Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mud, Mud Everywhere

The flash flood last month was without a doubt the worst calamity to hit Iloilo since World War II. At least, during the Great War they say people had prior warning kung gapa-abot ng ang mga Hapon and many were able to evacuate ("bakwit") in time to avoid the Japanese invaders. The muddy flood waters came onrushing with nary a warning and everyone was caught totally unprepared. The flood has since become part of Iloilo's communal memory and everyone, rich and poor, has some horror story to tell about the catastrophe. If New Yorkers have their 9-11 Attack, we Ilonggos now have our own shared experience: The Great Flood of 2008. Never again will the people associate rainy weather with sleepy weather. Never again will the people be able to sleep soundly at night when it rains.

Only about a year ago, Iloilo City was one of the best places in the country. I remember writing something in this blog about Iloilo City's "quality of life," its being a great place to raise a family with its relatively lower standard of living, cheap food, excellent medical and educational facilities, low crime rate, etc.

Iloilo City today is blanketed with mud. Sticky mud and dirty water is everywhere. The city is close to becoming uninhabitable. It is completely bewildering to see how the city has managed to become, from one of the best places to live in only a few years ago, to being one of the worst places in the Philippines in just a short period of time. Even before the flood, the city's much-vaunted "quality of life" was already deteriorating because of the daily brownouts, not to mention the spiraling cost of fuel and commodities, and inflation. Truly what a difference a year makes!

After the flood comes the blame game. Politicians are either trying to pin the blame on one another or trying to gain political capital from the disaster. Even the church leaders and environmentalists were quick to grab the opportunity to highlight their advocacies, blaming the flood on global warming, illegal logging, mining and coal power plants. There are those who are pinning the blame on the poor for clogging up the esteros with their shanties while there are those pointing to the posh subdivisions of the middle/upper class for blocking the rainwater's natural pathways. And they might all be right: some politicians may be more liable than others, coal power plants may indeed contribute to climate change, and the rich and the poor may be equally to blame for the catastrophe. But my point is now is not the time for finger-pointing. We must concentrate all our efforts on helping the victims. We must focus our thoughts on how to rebuild our city. There will be plenty of time for recriminations later on.

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