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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In A Moment of Patriotism

"The capital city, Manila, has recorded 34 inches of rain in 72 hours."cnn.com

"Eleven dead after downpours turn half of Manila into ‘water world’."nationalpost.com
"Heavy flooding paralyses Philippine capital Manila." bbc.co.uk

While it is heartwarming to see everybody working together to help the victims of the flooding brought about by fierce monsoon rains, it is more heartbreaking that the same thing happens over and over again. The lessons are not learned. I remember during the aftermath of Ondoy when there was a deluge of articles and documentaries about preparedness, aka stocking up on food and batteries. But I think Filipinos need to know as well that the floods are preventable. No, you can’t stop the rain or storms. But the floods don’t need to happen. It will take a lot of work, and a budget that the government is ill-prepared to spend. The cities should have been planned properly instead of the haphazard zoning. Instead of increasing the fleet of rubber boats for rescue efforts, maybe the local government units should focus on fortifying the riverbanks and cleaning up the outlets to the ocean. I wonder how much it would take to build a proper sewage system for the whole metropolis—and if such an undertaking will survive the corruption that runs rampant in DPWH. The country needs to develop a consciousness of proactivity, that is, educating themselves about proper garbage disposal instead of stocking up on food and rain gear and Styrofoam rafts. We always seem to just stand still and wait for weather, or poverty, or colonialism in the past, to batten us, and hurray if we survive one or all of them standing up. What about striding forward to be a better nation, calamity or not? What about leaping forward to greatness, morally and economically? I hate all these memes popping up on Facebook about how Filipinos will always rise from the rubble of the latest calamity. How about conquering poverty and laziness so that we never even have rubble to rise from?

I have repeated conversations with my father about the differences in Canada and the Philippines. It’s like comparing apples to mangoes. Sure there are catastrophes in Canada. In the spring or early summer, when the snow melts off the mountains, there’s always flooding. Or in the height of summer, there are always wildfires. But the scale of these disasters is nothing compared to Ondoy, or the Ormoc landslide, or Sendong. Canada has more advanced response teams, but it also has better information dissemination to the public about prevention. The Canadians are better educated about the fragile relationship between man and nature. I also realize Canada is a well-off country and has infinitely more resources to achieve this. And so my father and I always concluded that in order for the Philippines to make any sort of advancement, there needs to be a concrete action against poverty, in the personal and family level, as well as the national level. And the only way to overcome poverty is through education. And in times like these, when I think of ways that the flooding could have been prevented, I come to realize that it also comes down to education. We need to know that our actions have direct effect on ourselves, our families, our surroundings, our world. We need to be educated about the abuse we do to our environment, and we need it drilled in our heads from birth so that proper garbage disposal becomes automatic. We need to instill in our children a huge respect for themselves and the world and the value of education, so that they know nothing else but the fact that without education, they would be nobody, and that no one respects a nobody. And I don’t mean that our kids should aspire for titles or top positions. They need to strive to become somebody that makes a difference. We need to make people understand that planning for the future is the only way we can have some semblance of control over what happens to our world and our children’s world. We need to shape our world as it is shaping us. We need to understand that we can prevent urban flooding. It is not a spectacle that we want to see every year, so that afterwards we can squat around in the village centre and exchange exaggerated stories over cheap liquor. We need to support the government’s efforts to quash corruption, so that we can have a dependable public works department that will make sure the cities are properly drained and the rivers flow where they should. The list could go on and on, and it is a tough and expensive list. And the road is long towards achieving these. But we gotta start somewhere at some point if we want a better metropolis, a better country, better lives. We need an educated populace. We don’t want handouts; we want opportunities. We don’t want free truck rides and a phone line to request to be rescued during floods, we want a city that never floods. We want work, we want possibilities, and we want freedom from worrying about our next meal or slippers to wear to school. We want permanent and decent housing, and not shacks hanging over riverbanks that will get swept away the next time the river rises. We want to work with the government and non-profits in making our lives better; we don’t want to rely on them for our basic needs. We want to be able to look after our children and give them chances to play and develop. We don’t want to see them being floated around in floodwaters in washing tubs, or catching diseases from playing in these waters. We want a clean, safe, and nurturing world for them. If there is one thing that the government should d, it is to prioritize creating an excellent educational system that’s accessible to everybody, and increasing its anti-graft and corruption efforts. In my opinion, that’s the only way for a third-world country to beat poverty, rise above the label and compete worldwide.

Meanwhile, salud to the rescue teams and relief efforts of different organizations.  It is my fervent wish that this latest tragedy take meaning in the sense that it sheds light on the real problems and push our leaders and our people into rethinking how they do things.  

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