fishermen in the bancas waved.
Our backyard. With no pilotage chart or GPS, we can find the prison camp from the Great Raid.
Or the footbridges and weirs on the Pampanga river, the lake near Cuyapo that swallowed a town, where the dwende lives, where the sweetest aratilis are.
Last week we flew for the first time in weeks. Straight up Central Luzon to the San Roque dam.
In the aftermath of super typhoons Ondoy and Pepang, nothing was recognizable. If not for the GPS, I would have been lost.
This used to be a sitio of Concepcion, Tarlac. North of the Sacobia River, west of the Rio Chico.
A little further north, a soggy chicken farm collapses into the muck.
On our cross-country training flights, we flew legs from Concepcion, Tarlac, to Zaragosa, Nueva Ecija. Careless compass work would take us to La Paz, instead. We soon learned to recognize and use La Paz to check our course.
My GPS now said this was La Paz. I couldn’t tell.
See the flood current, streaming across the Zaragosa highway? Imagine your house shuddering in that current. For a week.
There is a long grass airstrip at Paniqui, Tarlac. Good drainage all around.
We flew over it just 6 weeks ago, on Carlo’s birthday, and took this picture. A place to land if our engine decides to take a break.
You would need amphibious floats to land at Paniqui now.
At Ramos, the next town east, the rice fields were gone. The forked road in the town center looked like twin tributaries. No help could come up that submerged highway from Paniqui.
Rolf’s grass airstrip at Nampicuan was also flooded. Rolf, who moved here from Europe because he loves the Philippines, plans to introduce sailplane soaring in the country.
I don’t know if his sailplanes, and the D4 Fascination, were in the hangar.
At Rosales, site of an old airfield dating to WWII, the Agno River breached the dike and flooded the town to the second floor of that new SM mall nearby.
The flood had drained back into the river, but the airstrip was muddied and still flooded at the western end.
I followed the Agno river east and then north. Flirting with the Cordilleras now, I switched the GPS to terrain mode. I strained through the heavy haze to see the mountains which I knew were close by.
I knew what I was about to see, but the sight was still riveting.
The San Roque dam was releasing water through two open flood gates.
I’m an engineer. In 1978, during Martial Law, I wrote an article in the UP Collegian about Angat dam releasing water during a typhoon, wreaking havoc on Bulacan and Manila. The government threatened me for that, even if I just quoted reports from the crony press.
Suing a dam operator is the most non-constructive step now. When we run out of hydroelectric power and irrigation water next summer, the engineers with the solutions will be in jail. Or in Qatar.
No, the sordid origins of this mad-made catastrophe lie far upstream of Carlo’s generation.
I flew home, rain clouds drawing dark drapes across our beloved backyard.
Posted from Bangkok, October 17, 2009