How to Survive Your First Brownout

Brownout? I hear you say. Surely, you mean blackout?

Well, there are a couple of differences… the latter is a complete loss of electricity to a grid, whereas a brownout is a loss of electricity to only a certain pocket of power and they happen to be very common in the Philippines. Brownouts can last for a few minutes or a few hours, can coincide with stormy o sunny weather, may be scheduled for repeating, or just happen for no apparent reason at all! Over the past 3 months, I have encountered a handful of small brownouts ranging from <1 to 20 minutes, except for one that lasted nearly an hour… until yesterday.

I was sitting at my office desk, click-clacking away on my keyboard, researching something about plastic (I know, big surprise) when it happened: the lights went out. Our windowless office was only lit by the glow of our computer monitors, tablets and cell phones. We looked like an office of oddballs trying to tell scary stories around a campfire, our faces each independently lit from our individual screens. Someone gets up and opens the door to the adjacent gym and in floods the light. Our cold, conditioned air gets sucked out as if by a vacuum and the humidity and heat waft in like our office was a time machine that just landed in the jungles of the Jurassic era. And I thought to myself, what do we do now?

Well for a while, we just sat and waited… maybe it would be over in a few minutes? But 10 minutes went by and I was itching to do something productive. I asked if anyone wanted to escort me to the outdoor market (so this is how people survived before electricity!) where I could at least get my food shopping done and practice some Bisayas. I had a successful trip, stuffing eggplants, onions and green tomatoes in my backpack and only got stuck taking home one plastic bag (it never occurred to me that eggs aren’t packaged in cartons like in the US; next time I’ll be prepared)!

When we returned to the office, the power was still out and there wasn’t much to do in the dark and without Wi-Fi. The gym that we are annexed to has a generator which was being fully utilized for the United Nations Dance Show that a local school was presenting that morning. I sat in the back and watched kids of all ages dance around as little geishas, flamenco dancers, even a few Uncle Sams, while glancing back repeatedly at the crack below the office door to see if the power had come back. It had been an hour and a half now, walay power. When 11:30 rolled around I decided I would take my lunch early because at least I can cook without electricity (thank you, gas stove top)! At home I made myself a delicious stir-fry with my freshly bought veggies and ate by the candlelight that my Nanay provided for me. I actually thought to myself for a moment, hey, this brownout thing ain’t too bad.

And then, it hit me: the sweating. The copious amounts of sweating, like I had just finished my morning run. My arms, the backs of my legs, my stomach, all seeping the moisture out of my body. I was smart enough to change into an old t-shirt before I began cooking but oh, my gosh, there was so much sweat! Is it possible that the heat of this little candle is making me hotter? I finished forkfuls of food in between swipes at the sweat dripping down the side of my face before heading to my room, leaving a trail of drips in my wake. What do I do now?

I did the only thing I could think of, I stripped down to my underwear and laid stomach-down on the cool, tile floor. It wasn’t quite cold, but in the moment it was heavenly. I pressed myself to the floor as much as possible attempting to get the most amount of surface area in contact with the tile and the next thing I know, I fell asleep. I wake up 25 minutes later, dazed and disoriented; there are no signs of power. I splash some water on my face in the comfort room (aka the CR, aka the bathroom) and flick my light switch on out of habit on the way back into my room. And it happens: LIGHT. Some three hours later, we have power! Fans can spin, air conditioning can blow, and my body can stop producing sweat at ten times the normal rate: I survived! 😀

(Alright, three hours really isn’t that bad… I did a bit of research and some scheduled (meaning regular) brownouts last 6-13 hours a day! And there are really 1,000,000 things worse than losing power for a few hours, but I had fun with writing this anyway!)

Anyway, hope your days are full of light! As always, thanks for reading,

***And a special happy birthday to my father, one of my most loyal readers all the way on the other side of the world. Love you and miss you and hope you have a phenomenal day celebrating!!!***


Market eggs don’t need electricity 😀



4 thoughts on “How to Survive Your First Brownout

  1. The US is actually an oddity regarding eggs because we refrigerate lots whereas most countries don’t do that and it’s perfectly fine. The only thing you need to remember is that if you start the egg production to market chain with refrigeration then you need to refrigerate throughout the whole chain, same goes with no refrigeration.


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