We have always been monsoon country: the only difference in the past two weeks is that weâ€™ve never been able to escape the fact. The chief, monolithic purveyors of this escape, our malls, are no longer spared from flooding. The more fortunate among us were merely inconveniencedâ€”others had to cope with the more dangerous, even fatal effects of massive flooding: losing homes, belongings, lives.
One of the strangest things we ought to notice, though, is how our lifestyles and the so-called progress of our urban and rural development ignore the fact that we have 20 or so typhoons plus the southwest monsoon to deal with for most of the year.
Weâ€™ve built our residential villages in valleys.Â Weâ€™ve allowed thousands of people to informally settle by our riverbanks. Weâ€™ve polluted, narrowed, reduced or eliminated our natural waterways, especially the creeks and tributaries that feed and channel our river system.
Maybe PNoyâ€™s priorities should be clear by this time: his greatest legacy could be making sure that the factors that worsen flooding are eliminated, as much as possible. Thatâ€™s as urgent a job as fixing the economy; how far our can our economic fixes go if the conduct of business is perennially disrupted by flooding?
Those with great enthusiasm for the Book of Genesis made a seemingly miraculous discovery: the monsoon flood last week happened on August 7th, 2012; that date, in numerical format (which is 8-7-12) supposedly corresponds to Genesis Chapter 8, verses 7 to 12, which is the story of the Great Deluge that killed all the wicked people on Earth.
Itâ€™s very tough to take the claim seriously. The actual verses talk about the Great Flood coming to an end. Itâ€™s the part where Noah and his family send a crow and a dove out of the ark to check if the floodwaters had receded. They all wanted to leave that stinking ark, which already smelled like the most under-funded zoo ever. â€śThrow these birds outâ€” the less bird poop around here the better!â€ť Noah yelled.
The people most affected by the â€śGreat Floodâ€ť in Metro Manila and nearby provinces were neither supporters nor detractors of the RH Bill, who are mostly middle-class; the flood victims were mostly among the poorest, most disadvantaged members of our society.
Things can get pretty distorted, even silly, when you force an Old Testament story into a modern situation.
Even though we are a contentious lot, hopefully we will find a way to work together: the habagat does not care if you are pro- or anti-RH; and God is not pleased if we use His name to dishonestly promote our causes.
This is not to say that the pro-RH camp has been pristine and blameless. The pro-RH camp has been spreading the news story about how Nobel Prize-winning scientist George Akerlof is contradicting the CBCP position on the RH Bill. The CBCP had earlier cited Akerlofâ€™s research to support its anti-RH stand.
Akerlof has come out publicly with his own position, which supports any measure that promotes reproductive rights, including the RH Bill in the Philippines. However, that same news story fails to mention that he also supports abortion, which is illegal in the Philippines.
A more balanced and complete news story should mention Akerlofâ€™s stand on abortion, if only to flag readers that his personal belief may be coloring his own interpretation of the research data. Also, weâ€™ve had no mainstream media outlet actually discuss Akerlofâ€™s research in a dispassionate, non-partisan manner.
Itâ€™s rather tricky to praise or rant against politicians in the age of social networks. For example, one Facebook post is about former Senator and Philippine National Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon helping save someoneâ€™s life during flood-related rescue efforts.
Gordon had noticed a stalled ambulance by the roadâ€”it had stalled because of the floodingâ€”and upon checking, he found out that there was a patient inside. The patient, a man who was suffering from a potentially fatal brain disease, needed medical attention right away. He was transferred to one of the PNRCâ€™s amphibian vehicles and rushed to a hospital.
Gordon may be running for the Senate next year. Heâ€™s open about his presidential ambitions. By telling the story above, even as an example, mind youâ€”isnâ€™t that already falling into Gordonâ€™s PR machinery? This story has already been passed around in Facebook and likely on Twitter, too, perhaps reaching more people than this column could. In any case, if you were the patient, you wouldnâ€™t really care about any politics involvedâ€”youâ€™ll just feel really lucky.
Conversely, social media these days are used to shame politicians who, in tradpol fashion, have been distributing relief goods stamped with their names and faces. Obviously, some people have had enough of politicians using relief operations as a campaign platform:
One photo spreading on Facebook shows two cans of sardines whose labels have been stamped with the names and faces of two local politicians. These sardine cans were supposedly among those being distributed to relief victims.
If youâ€™re handed some canned goods bearing the face and name of your mayor, for example, isnâ€™t it logical to expect that actual chunks of your mayorâ€™s flesh are inside the cans, i.e. â€śHot and Spicy Kapalmuks.â€ť And the logical message is that your mayor expects you to partake of his body and bloodâ€”yes, an actual perversion of the gospel!
But if the cans actually contain sardines, then your mayor is simply tricking consumers with a mislabeled, misrepresented product, in which case you should consider whether your rights as a consumer have been violated.
The downside to this, of course, is that anyone can use social media. How do you know if the photos are authentic, and not just a hoax being spread by your mayorâ€™s political enemies? For example, one photo posted on Facebook shows a truck of relief goods bearing a tarpaulin sign with Senator Loren Legardaâ€™s name. Is that photo genuine or not?
This is why we really do need mainstream media even moreâ€”just to help us get our facts straight on which politicians are really being douchebags.
We need to be reminded of one politician, though, who sent truckloads of relief goods to victims during the height of Typhoon Milenyo. The bags of relief goods were all unmarked. The victims did not know who their anonymous benefactor was. Only years later, after the politicianâ€™s death, did we get information about his identity: Fernando Poe, Jr., the â€śKing of Philippine Moviesâ€ť, and former Presidential candidate.
We should also note that FPJ had been distributing relief goods anonymously to disaster victims for decades, even before he ran for public office. Again, this information never came out, not even during his presidential campaign, because he forbade his PR people from revealing it. That this information has come out at all is because the people he helped had talked about it themselves.
Together we shall overcome. Cue Neil Sedakaâ€™s â€śLaughter in the Rainâ€ť:
This photo says it all: we may have our differences but love and a transcendent purpose can bring us togetherâ€”our future may be wet, with the threats of leptospirosis and athleteâ€™s foot, and with kids going â€śwoot-woot!â€ť but there may still be hope for us Filipinos.