Saturday, August 28, 2010

Flash Floods

Intense rainfall occurring within a short period of time will overwhelm most drainage systems, even filling up waterways, thereby resulting in flash floods that often lead to traffic congestion, and in some cases, death and destruction. Flash floods are temporary by definition and should last under an hour or a couple of hours if the drainage system happen to be clogged once the rains relent.

Two weeks ago, the Clairvoyant and I were lucky enough to reach home after almost 3 hours. We navigated efficiently enough to reach our home via familiar routes that were not as congested if we used the conventional route from the university to our village. It only took about 40 minutes on typical nights that the Clairvoyant fetched me from work to reach our village. That night, however, took more time for travel because of a flash flood along Marcos Highway, no thanks to clogged drainage systems and silted waterways in the area. Late in the afternoon then, heavy rain fell over an area roughly covering Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo. Rip-raps along a section of waterway in one Cainta subdivision collapsed after it was unable to resist the sudden and strong rush of water. Parts of that subdivision were immediately flooded, reminding residents of the not so distant experiences from Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. The same waterway was part of a network that included a branch in Kingsville Subdivision along Marcos Highway that caused flooding in that major road. Various first hand reports from friends state that people coming from workplaces in Makati, Ortigas and Quezon City drove for 3 to 5 hours, with many reaching their homes by early morning the following day.

Two nights ago, there were more flash floods all around Metro Manila. Some were of the terrifying kind - "lampas tao" (deeper than the height of a person) or "hanggang leeg" (neck deep). Others alarming - "hanggang baywang" (waste deep) or "hanggang/lampas tuhod" (knee deep). And most others were of the inconvenient but "more acceptable" kind - "hanggang talampakan" (ankle deep). Still, any kind of flash flooding produced trouble, mostly of the traffic congestion kind. I got home quickly, deciding to leave the office while it was still raining and before nightfall. The Clairvoyant was not so lucky as she was unable to leave her office due to a deadline she was trying to beat. Yet, she was still lucky enough as I was able to persuade her not to drive home. The traffic that night was hell and the flood waters rose in many areas including our village where if it not for our service vehicle being a Pajero, I could not have reached home with dry feet. It made no sense to drive home with a car that will be unable to manage the flooded streets when most of our neighbors were already taking their vehicles to higher ground. I saw the signs and my 26-year first-hand experience on floods kicked-in. The clairvoyant should not attempt to drive home.

The waterways and the drainage systems in most areas in the Marikina, Pasig, Cainta and Antipolo (maybe including Taytay, too) have not been touched since Ondoy's onslaught in late September 2009. Many residents of areas affected by Ondoy perhaps chose to assume that the typhoon was one of a kind and that the flood we experienced was one of those that scientists categorize as 40- or 50-year floods. Acceptance of such assumptions tend to mislead and lull people into a false sense of security - one that is in denial of the possibility that we have another disaster waiting to happen in the next few weeks when La Nina takes over from El Nino.

Much of the responsibility for these waterways are with the local governments of those cities and municipalities. Yet, the leaders of these LGUs seem to have very short memories and instead spent the summer (that long very dry season from January to June) doing nothing with regards to flood control. The murky waters of Ondoy in 2009 brought in so much mud (from both clay and silt) that I am very sure that most drainage systems' capacities have been significantly reduced. Moreover, waterways that used to be dredged on a regular basis were untouched despite local elections in May where flooding happened to be one of the major issues. It is the ineptitude of our so-called leaders that will result in another disaster come September or October, when our weathermen predict that more heavy rains will fall and when the typhoons start arriving. We can only hope that there won't be more of the 50-, 40-, 30-, 20-, 10- or even 5-year floods occurring then. Flash floods are welcome as long as they remain "flash."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Francis and Ferdinand

The topic is not about the person who is the subject of what is widely believed to be the even that triggered the Great War. It is certainly not about the popular rock band. It is, however, about 2 persons who to me are rock stars in their own ways - if we can call Men of God rockstars. Francis and Ferdinand are the names of two priests I have come to know via I believe that they are to be emulated by their brethren, particularly as they have consistently delivered inspired homilies whenever they celebrate the Holy Mass.

Fr. Ferdinand Santos is a secular priest who is also an academic, teaching at Providence College in the United States. Ferdie also happens to be a schoolmate of mine back in the day when we were studying at Lourdes School of Mandaluyong. His father taught Christian Living in grade school. He graduated one batch ahead of me in high school and was recognized with the St. Francis of Assisi Award, the highest recognition our school gave to her graduates. I know that he entered the San Carlos Seminary after graduation but was also able to study at the Vatican under a full scholarship. I got reacquainted with Ferdie when he became chaplain of UP Diliman at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice. After leaving the chaplaincy to return to the US, he eventually taught at Providence College, Rhode Island.

Fr. Francis Cruz is a Vincentian missionary currently assigned to China. Vincentian meant he was of the order of St. Vincent De Paul, the same order that administers Adamson University. I am familiar with the order because 3 cousins graduated from that university and I have memories of reading their school paper (Ozanam?) in my childhood. I came to learn from one of his homilies that he had a Jesuit education at Ateneo De Manila and eventually decided to become a missionary in part due to his desire to spread the Good News to those who have yet to receive it.

