Lugar Lang: How to deal with flooding

Only after 10 years of living in Davao did I learn the Binisaya saying, “Kapugngan pa ang baha, dili ang biga” through famous last words by a woman angry enough to make this judgment.

I wondered then about the values of this community I had chosen to rebuild my life in with my children. Because where I come from, we know we can surely stop lust; it’s the floods that we have no control over.

I grew up in Pasay City, which has always been notorious for regular flooding and narrow streets. By the time I left in 2005, it had gotten so bad that two hours of constant rain even when there is no typhoon brought flooding inside our house. We were fortunate to have a second floor, but I had gotten tired of bringing our stuff up and down each time there was rain. I had grown too traumatized from going to sleep at night and waking up in a flooded bedroom. I was finished with Pasay City. There must be a better option, I thought. And there was no turning back.

Davao is not in the usual path of typhoons in the Philippines. I didn’t believe it but living here showed me that it was true. While we have also begun having massive flooding in certain areas, I still feel grateful that most of us enjoy relatively easy monsoon seasons, characterized normally by rain in the evenings and sun in the daytime. In fact, sometimes I feel guilty watching news of flooding in other areas of the Philippines while we hang our laundry out in the sun to dry.

With the recent flooding in Luzon and the National Capital Region (NCR) brought about by Typhoon Kardo, news outlets have tried to bring hope by featuring the so-called “resilience” of Filipinos during times of disaster.

A photo of a man smiling while walking in a chest-deep flood in Marikina and captioned, “The Filipino Spirit” has actually backfired, with many netizens expressing disappointment at the message being promoted, asking whether this resilience is meant to excuse the inefficiency of the government. The feature adds, “Filipinos are known for their resiliency especially since the country is hit by more than 20 typhoons every year.” One would think that knowing this, the government would have done something about the situation. But disasters hit various parts of the country year after year, and we still aren’t seeing sufficient preparedness.

Another feature being replayed in news programs and shared widely online is the wedding held in a flooded church in Bulacan. In his Facebook post, a friend of mine captioned it, “Mapugngan pang baha, di gyud ang gugma.” There the saying went again. But at least this time it wasn’t meant to be insulting. But shall love really save the day? Does being able to wade through murky floodwaters in a wedding gown make the marriage bond stronger? Will it stop the expected flooding and other disasters throughout the year, year after year?

Environmental planner and mapmaker David Garcia tweets, “no amount of drainage work/trash cleanup/megaproject/relocation/planting trees/hard work/positive thinking can save us if we fail to define and address the flooding problem systematically and with a social justice perspective.” To substantiate this, he also posted diagrams based on disaster resilience and vulnerability models by Wisner, et al, suggesting that a systematic approach must look at disaster in a wholistic manner, examining “root causes, dynamic pressures, unsafe locations” vis-à-vis various hazards. Let’s hope someone in power notices the fact that some people have studied the matter seriously. Or should we ask Garcia to compose a jingle instead?

Meanwhile, #NasaanAngPangulo is trending on Twitter. I wonder why they’re looking for the president. What can he do anyway if he and his disaster team haven’t already done it? Is he some kind of hero who can swoop down and blow the floodwaters out, or turn it into wine? Clearly the hashtag is trending simply to point out the terrible inefficiency of the Duterte administration, as symbolized by the absence of its leader, who has consistently shown disdain for the poor and marginalized.

Where is President Duterte indeed? He’s in Davao, where the sun is out and the durian is laid out on the streets for Kadayawan festival this weekend.

Follow or message me on Twitter @jhoannalynncruz

Posted in Opinion