Monday, August 13, 2012

Our Heritage of Shortsightedness

The almost week-long suspension of classes (and work for the others) has relieved some of their strenuous activities. To some it was a chance to prepare for future studies (or work) and a bonus of being with their families. But in the backdrop flows a muddy and filthy view of the reality: that the reason behind the series of class and work suspensions is the flooding of most of the places in the National Capitol Region and surrounding provinces due to the unusual heavy rains brought by the southwest monsoon.

It was particularly irksome to note that we cannot mark a name for a typhoon for there was none. It was only rain, ulan, or habagat. But this nameless disaster has brought in destruction to infrastructures and personal properties which I think could rival the havoc wreaked by Typhoon Ondoy three years ago.

Manila in particular almost became an extension of sort of the nearby Manila Bay, only this time it is relatively shallow (from knee deep to head level) and brown in color. Class suspensions are grounded on the consideration that there will be no ways through which students (and employees) can pass. To wade or to swim would be definitely be out of the question.

What is disconcerting is that we have seen the same ugly flooding and destructions despite all the hype about the early warning systems on floods or any other disasters. These flooding and destruction come as a slap of insult to those who invested time and resources to get these warning systems to work. On the side of those affected it is another reason to throw blame to the government and complain of all the services that the government lacks in giving.

But every morning as we turn to watch the morning news about the updates on the flooding and those affected, there is one feature that I see emerging from all that has happened recently: that there is a glaring lack in coordination in all the efforts of the national government and the government agencies and the citizens. Of course we see the basic ones – weather or disaster updates being echoed by the various information dissemination means of the government such as online sites and the people in general should receive them on time. Assuming they receive the information but on their end they decide on their own (mostly for personal reasons) because they are not wholly (or should I say deeply) oriented about the things that they are likely to encounter soon.

The snag starts with the local authorities who at some point (thanks this time to the media) who are at lost as to where the big volume of water to their places come from and where the water would probably go. And the locals on the other hand maintain the indifference stance, ignoring all the time to heed the calls for proper waste disposal. Then there were those who opt to live under the concrete protection of bridges, adding to the already suffocating problem of decongesting most of the waterways (particularly in Metro Manila).

And so when disaster comes, the real politician in our leaders saves day by simply providing the immediate needs of those affected by the disaster and by polishing some neat rhetoric for the media to consume and disseminate. Those affected meanwhile make do on their makeshift protection and bear the poor conditions on evacuation centers. And this we see each and every time a disaster comes to the Philippines.

It’s sad how shortsighted we have all become.

I think we should shed this heritage of ours in light of the rise of technological advances (although they have their own disadvantages too) and make use of them to improve the aspects of our lives no matter how small it might be. Natural disasters can never be contained for as long as we live on Earth but we can make long-term preparations for them.

The scenes of those wooden boats plying the flooded streets will always remind us of how slow we are, as a nation, in improving our lives.

On that note a simple start would be by making effective and reliable information sharing with regards to a town’s or city’s flood behavior (for lack of a better term), geography, and other details that will prove crucial in case of emergency and/or disaster. Then a systematic and preparation and projection of evacuation processes should be in place. On the citizens’ end, we all go back to the germ of discipline, where we start recalling our elementary school lessons on the simple waste segregation and proper disposal. The video footages of the mess hauled from the area of Santa Ana in Manila are a testament to our growing disregard for discipline. But we can start again.

In any problem, we could start moving forward if we recognize our faults and from that gain our self-healing, and hopefully later on, make tangible actions and solutions to problems in our community and country.

A short post-habagat entry.

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