An inherited disposition

From a lunch discussion on Secretary Jesse’s death

Papa: Well, if he had listened to his wife, maybe he wouldn’t have died.

Mama: Wondering what could have been isn’t going to bring him back. Kapalaran niya yan.

They say that we become our parents. Hearing their reactions to the plane crash that killed a good government official, I realized I have “inherited” a combination of how my mother and father deal with problems.

An incident last week made me realize just how defeatist I can be at times. Yet it comes from an acknowledgement of reality, of what still needs to be done, and how much of my power can only do so much. Fate, destiny, inevitability, (add a little stubborn will from other people), and all those stronger forces are beyond my control. I always tell myself and anyone willing to listen what should and can be done, but at the same time, I acknowledge that some destinies seal themselves–and my “saving” can only go so far.

Perhaps I have allowed myself to be so overpowered by those stronger forces that I have given up. I have moved from anger to resignation.

While taking in my current reaction to what life has thrown at me, I wondered what my 22-year-old, freshly graduate self would have told my turning 25 self.

She’d be just as stubborn, insisting I carry on and fight for what I believe in. If it’s a losing battle, then perhaps it’s time to find a new war.

Then again, that’s probably my current 24 year old self saying the latter.

The empty canvas

Just a few days ago, the first rock band I fell in love with (my previous fangirliness was with the Spice Girls–I show no shame for such a childhood), Incubus, celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Twenty years. Can you imagine that? I’m turning 25, and for 20 years out of my humble existence, they strived to make music when they were just 15 years old. To create something and to be driven towards that end, no matter how harrowing and uncertain that process can be.

“It’s exciting to have that big of a problem to solve.”

– Brandon Boyd on working with an empty space or an empty canvas

Life can be one scary canvas. The emptiness almost large enough to drive a sudden walk out, a total sacrifice of art. But isn’t that why we create? To make sense of the chaos that drives humans insane? Are we not all trying to fill that empty canvas, that empty page, constantly tearing out pages and/or slashing out lines to turn it into some form that we can comprehend?

I turned to Incubus music when life seemed senseless. Impossible exams, conflicting emotions, family issues. And even until now, those same songs resound truths that I can only hold on to just to keep going–to keep writing, rewriting, erasing, and tearing to reach that comprehensible conclusion.

 

Stop the cycle

I may not be the most faithful Catholic out there, but I do believe in the strength of prayer. I believe in the strength of hope, of holding on, of not letting go in order to carry on for another day. So yes, pray for the Philippines. I’ve always been praying for this usually god forsaken country, once offering entire mysteries when my mother required us to pray the rosary on summer days.

But there is much wisdom in the saying “Sa Diyos ang awa, sa tao ang gawa.” And yes, I am proud of the rescuers who are risking their lives for others, for no reward or compensation. It’s touching that all of us unite to donate, rescue, and inform the proper channels to help our kababayans.

Long term solutions, however, are much more practical than relying on people’s kindness and generosity. We don’t always have to return to yet-another-state-of-calamity. Hindi tama na normal ang baha sa atin.

The Asian Development Bank’s paper entitled Learning Lessons: Intense Climate-Related Natural Disasters in Asia and the Pacific warns against the frequency of this situation:

The rainfall and temperatures associated with these events are becoming more variable and extreme, while the evidence suggests that coastal regions in South, Southeast, and East Asia are at greater risk.

It proceeds to emphasize that although the weather is beyond our control, urban planning and educating the people are. A no brainer that the government ignores, so private sectors are left to clean up the mess.

There is also evidence that the more frequent and intense impact of these weather-related disasters results from a confluence of three factors: the changing nature of the hazards, rising exposure of populations, and limited adaptive capacity in many countries.

We only have two seasons: tag-init and tag-ulan. We have more than six months to prepare for the latter, and with a population that suffers from economic inequality, the not-so-privileged suffer physically (apart from monetarily) and lose the little they own during the natural disasters:

Disasters also seem to be taking a heavier toll on low- and lower-middle-income countries. In other words, exposure, sensitivity, and lack of adaptive capacity turn a hazard of nature into a natural disaster.

As my friend Aia stated in her blog post, we can somewhat avoid this by doing our part before the flood. Throw your trash in a proper bin. It may be convenient to leave it on a sidewalk or out your car window, but for sure, there are thousands more doing the same. Elementary math: multiply your amount of trash by a million and you get this:

The study continues to state specific reasons for Asia Pacific’s natural disasters:

 (i) the rising number of people exposed to hazards in low-lying cities near coasts (approximated by population growth); (ii) adaptive capacity (high population density and income) (iii) climatic factors (percentage of a country’s land that is tropical, amount of precipitation, average temperature).

Manila is a crowded place. No matter how large it is, just pile into an MRT or LRT, and you’ll wonder how much more the city can take. Top that with the fact there aren’t enough jobs to accommodate everyone trying to seek better opportunities in the city, and the fact they are supporting more than 2 children. This is where the relationship among overpopulation, the area and its urban development, and support from the public sector comes in.