I remember hearing a noontime Mass at the UP Chapel where I was pleasantly surprised to see Ferdie as the celebrant. I immediately approached him after Mass and discovered that he was assigned to UP and was designated Chaplain for UP Diliman. Sunday Mass quickly became anticipated for Ferdie's brand of sermons. It was always organized, clear and direct to the point. Anecdotes were choice stories from his experience. And he never failed to emphasize the most important points in is homilies. The style is reminiscent of homilies delivered by Fr. Ed Tiamzon, who was our Rector at LSM (and the main celebrant in our wedding). Ferdie eventually left UP and the country to accept a teaching post in the US. He would, however, always take his summer break in the Philippines and would usually be back behind the altar at UP for the 9:00 AM Mass whenever he was around.

The Clairvoyant and I had the pleasure of "discovering" Fr. Francis when we resumed hearing Mass at UP Diliman. This was after we became tired of hearing uninspired and (apparently) poorly prepared homilies from the priests at our village chapel. This was many months after Ferdie left for the US and right after the Vincentians assumed the parish at UP Diliman. After the first time we heard him celebrate Mass, we became regulars of the 9:00 AM Sunday liturgy. We looked forward to his homilies where he never failed to deliver clear lessons and messages that served as fine starts for the week for us. After being assigned to China, he still returned during the summer (August) and celebrated Mass during his old 9:00 AM slot. Only two Sundays ago, we were happy to see his familiar face behind the altar.

I believe that both have contributed much to enriching our lives, providing the guidance many of us need these days whether in trying times or not. They are, after all, instruments of God in conveying His message to His people. Fr. Francis and Fr. Ferdie are very effective channels through whom God is able to reach out to remind us of how we should live our lives.

We are often told that speeches should not exceed 10 minutes for attention spans of audiences are usually short. Many priests, even bishops, make the mistake of failing to prepare for their homilies and assume that the congregation is a captive audience. I don't mind if it were Fr. Francis or Fr. Ferdinand since I am quite sure that they would be able to deliver homilies that are organized, insightful and interesting that one would not feel time passing as they spoke. But then again, they seldom exceed 10 minutes because they come prepared, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Class Photos

The destruction brought about by Typhoon Ondoy last year has left many people scarred for life. Much of these scars are not the physical kind that may have been inflicted by debris during the floods or acquired from wounds or scratches incurred during the clean-up and recovery from the onslaught. I would like to believe that such physical scars are nothing compared to psychological ones (probably even spiritual) that will take a lot of time to heal.

For me, the healing process started when I discovered old negatives of photos I took during my 3 years of studies in Japan (1996- 1999). I felt relieved and happy that physical manifestations of memories were not at all erased by the floods of Ondoy. I must admit that until now, I have reflected on what could have beens if I only made a call to remind people to take my old photo albums to a safer place. Those albums represented my childhood, my growing up years - happy memories with my lolas and lolos, nanays and tatays, manangs and manongs, our family, and of course, close friends. These were practically archives, most of which can no longer be recovered.

Part of those albums were class photos, particularly from my 11 years of grade school and high school at Lourdes School of Mandaluyong. I was never absent when a class photo was to be taken and I knew that in some other albums or collections of past classmates are similar photos. A pleasant surprise was waiting for me when I recently reviewed albums in my Facebook account and found that some former classmates scanned and posted some of their class photos on Facebook. For posterity and to continue the healing process I post below 4 class photos that is proof of my childhood and memories of LSM.

LSM SY1979-80, Grade 2-A (Adviser: Ms. Luningning Alap)
I'm 4th from left in the front row.

LSM SY 1980-81, Grade 3-E (Adviser: Mrs. Purita Umali)
I am 1st on the left, front row.
Mrs. Umali was also my Class Adviser when I was in LSM Prep (Section C). In my 11 years at LSM, I would have the same advisers in 4 levels - Mrs. Umali in Prep and Grade 3, and Mrs. Magno in Grades 4 and 6.

LSM SY 1984-85, I-St. Thomas (Adviser: Ms. Irma Canlas [later Mrs. Irma Agoncillo])
I am in the 2nd row, 4th from the right.
I always wondered why the school decided we have our photo taken with the new San Miguel headquarters as background. Perhaps the administrators were in awe of the architecture? At the time it was the most impressive building in the Ortigas area and it was imposing considering there were no other buildings of note except Philcomcen (with its tall tower on top of the building) and Meralco. No Megamall or Galleria yet, and I remember that EDSA Central was the nearest gimmick place at the time.

LSM SY1986-87, III-St. Lawrence (Adviser: Mr. Clarito Mamorno)
I am again in the 1st row, right smack in the middle.
I will always remember third year high as a time of ups and downs (or highs and lows) that I attribute to my free-wheeling style of studying at the time. I actually got a scare in some subjects I didn't prioritize, preferring to lock on my Chemistry and Math classes. It was around this time that I had decided I would be an engineer. Notable also in the photo is the presence of 3 American exchange students - Tom, Matthew Baker and that other guy who seems to be always absent from class.