Back in 2009, Typhoon Ketsana, known locally in the Philippines as ‘Ondoy’, dropped a lot of water on Manila in a short amount of time and caused extensive flooding. I remember there was a lot of public concern outside of the Philippines for the well-being of the people, not just in the Philippines but in the other countries affected. A lot of sympathy was shown. I think there were even international donations sent to the Philippines.
Manila is just recovering from another bout of flooding. Over the last week or so, Manila and surrounding provinces were covered by flood waters, affecting about 2.4 million and killing 65 (as of writing) in what was described as the worst flooding since Ondoy. I only found out because I’m still subscribed to the US Embassy newsletter for the embassy in Manila, and the offices were shut down for quite a few days because of heavy flooding on Roxas Boulevard.
I was struck by the contrast between this flood and the last, when almost everyone seemed to know what was going on. It could be that I was biased, of course, since I was in Asia at the time and news probably tends to give more coverage to local big events, but my wife, who is from the Philippines, didn’t even know there was any flooding until long after it started. I knew first, because of the embassy newsletter. I assumed she knew. I assumed she’d seen it in the news, but I guess it just wasn’t in the news.
I was wondering why there is so much less coverage this time. I think there are two reasons: it doesn’t sell and no one cares. With the action in Syria and the Olympics, who has time to talk about flooding in a third world country? It’s not like the massive flooding in 2009 that affected multiple countries. And of course, there’s the feeling that Filipinos just didn’t learn.
The flooding was caused the first time around through a lack of proper drainage and littering. There was so much garbage in the streets, in the rivers, jammed into the drains and drainage ditches that the water couldn’t pass through adequately, making a bad situation a lot worse, so now that Manila is flooding again, you can’t help but feel that they didn’t learn their lesson from last time. When I say that no one cares, I don’t mean that no one is concerned about the hardships that people face in that sort of situation; I mean that people find it harder to pity people who are suffering from self-inflicted tragedies.
And there are tragedies. A few years ago I visited my sister-in-law’s house for her daughter’s birthday and I remembering thinking how lovely the house was. Now it looks like this:
It’s going to take a lot for people to rebuild their lives and their homes again. Where does a person even begin in their cleanup efforts? I can’t imagine how much work it’ll be for people to fix their houses and businesses again. Hopefully, this time, the hardships suffered will make people think harder before dropping trash on the ground, and make them push harder for their government to take real steps toward improving drainage in and around the city.
Not that this is anything but sort of related, but I thought the image below is worth sharing. I found it on a bulletin board, claiming it’s from the recent flooding in the Philippines.