We are living on the earth. We may have been declared stewards by the Bible but ultimately, our sustenance and survival depends on the land and sea’s resources. There needs to be a respect established with how much it can give to us and how much we owe it for our abuse. Slowly but surely, Mother Nature is getting back at us for not regarding the relationship we should have had with her:

As in many parts of the world, temperatures are rising in the Philippines. The annual average temperature rose at a rate of 0.65 °C during 1951–2010, or an average of 0.0108 °C annually. The rate of increase in temperature during the last 30 years (0.0164°C per year) is also faster than the long-term rate of increase. The number of hot days and warm nights is increasing, and the number of cold days and cool nights decreasing.

There is also evidence of increasing frequency of extreme daily rainfall. For example, over Luzon, the northern most and largest of the three major island groups of the Philippines, Figure 5 illustrates that more frequent rainfall of greater than 350 millimeters is recorded in the latter part of the 2000s, than the 275 millimeter events of the 1960s and 1970s.

When the sky rages on and drowns our city, we are rendered helpless. No amount of arrogance or denial of global warming will stop the earth from going on with its natural and inevitable processes. But a closer study into what we have been abusing and the consequences of our selfish actions will wake us up. Let us not add “environmental amnesia” to our culture’s convenient practice of historical amnesia. The ADB study concludes that awareness and action is THE answer to our prayers:

The main effects of climate change may well be in the near future. There is evidence that the increasing frequency of intense weather-related disasters is caused by a confluence of the changing nature of hazards that are affected by climate change, including human-induced climate change, rising population exposure, and limited adaptive capacity.

Better mitigation and adaptation, such as accelerating plans for the clean development mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as refining hazard mapping and various risk assessment systems, are needed. Mainstreaming disaster management and climate adaptation is ultimately about reducing disaster risk, aside from mitigating the impact of the consequences of disasters.

Come together

If you still have working electricity, a working phone, and any means of communication, do what you can to look out for those in need of help. We are expecting more rain in the next 24 hours, so let’s be vigilant. If you have any pets, please don’t forget to call animal rescue at 817-5292. Here are other numbers to call:

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Some flood tips from this website:

1. Ensure someone always knows where you are. Text your parents, your loved ones or friends who are in a different area than yours, to let them know where you are and who you are with. Update each other consistently. 

 2. Keep up with the news. Tune in to the news on TV, radio or online. Twitter is one of the best ways to get up to date and instant info. Stay informed. (@MMDA@gmanews,@News5AKSYON@ANCALERTS@ABSCBNNews)

 3. Contact your neighbors. If you don’t know them, now is a good time to introduce yourself and exchange numbers. Say that you will inform them if you hear anything about warnings or dangers and ask that they do the same.

4. Unplug all unnecessary electrical outlets and appliances. If you don’t need it, take it off! In case your house floods, you want as little damage as possible to your electronics and of course for your safety. Start putting electronics on higher grounds to possibly save them. Of course, safety for yourself and others is of most importance.

5. Know how to shut down your electricity. Familiarize yourself with your circuit breaker so you can shut it down immediately if the water starts to enter your home.

6. Pack a backpack. Get all your emergency items like your ID, Passport, money, phone, water and other small necessary items. Be ready to evacuate or leave in a worst case scenario.

7. Prepare some floating devices. This of course is only for absolutely extreme cases, but as we’ve seen before, it happens. Find a surfboard, life savers or anything that will float… just in case. Better safe than sorry.

8. Avoid running water and any flood water if you have to walk out of your home. Running water as low as 6 inches have been known to sweep people off their feet. Running water is very powerful and often underestimated. Avoid at all costs. For standing water, try to do so only while wearing boots high enough to protect you from the water.

 9. Keep calm.

 

 

Drowning

Automatically it is an end of days assumed with the strong winds and rains that have flooded the streets of Metro Manila. Not too long ago, tsunamis and earthquakes scared us into thinking that the terrifying (but ultimately, metaphorical) signs of the Bible, of the end of the world have come.

Yet everyone moved on. Lives ended, lives persisted, lives changed. We lived on. But flood after flood after flood, knee-deep levels, “lagpas tao” ‘measurements” are terms repeated come the rainy season. These days, rainy doesn’t cut it as a description. Typhoon, bagyo, storm, cyclone more like.

Our everyday pursuits are broken by the flashes of rain, yet these floods are just as regular, being a repeated cycle that we can’t avoid. We can’t really kick people out of their homes either, but has there been any clear, definite action towards a city that would provide ample shelter without overcrowding the area? Does every new condo have to advertise itself as “five minutes away from Makati/(insert university here)” yet keep you battling an indoor flood for a day or two? And how much value do our large cars have when the water seeps in? They crowd the roads enough, causing endless traffic yet they are kept still when the waters run deep. When will public transportation run smoothly enough to accommodate the working majority–without people pushing selfishly into the rush hour ride and leaving people so haggard and tired after the morning commute. When will the infrastructure be close to equal opportunity in shelter, in transportation?

Does the rain have to keep reminding us what needs to be done? Why does it always have to be a disaster that unites Filipinos in working together? Why can’t it be towards a direct, consistent cause? How many more wake up calls do we need?

Or maybe these aren’t wake up calls. Maybe we are being drowned and reminded of how humble and how mortal our lives our as we attempt to dominate the earth.