When Manila is not the place to be

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.

I think climate change is here

Its funny how people being interviewed on TV saying that they did not expect something like Ondoy would recur in three (3) years time, well it did and there wasn’t even a typhoon to blame just the usual Southwest Monsoon that we experience every year since the last ice age.

In the Philippines, climate change is still not yet a mainstream idea.  When the western world is already willing to pay us for adapting to climate change, people still could not grasp the totality and reality of climate change which what happened a week ago. In October 2009, when I started this blog, the country was bombarded with Climate change propaganda. But that seems to be it, a propaganda that will soon fade, just like the peak and trough propaganda being bombarded by the government.

It is a reality, yet we could not connect the dots and could not understand the phenomenon. For the past five (5) years I have been wanting to become a GHG auditor/climate change verifier but with things happening around me, it makes me think if what I am doing does make sense.  Literature has constantly reminded me that a country like the Philippines doesn’t need GHG mitigation efforts but rather climate change adaptation efforts.  If we are going to invest in wind turbines that will just be toppled down by the annual monsoon, why is the western world willing to pay us for something that is obviously  a risky investment?

Is it for the sake of brotherhood and the good of mankind? My economic training says otherwise. What am I supposed to do? Adapt or die? The recent disaster enlightened us that that there are many ways that people can die due to climate change, majority died of drowning after gushing flood waters topple everything in its path. People got hit by lightning and a number got electrocuted when live electric wires made contact with flood water.  Others died of a heart attack when they just got overwhelmed of such a disaster happening in front of them. Gradually, fatalities can also be caused by diseases such as leptospirosis, dengue hemorrhagic fever or even the flu or the common cold.

In 2009, grants, aids, loans, etc. and other financial pledges had awashed the Philippines to adapt to climate change, after three years, the results were, you know mediocre like any investment made in this country.

Problems We Have to Face

‘Lolong belongs to us’
By Ben Serrano The Philippine Star Updated August 02, 2012 12:00 AM 

Teopanes Adlawan, chairman of Barangay Nueva Era in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, points to the P100,000 comfort room built from gate proceeds at the Bunawan Eco-Park which houses Lolong. Ben Serrano

BUNAWAN, Agusan del Sur, Philippines – The chairman of Barangay Nueva Era here insisted yesterday that “Lolong,” the world’s largest crocodile in captivity, belongs to the people of Agusan del Sur.

Barangay captain Teopanes Adlawan, who led his constituents in helping crocodile experts capture the 20.3-foot saltwater crocodile, vowed to oppose any move to transfer Lolong from a one-hectare pen in Agusan del Sur to the 22.7-hectare Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

“We will surely oppose any plan to transfer Lolong. The crocodile belongs to Agusan del Sur, not Metro Manila,” Adlawan told The STAR.

Reports earlier said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was studying to move Lolong to the Quezon City park.

Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde said that if not for the help of the residents of Barangay Nueva Era, Lolong would not have been captured.

“As far as we are concerned, the plan to transfer Lolong to Manila is a dead issue to us,” Elorde said.

Elorde and Adlawan said although they know that the DENR has the best intention for Lolong, it is doing well under their care.

The municipal government has built a P100,000 comfort room from gate proceeds at the Bunawan Eco-Park.

Adlawan also strongly rejected the proposal of animal rights groups to free Lolong back to the wild.

“It is a dangerous proposal, they are endangering not only our livestock but also people’s lives” he added.

He said Lolong was captured in Agusan Marsh in September last year after residents believed that the reptile was responsible for a young girl’s death and the disappearance of a fisherman in Bunawan village.

Meanwhile, Elorde said the lives of the residents are again in danger following sightings of a nuisance crocodile in the area.

“There is another one (crocodile) out there that we are looking for. I fear for the safety of the residents,” said Elorde during his visit to the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) office in Quezon City recently.

He added that Lolong’s companion was lingering in Barangay Nueva Era.

Agusan villagers believe that Lolong has a bigger companion in Agusan Marsh and probably a female crocodile.

Adlawan asked the PAWB to allow them to start searching for the nuisance crocodile in their village.

Mundita Lim, director of PAWB, said an independent study would be conducted to verify the report. – With Rhodina Villanueva