Rice planting season in the rice bowl of central Luzon usually starts at the end of May, but this year there has been a drought.

In some areas farmers were not able to plant, but our area had enough rain to plant the irrigated fields but not the “dry land” fields, which rely on rain.

But the lack of rain has been worrisome not just for farmers but to nearby Manila, that relies on the up country hydroelectric dams to supply electricity and to supply water to the city. Indeed, last week we heard many low flying planes seeding clouds to try to produce rain, and last Friday the Catholic church declared a day of prayer to end the drought.

Well, the prayers worked too well, because Central Luzon was hit with the edges of not one but two typhoons, causing heavy rains and flooding.

The heavy rain from typhoon Dodong (AKA Wutip) yesterday kept us all at home, but last night the downpours were especially bad, and the electricity went off and so far it still isn’t working. The streets here are not bad, since the rivers are nearby and ditches drain much of the water, but in nearby Bulacan the roads are flooded and the bridges are nearly under water, essentially blocking routine traffic. So our trip to Manila is on hold.

There is worse news however from Pampanga, where three irrigation dikes were overtopped and breeched, leading to flooding of 22 barangays (small towns). And there is worry that the Pampanga river will go into full flood.

What is worse for Pampanga is that the floods will destroy much of the still growing rice crop, a major economic blow to small farmers in an area where poverty is widespread.

To make things worse, the rains have not filled the dams upcountry; that will take several more weeks of steady rains to refill the low water levels.

In the meanwhile, people are making do in the brownouts. The rich (like us) have generators, and the rest of the people rely on candles and propane stoves to cook.

The refugees will be relocated either by the government or by churches, and many will move in with relatives or extended family nearby.

We are off the main road, so have had only one family asking for a donation to buy food, but if the rains and flooding continue, I suspect more refugees will be sleeping in shelters downtown and seeking food and help from local friends and relatives until the floods subside.

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket 

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