August has always been severe. She knocks us out of our senses then barely coming to; we have to be up on our feet. We always get by and then things return to normal, or so we think. ‘Til it happens again.
The picture of the metropolis this past week gave us an idea of the quality of life in Manila. We saw rivers of garbage, liberated by the rain from where it had been tucked or indiscriminately thrown. Low areas were covered by the rains and the surge of water. The systems were clogged and while the government is blamed, it is man-made. Everything was stopped, until nature itself gave the go signal to continue with life.
We saw overwhelming response to the cries for help and stories of heroism. In the midst of the disaster, people managed to be funny and kept their sense of humor. How Filipino! Then there were the stubborn lot who refuse to evacuate that they practically had to be yanked out to safety.
If we are to learn our lessons from nature, it would seem that water will seek its level and we will have more of it. There are areas that perennially flood and new areas that have gone under. Political will is needed to move people out of danger zones – river banks, canals, lakes, and waterways – as they impede the flow of water. It is also time to rethink development, engineering, and architecture and consider house on stilts like the Badjaos and other people who live on the water. We saw how this was done in Thailand in a flood-prone area. People did not leave the place; they just found a way to be above the water.
Overpopulation is the biggest problem in Manila, flood or not. The magnet to big cities is so strong that people keep coming expecting a better life. Manila, and Baguio as well, has reached its choke point. Perhaps it is now time to encourage people to leave the city and return to their provinces. To do so, the countryside’s economy should be promoted, in terms of employment and livelihood opportunities.
But what would really help is to put a reproductive health program in place – an honest to good one, free of doddering bishops’ medieval ideas. Women need all the support they can get, more so because they are life-givers and nurturers and they contribute significantly in every aspect of life and development. It is unfortunate how issues around the debate on the Reproductive Health bill are being muddled and how lies are being peddled by supposed “holy” people. What is despicable is that during the worst of the floods in Manila last week, some Catholics made pronouncements that this disaster was due to the pro-RH bills lobby in Congress; and that we must repent.
What we need is a paradigm shift and a different way of living and of relating to nature. Young and old, poor and rich, we are all responsible for our actions as it affects other people and forms of life. We may as well acknowledge that we are in this together and that we must do our part to build a better world or perish due to our own follies.
This August, though things seem to have come at a standstill, we have had a lot of downtime to reflect or look inward. This is the season when the sun seems to have forgotten us; instead, it is the thick clouds that have come to envelop us. This is life in foggy mountains.