The reclusive sun has been playing hide-and-seek behind storm clouds. For many days the rains poured relentlessly, drenching the city. It seemed that an endless waterfall was unleashed by the heavens, to wash away the smog, grime and decay.
Climate change and global warming have changed the seasons. In our tropical part of the world, the La Niña phenomenon has inundated the country. The heavy rains wreak havoc everywhere. Instead of highways, we have smelly waterways that lead nowhere. Impassable canals so far removed from romantic Venice.
We have been having strange torrential rains every week. With one heavy downpour, the flash floods are waist-high, causing instant traffic gridlock. Stalled vehicles are trapped in one gigantic parking lot for countless hours. Commuters, drivers, motorists are angry, impatient, frustrated and hypersensitive to the point of rage and helplessness.
Many children and adults are sick with influenza, sniffles and all kinds of respiratory ailments. The terrifying water-borne disease from rodents is lethal if untreated. There is the dreaded scourge of dengue and its mutant versions as well.
Monsoon rains bring heavy floods that destroy agricultural crops. Landslides damage infrastructure and bury small villages and miners.
Before we blame the authorities (such as the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Mayor) for not doing their jobs properly, we should examine ourselves first.
What are we doing wrong?
An astute observer noted that the Filipino takes pride in keeping an immaculate household and garden. Yet, he wouldn’t hesitate to throw garbage outside the fence or litter on the streets. This scenario is common. It occurs again and again — in the big city, the small barrio, the provinces.
Streets become clogged because of the garbage that people carelessly throw away — non-biodegradable items such as bottles, plastic bags, styro boxes, cigarette butts, tin cans.
Litter disposed by thoughtless passengers of public buses and jeeps accumulate in the drains and sewers.
During normal times, the lack of discipline is so evident. Buses and motorcycles stray from one side of the road to the other, weaving from one side of the road to the other. They act like flashy sports cars. Three abreast, the buses try to collect passengers anywhere on the road, totally disregarding bus stops. They do not care about blocking the highway and they speed along even when there are floods — splattering polluted water on pedestrians.
The city engineers and their sanitation teams should clean the streets and drainage systems, remove the silt, garbage and debris regularly. However, if the citizens themselves are apathetic and non-supportive, all the efforts and energy of the government shall just go to waste.
What can be proposed is a multimedia information campaign to educate people, children and all citizens of the importance of the environment and proper waste disposal.
Unless we are all aware of the hazards — physical and mental — caused by street garbage, the floods will always disrupt our system, threaten our lives and provoke our (in)sanity.
We must work together to prevent or minimize the fearsome floods. Traffic causes road rage. It could be fatal to people who are stressed. There are more road accidents and accidents, shootings. There is hardly an ounce of patience left in the mind of the driver or commuter. Any little delay or blockage on the street can trigger road rage. It brings out the worst in people.
Noah built the mythical ark where he kept his family and a pair of every animal species. They survived the great flood, but all other life forms were obliterated.
After the 40 days and 40 nights of nonstop rains, the luminous rainbow appeared. It was a sign of God’s promise that He would never destroy the earth again through water.
Somewhere along the way, from the biblical legend to the present, the weather got messed up. A karmic debt for the savage environmental damage caused by man.
The delicate balance of Nature was upset. Now we must suffer and endure El Niño and La Niña in consecutive and fierce onslaughts.
We are not as fortunate as Noah in the sense that we all must swim or sink together. There is no miracle ark to save us. We should save ourselves — country, city, community and families.
What shall we do?
Education is the first step. Children can learn quickly about the environment and the ecological cycle. They retain their lessons, can follow the example of the parents.
Teaching the parents and grandparents is another challenge. It would require supreme effort to make adults follow simple rules and directions such as: “Do not litter.” “Recycle garbage.” “Keep your surroundings and the streets clean.”
Perhaps, if the roles were reversed, we would have a better chance. Children could set the example and teach their stubborn parents.
What a big difference that would make.
It might take two generations, strong political will — on the part of government and collective discipline on the part of its citizens — to resolve the perennial problem.
We would have a fighting chance if we have the guts to start now.
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.