Rural respite

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

WHEN it is day, the indicator that the power is suddenly cut off is the loud pop of the speakers as they suddenly lose current. What replaces the electronic hum is the breeze rustling the leaves of the Kasuy tree outside. And of course, the chirping of the birds.

I realize that I surround myself with so much noise from all these powered gadgets. From the din of constant buzz generated by the vibrating ref, the static of the fluorescent lamp left open, and the swoosh of air from the rattling fan, to a sudden quiet when power is cut off - the contrast in levels of sound with and without electricity is so great that power outages usher in completely new aural experiences.

The 5 bar melodious chirp of the male robin magpie outside is easily heard now that the electronic gizmos are limp. Further deep into the shrubs is the cackle of the coucal, the dull thud of a fallen coconut, and still, all around, the sound of leaves swaying in the breeze.


When the power is cut off at night, the experience is different but equally magical. The sudden darkness is disorienting at first. But when your eyes slowly adjust to your surroundings without the aid of artificial light, one achieves a new appreciation for the natural luminescence of the moon and the stars.

There is beauty in the way the glow of the full moon makes the leaves on trees glisten. They twinkle as they are swayed by the mountain breeze. In an open field, it is unbelievable how one can see as far as your vision can reach. The bonus is when fireflies appear dancing amongst the branches during balmy summer nights.

And you are not alone in the darkness, no need to fret. All you have to do is listen. The cicadas are there making their presence known by their cadenced drone. Some birds are nocturnal and you might just be lucky enough to hear the hoot of an owl. That scratch, rumble, and tumble, on the roof that you mistake for the aswang is actually the raucous of playing farm rats. I have seen this myself one bright full moon evening. They too have an appreciation for well-lit open spaces, of course, to my annoyance.

It is for these reasons and more that brownouts are welcome occurrences for me. You can’t relate? Maybe it’s because you live in the City and I reside in a rural municipality 30 kilometers away. In the city, spaces are walled in, needing light and air-conditioning to make them livable. For one to survive in these urban spaces, electricity is a necessity I understand. That is why life stops in the cities when power goes out. The multitude sits and waits, doing nothing, while waiting for the power to go back.

But whoever said this is the only way and place to live?

It is curious that another word for brownout is power interruption. What is being interrupted are not just the operations of these gadgets but actually our connections to others in the grid through these technologies since they are rendered inutile by the absence of power. We are suddenly cut off from cable, radio, the net and other trappings of unnecessary connectivity we are all addicted to.

This social hysteria of being at two places at once is suddenly suspended. For this reason power outages for me are also a welcome respite. What replaces this disease of being connected is a return to an awareness of one's location and identity.

When the lights are off, there are some realizations. You are here. In between you and others is this thing called distance. You are an entity separate from others. You don't have to be plugged in to exist. That is what the singing birds, cicadas, dancing fireflies and the swaying leaves whisper to me when I am lucky enough to be disconnected from the grid.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 13, 2014.


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