I will always be born in Manila, a couple of blocks away from where I currently work. I can always walk by the Philippine General Hospital and imagine how my mother underwent labor and gave birth to me three decades ago. Maybe back then Manila was cool, its sewage system is still functional and people don’t live on sidewalks. The Philippines was under Martial Rule, doing something like that will get you thrown into jail without any due process.
Nowadays, living on sidewalks is not limited to sleeping, they also cook, bathe and make babies on the sidewalk. I am amazed at how these people could still multiply in numbers without any roof on their heads. Nowadays, the presence of homeless children, butt-naked and dirty running around is a common sight. It seems that is the norm, to be impoverished and homeless. I guess that is the statistical mean in a bell shaped normal distribution curve of life in Manila. The average lies on the middle and the average shifts, it has enormously moved since the day I was born. It could have been better if we can set a Statistical Process Control on how people live their lives ensuring that the average is a life with basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and higher needs such as education and work, but it seems the average of life is moving towards socioeconomic and environmental degradation.
Most of the people I work with even think that what I think is not normal. With 100 Million Filipinos only a minimal fraction have a job, a home, higher education. Being in that situation seems to be near the p-value of this hypothetical bell curve of living here in Manila. Oh well, maybe life goes on for them even if the flood waters have subsided. The dark sidewalks are again dry after the storm and these homeless parents can again make love to increase their brood until the next rainy season, that is how life goes.
Most likely, the intensity of typhoons and risk of flooding was not high when I was born. My mother had passed away for a decade and I could not ask her if I was born on a rainy afternoon. I guess she won’t know, we were in the safety of the delivery room at PGH. Things have changed, not just the socioeconomic condition but the climate. I guess when I was born, violent storm surges don’t eat up the US Embassy Compound along Roxas Boulevard. Way back then, Americans don’t believe in Global Warming, they believe in superstructures and building their embassy there seemed like a good idea. Its like a fortress…
After the recent typhoon and surges of the Southwest Monsoon, Manila seemed clean, cool breeze running up your face, but the bay is still ugly and dirty, dark waters in dire need of dredging. There was one point in my career when I had a thing for dredgers, I had researched about it, its different types, its different hoppers and capacities. It is not true that dredging is all about moving marine sediment from one area to another. Dredging is a complicated Engineering Methodology which requires planning and controlled execution and an intense environmental impact assessment which we had to explain to the DENR and LLDA way back in 2004. I was so into the subject that I managed to get a free copy of the “100 years of dredging” from the IADC in the Netherlands.Environment Aspects of Dredging.
I don’t know if I could fancy anyone into talking about dredgers and sediment management. My boss I guess from our Marine Division or some girl from Van Oord at the seventh floor, but things like dredging and sediment management are not easy conversation pieces when you are in Manila. People think I’m weird for appreciating something like that
Maybe Manila is just not the place for me, it is good that my work requires me to go around places, meet people, have a taste of their culture and see high places all made possible by dredging thought dumb by most of the people I usually come across with but could not believe the dark waters of Manila Bay and the stinking smell after the storm. Anyway, homeless people could still make love in that stench, even give birth at the Baywalk, I just can’t do that, thankfully my mother gave birth to me in a delivery room in a good hospital.