Just as the Philippines is reeling from the onslaught of two deadly typhoons, Ondoy and Pepeng that killed about 600 people, damaged infrastructure and turned some Metro Manila cities into swamps of garbage and decomposing bodies, eathquakes shook some parts of the world. Climate change, or the continuing increase in atmospheric temperature caused by humans and other environmental factors that deplete the ozone layer, raises ocean level by sheer heat, creates precipitation that translates into instant torrential rains, destroys glaciers that adds up to more inland water. More floods will come in epic proportion that may approximate the biblical forecast of Armageddon, but it may not herald His second coming as of yet.
Our contribution to this flood, aside from its chief culprit, the “climate change” which the entire world population is responsible of, is our antiquated drainage system; our lack of comprehensive urban planning; and our irresponsible waste management disposal. Add to this problem the unabated destruction of what used to be our pristine watersheds few years back by illegal loggers.
In Metro Manila, during this flash flood, we saw garbage floating side by side with people and empty plastic bags entrenched like “banderetas” in Meralco electric wires. It is indicative enough of how high the water that inundated our cities as well as how enamored we are with plastic that is non-biogradable and the irresponsible way we dispose of it after our trip to the septic wet markets to the more elegant malls. And while the plastic decorative flaglets that normally adorn our city streets during fiestas ushered in festive mood among our people, the recent flaglets in our electric wires heralded a chorus of wailing for lost lives and properties and the inadequacy of government response for tragedies as epic as this one.
Victims were trapped in their roofs, wet and hungry but were rescued only after several hours. The precipitous onrush of water swept some of them from their homes and got drowned. Not that it was entirely the fault of the local or the national government to act swiftly on life-threatening situations as these floods, but some were so stubborn enough not to heed the call of their officials to leave their homes for safer grounds. It all boils down to our attitude as a people, we won’t act least we see danger up close and personal and even if we act swift enough, people were simply have nowhere to go in this stampede to look for dry and safe lands.
As the floods brought about by Ondoy in Metro Manila and Pepeng in the provinces started to recede, our politicians will vie for billings in the broadcast media and the press to pay lip service to our sufferings. Finger-wagging indignation of our politicians over the destruction of our watersheds and our lack of coordinative efforts to alleviate the sufferings of the flood victims will dominate the airwaves. Relief goods will be distributed and photo-ops with grieving populace will be made by politicians and movie stars alike, and though these efforts will tide over hunger for a couple of days or even weeks, such will fall short of filling in the tremendous void in our populace.
But tragedies like these always bring the worst and the best of our people. Already, our merchants have trebled the prices of their products while the heroism of a young teenager who drowned after saving some of his neighbors in this stampede sent his grieving mother to appeal for help to bury her dead. A hot cup of coffee or a warm blanket being extended by those who were luckier to have avoided the flood to those who had been ravaged by it were poignant and inspiring act of humanity that reminds us of the better part of our character as a people.
Meantime, several provinces up north were under water and a U.S. military contingent was seen helping stranded people relocate to dry lands and distributing food to the victims using its helicopters, soldiers and other resources, while the vociferous Anti-Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) groups in our midst, were for the first time, mum and muted by this act of gallantry, and they were not about to shout, “Go Home, Yankees!!!”.