Silent night - SunStar

Silent night

By Stella A. Estremera
Spider’s web

IT started as a discomfort when one by one all telecom services went down in the quiet of near-dawn. It became more so when at the grocery at the mall nearby the morning after, you are told that you can’t use your debit card because all systems are offline.

And so, you whip out your wallet, count how much cash there is, and tell the cashier to punch in the items anyway but make sure it doesn’t exceed P1,200. That was a hundred pesos less than what my wallet had.

Having settled into this solitary life since the pandemic ordered us indoors and limited our social interactions to bare essentials, online payment services and banking has become the norm such that I can go for weeks without cash in my wallet. Even the vendors has Gcash. There was very little use for cash, it didn’t even cross your mind to withdraw from the ATM in preparation for the typhoon. But suddenly, the ubiquitous cellphone is quiet, useless, and you are now holding on to the last physical P100 in your physical wallet.

The thought that you were spared the worst by typhoon Odette, however, makes you grateful. But then you come to realize that unlike two years ago, you too have been disconnected to your network of friends who are quick to help. You stare out your window thinking how you can help, but rendered immobile because you only have P100 left. Your useless cellphone has made the solitary become even more solitary. It dawns on you that all this time, this cellphone has been creating so much noise and so vast a network, there are conversations you can dip into or initiate anywhere anytime with anyone.

And then you hear an unfamiliar noise… children in the neighborhood are actually outside playing. The last time I heard them was when they moved in next door earlier this year. That house, albeit always having several vehicles parked outside (including outside my road space), is very quiet. But just as quickly as you notice the joyful noise, the neighborhood soon quiets down as dusk creeps in. The two years of being ordered inside complete with curfews as early as 9 p.m. has conditioned us to go in once the sunsets. The city quiets down at 7 p.m., my neighborhood an hour earlier.

It was quieter the evening after Odette as once again, the telecoms conked out, one by one.

The daytime after Odette made landfall in Surigao and the Visayas, one telecom service is restored giving a glimpse of the devastation this traitorous typhoon has wreaked from the few friends who still had the means to go where there is electricity and signal. But soon after, data and Internet signal are again down and there is but you and the deafening silence of the night.

This time, the discomfort has turned to awe. So this is how quiet really is. And you lap it up, taking in the sound of nature and the whirring of the electric fan while typing your thoughts as your laptop tells you: “This site can’t be reached.”

Even the dinosaur isn’t around. Just that bare screen, which this time has changed its message and now says: “No Internet” as if to stress the disconnectedness. I am all alone and the feeling is awesome. Life disconnected, unplugged, silent. saestremera@gmail.com

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