A flood of memories

By Cristina DC Pastor

We didn’t care about the bits and pieces of garbage that floated our way or the urine that fermented the waters. We needed to be there to catch “The Boxer” as the folk singer went strum-happy with —

Lie la lie (psh)
Lie la lie lie lie la lie
La la lie lie lie

So sometime in the 1980s, me and some friends, a bunch of carefree, wet-behind-the ears (and also the legs) reporters, waded waist-deep in flood waters from the National Press Club on Jones Bridge to a bar in Remedios Circle several blocks away. We got there to a round of applause, our newspaper friends ready with hugs, ice-cold beer and ‘pulutan.’

And The New York Times wonders why the recent flooding “caused little public anger.” Sadness, not indignation, was the ascendant emotion, according to a Rappler “mood meter.”

Even then, Filipinos cursed and romanced the floods, a love-hate relationship that appears to continue to this day. Floods then were not as life-threatening as they are today. Children played in the water imagining it to be a swimming pool, while parents caution them about staying away from electrical wiring and garbage. I remember growing up when flooding was limited to small part of metropolitan Manila, usually Navotas and Malabon, which are both below sea level, and Marikina, a bowl-like city with a river slicing through it. Espana, just before approaching Quezon Memorial, was another at-risk area, but the flooding then was not serious enough to disable buses and jeepneys.

Flooding has gotten worse over the years. Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 exposed the fault line of Metro Manila’s sewerage system. Much of the metropolis was submerged in water for three days with Ondoy’s 24-hour sustained rainfall.

With the recent tropical depression Gener dumping rains over a period of two weeks, the waters rose without let up as if chasing people up their roofs. More than 60 people died, and at least 12 cities of Metro Manila were under a state of calamity.

Where’s the rage, one might ask. And where does the blame lie ultimately? A lot of the finger-pointing is moving in many directions: Plastic bags of garbage thrown willy-nilly on the streets, makeshift houses that pile up along ‘esteros’ or waterways, the continuous appropriation of land for subdivisions, golf courses or malls. It’s a combination of mismanagement, neglect and indifference, and everyone is guilty.

Destiny has deigned that the Philippines lie within a typhoon belt. One would think that would be a factor in the planning of its towns and cities.

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