Sunday, June 16, 2013

When the Monsoon Rain Brings Hopes of Social Development

The driver sighed a long dismayed sigh when he heard that the heavy rain has brought about the news of flood in northern Makati.  At least now he had an explanation for the heavy traffic on the mainthoroughfare heading north into the heart of Metro Manila.  The semi-closed highway, an extension of the main expressway going south into the satellite towns of southern Luzon, is the fastest, least trafficked way to cut through the dense city.  Yet on that rainy day, traffic jammed up all the way to its exit tool gates.

For weeks, the author has been awaiting for the arrival ofthe rains, hoping for it to bring the heavy chilling winds and water to weep away the endless heat in the air.  It did, but with a bang that was so loud and so sudden that the whole population seemed to be unprepared for it. As soon as the rains began to fall, it began to accumulate on the streets, resulting in some seriously scary pictures on new sites of even two-story houses completely submerged in the flood water and people getting around in rowboats.

And of course, there is this post-apocalyptic feel on the roads that the author has not seen since the aftermath of the 3-11 earthquakesin Japan.  The clogged roads were lucky to move 100 meters in 10 minutes, causing a normal 40-minute commute to become two-and-half hour ordeals of wait, inching forward, and more wait.  At least amidst the usual chaos of traffic rules not being followed, there seems to be a remarkable amicability among the drivers who are all part of the endless fiasco on the road.

Indeed, for the moment that all of Manila was stuck on the road, quietly facing floods somewhere in the distance, it seems to have became one single entity in a rare example of communal camaraderie.  From the most crumbling-looking jeepneys to the swankiest-looking luxury cars, everyone had nowhere to go and everyone suffered together in the endless traffic.  All segments of society finally got themselves a common language, and Mother Nature helped to provide it.

And as much as the author hates to find himself in such traffic, he was in some ways relieved to see some many people of so many different backgrounds all stuck together in their vehicles for hours at a time.  He has seen too many Filipinos of the higher echelons holding onto a sense of entitlement: a belief that they do not suffer from certain social ills because as the wealthy, they can get away from them, with their gated communities, luxury transports, and exclusive malls.

Yet, Mother Nature rang the alarm beautifully for all the entitled people.  In front of a crumbling infrastructure that cannot hold the rain for a few hours, their prestigious degrees, well-paying jobs, and sense of being brought up in a “good” family and a “good” environment suddenly meant absolutely nothing at all.  They were stuck together with the “poor, uneducated squatters” that they abhor from the bottom of their hearts, dealing with the same issue at hand.

And these situations are exactly what the Philippines need more of, the situations that make the entitled wealthy and middle classes feel the “issues” dealt with by the poor are not something that can avoid but also problems of their own.  Only then the rich can use their superior resources to pressure their governments into greater action and redirect efforts of the private sector to contribute to projects for which not only the rich, but the entire society can be beneficiaries. 

And perhaps, one day, when the positive externalities of the rich realizing that communal issues, such as crumbling infrastructures, must be resolved for the rich’s self-interest, the 28% of Filipino population still stuck below UN’s universal poverty line can finally see some concrete hope of gaining livelihood and dignity.  It is the day that the rich start developing not their gated communities, but the nation as a community.  For that, they should find happiness in seeing a frustrated Mercedes driver next to them on the traffic.

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