I can only thank the heavens above that I already reached the suburbs before the rains came a-pouring. But even if there was not yet a drop of rain from where I stood, the tsunami of Facebook shoutouts, Twitter yelps and text messages expressed the same degree of overwhelming alarm. "Oh, my God! Not again! Visibility zero with this rain ... and the waters are rising fast."
Welcome to Manila.
That overflow of complaints expressed not only frustration but downright outrage. I was all too grateful to be spared of that kind of experience again. The longest haul I had to endure was when I was stuck in traffic close to three hours from Tomas Morato in Quezon City to reach an event Makati. And that was because we indulged in the greatest act of self-flagellation by using EDSA as our route right after a rainfall.
Well,it's not only the traffic that gets your blood and bowels boiling: it's the threat --- the constant threat that any moment your vehicle will be submerged in waist deep water because there is no more telling what are the flood prone areas in our dear "It's More Fun Out Here"-metropolis.
Streets that were once exempted from rising mucky waters transform into virtual canals in less than thirty minutes. Somewhere in Timog, some unlucky chap happened to park his car in the most flash flood-prone area of the stretch so that after the rain, he saw his vehicle literally floating. A case of bad luck, that's all. As somebody in showbiz once said in a quote gone immortal, nowadays "you can never can tell."
We can't leave it at that. The better question to ask is: "Are we still supposed to be surprised that any moment Manila will turn into one giant estero at the slightest suggestion of rainfall?" Oh, come on, let's face facts, OK? Let's not even dare complain ... again. Why? Because we have to admit the truth: It is not going to get any better.
I have the compulsion to repeat that: It is not going to get any better. As a matter of fact, I have a very strange feeling (and to think I make no claims of being the next Madame Auring) that: It is going to get worse ... then worst.
So at what point did I let go of my usual sunshiny disposition and irrepressible optimism? Because I am dealing with the obvious. I can always imagine some divine intervention to change the course of inevitable events but it isn't going to happen.
Folks: we will be submerged in deeper and deeper floods because we have reached that point that we cannot do anything about it ... not unless some process of geographical bewilderment and wonderment will raise all of Luzon to the altitude of Baguio City.
Let me count the ways that can justify this fear in me:we keep screaming our heads off trying to pinpoint somebody ... no, any body to be responsible for correcting this disaster. I mean, who's in charge here? Who's responsibility is this? The MetroManila Development Authority? The Department of Public Works and Highways? Da who?:!
And we simply have to stop this finger pointing blame game (a favorite Philippine sport) that has become a battle of the rich versus the poor. Don't we all love that sort of conflict of a story line? Don't we all want to hurl rocks across that cultural divide between those who go through their days with bare feet versus those who can afford custom-stylized Havaianas?
The government points to all those clogged waterways that has been transformed into garbage disposal chutes by the informal settlers (called squatters by the politically insensitive). These are residents who have turned the borders of esteros into their own cute little baranggays, defying warnings that rising waters resulting from torrential rains can prove a threat not only to their possessions but their lives. But even if we are no longer considered Third World (o di ba?), we have not yet outgrown our developing worldly ways.
Then again, the much maligned poor point the fingers to the greedy rich. Indeed, they ask, what's screwing up the sewerage system that has greatly aggravated the flooding in the Metro is the mushrooming of high rise buildings in every imaginable nook and cranny of the city. If it's not billboards, then it must be condominium buildings ... rising like cultured species on petri dishes without control and seemingly without planning.
A very irate taxi driver once bewailed, "Bakit ba kami na lang ang laging sinisisi?" (Why do they always blame us, the poor?) Then he pointed to all the high rise buildings around the area of De la Salle University in Taft Avenue and said, "Noong araw naman, nawala na ang bahala dito sa area na ito. Pero bakit bumalik? Kasi di kinakaya ng drainage ng mga buildings na yan, Sir." (The flooding problem in this area has been solved until they built these buildings which the street drainage can no longer handle.)
Well, yes: Manong Taxi Driver has a point there.
It is not a matter of dredging the bays and the waterways or literally scooping out all the non-biodegradable waste ... it also has got to do with urban planning and foresight. Finger pointing is not going to solve anything ... added to the fact that knowing the problem is the first step to finding a solution and NOT the solution at all.
Yes, with global warming making its omnipresence felt, the rising water levels all over the world will definitely sink certain cities now infamous for being flood prone. And sad to say --- what was really bad before, like Ondoy, will happen again and again. And whether we like it or not, it is going to get far much worse ... and there is seemingly nothing we can do about it.
Again, if we take Dormicum to ease all that aggravation and calm our nerves because of the epic traffic jams we confront almost every rainy day ... it is still not going to solve the problem. There will still be floods. There will still be Ondoys and Pablos and name-your-favorite-weather disturbance. Nothing will change.
Ventilating our frustrations is therapeutic. We can curse anyone from the MMDA to the Secretary General of the United Nations and even include the Emperor Penguins who populate the remaining glaciers. But it will still not solve anything.
I have come to a resigned conclusion that we can only TRY to make our lives better --- and learning to live with this outrageous condition that has been prophesied years before by both harbingers and scientists. Let's all buy amphibian tanks ... or if that is too expensive, nicely decorated bancas to the tradition of our cute and quaint jeepneys, complete with chrome horses and burloloys.
What we must accept is that floods and traffic have become a fact of life --- but that does not exempt the powers that be to ease the pain, use the available resources and this time to gain foresight to insure that the damage is minimized. Yes, there can be no miracles but there could perhaps be more ... efficiency?
Hey listen: if we have to live with this predicament, then this does not spare the government of an even greater responsibility of taking care of its tax-paying citizenry. Not only that, isn't it about time that we really did something to deal with such problems with accountability and ... yes, credibility.
We cannot simply sit back and shrug and mutter, That's life because work does not stop with resignation. Or wait for the next Ondoy to mutter, "Ang buhay ay parang life."
There may be no miracles in sight but at least we know where our taxes go... even it is spent for siphoning muck, mud and floating garbage. That's better than what we hear about nowadays, right?