Two Cents · Unpopular Opinion

Of Resignation and Frustration

The floods that have swamped most of Manila, with at least 11 people dead and a quarter-million having fled their homes, seem to have caused little public anger over further municipal dysfunction in the densely populated capital of more than 10 million.

[…]

A “mood meter” on the Rappler news portal let people register their feelings. By noon on Wednesday, 71 percent listed “sad” as their chief emotion, followed by “afraid” at 17 percent. Only 4 percent registered as “annoyed.”

“Amid the flooding, a certain buoyancy in the Philippines” by Mark McDonald

The man from Brgy. Caingin, Sta. Rosa, Laguna was riding a bike. The wheels were half-submerged in murky water. “Ate, pa’no kami?” he asked. Our convoy was headed to an elementary school. “Nagkaka-alipunga na kami dito. ‘Eto nga, tingnan mo.” He raised a foot at us. There were the telltale flaking and red cuts of athlete’s foot that just wouldn’t heal yet.

When we were taking pictures with our smartphones, someone angrily yelled, “Hoy! Kanino nyo naman ipapadala yang mga litrato nyo?” We hurriedly rolled up the windows of our vehicle.

But actually, there was no immediate threat; true to the Filipino personality, no one confronted us directly and instead spoke through some barrier such as a car window. Where there were angry people, they spoke more to the air (nagparinig) than to us. But yes, there was an undercurrent of anger. Or, perhaps more accurately, there was frustration and impatience: frustration at the fact that help reached only those who were in the evacuation center (some did not leave their flooded houses), impatience at the relief pack distribution going at a snail’s pace.

Yet life still went on: people bought goods from the sari-sari stores by the road and kids played in computer shops with wet floors (dangerous, I know). People waded in calf- to thigh-deep water or were ferried by pedicabs. A couple of kids watched the goings-on on an orange floater.

I thought it was pretty awesome.

We were told that a few rows of houses — those nearest to the Laguna de Bay — were flooded. But it was also apparent that flooding has sort of become a way of life there: we saw some canoes with only one outrigger floating on the alleys by the main road. The monsoon rains of last week, though, had been too much; I’d been in the area right after 2009’s Ondoy, and the scenario this time around was almost exactly the same that I couldn’t shake off the feeling of deja vu.

I wondered, then, why the people couldn’t leave the area if their lives and property were always threatened by the floods. Sta. Rosa is obviously a very prosperous city — it’s where the Coca-Cola plant, Enchanted Kingdom, Paseo de Sta. Rosa, and numerous manufacturing and outsourcing companies and exclusive subdivisions are located. Why couldn’t the people in flood-prone barangays be relocated? Then I realized that this was too naive a thought: relocating would also mean an uprooting, a displacement from one’s idea of home and from one’s source of livelihood.

So, I don’t know about sadness among these people — even among us who’ve seen these things firsthand, us who went back to the comforts of our homes after the mission. I know there’s a sense of resignation, though. Buoyancy, yes — after being battered by typhoons left and right, Filipinos have learned to bounce back up, swim in delight at the murky floodwater, and shove their flaking feet at the sight of others. The Filipino spirit is waterproof, you see. But there’s resignation also — resignation at the fact that the flooding will happen again, that the government will be very slow in acting on it (if it acts at all), and all the people of Brgy. Caingin can do is wait for the water to subside, clean up their homes afterward, and wait in fear when the next typhoon pounds on their rooftops.

I wonder, too, if donating and volunteering is going to become a way of life for the rest of us. Judging from the students and alums who flocked to our school to help in the relief operations, I have confidence that there will always be people who are willing to help. The bayanihan spirit, the idea of damayan: that (above all things, I hope) is what truly defines us Filipinos as a people, and so we’re never really going to stop volunteering. But there has to be a way to go past this — to act against crisis instead of to react to crisis. We are always going to help, but we have to prevent the frequent class suspensions, the damage to property, and the unnecessary deaths of many.

Conrado de Quiros had said it  well in 2009: “Maybe it’s time the Filipino stopped being resilient. Maybe it’s time he got bloody furious.” There’s got to be a tipping point somewhere, and I hope this is it. I hope we’re more like that man who is tired of us documenting the flood instead of us actually doing something about it.

#

Browse through this page [via the President’s website] to volunteer or donate to the victims of Haikui’s Monsoon/Habagat*.

*Personally I’d agree with a few people and call this disaster “chuva” — from the Portuguese word for “rain” — because we don’t want to dignify this already nameless disaster with a proper name. :p

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One thought on “Of Resignation and Frustration

  1. Hello there, my foster father lives in Caingin and I’m trying to organize a relief effort to be sent there. I would like to talk to you more about what you’ve seen there, the current situation. If it’s also possible can I ask for those pictures as well? I want to start an information campaign about the current situation. I’d also like to ask permission to share this article if possible.

    From my foster father, this is the current numbers I have:
    30 families evacuated in centrak purok school sa bayan (9 of those are foster parents)
    more or less about 200 families at the caingin elementary school evacuation center, not counted are those who did not evacuate which is about 50 families. And that relief efforts are present but severely lacking.

    Speedy reply is very much appreciated.

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