Saturday, June 27, 2009


In my last article I wrote about the deplorable condition of the highway fronting the Catherina Cittadini/Don Bosco compound. I ranted and raved over the horrendous traffic clog up caused by the unfinished roads. Needless to say, this situation continues to cause immeasurable misery not only to the parents and students, but also to the countless motorists traveling to and from Dumaguete proper.

This past week, as I continued to literally inch my way towards my daughter’s school, I often thought of this road as either the road to sainthood or damnation. Truly, we don't “drive” through this disaster we call development, we struggle through it. Believe me, the things we have to put up with will test even the patience of a saint!

Being able to keep my cool day after day has become a daily test of patience for me. I count my day a success if I could suppress every urge I’d get to give each and every abusive and undisciplined driver I’d encounter the spanking they so rightly deserved!

Lately though, my concern has shifted from traffic to the perpetual cloud of dust that covers the area. I am often horrified to see children being driven through this cloud without even the most basic covering for their noses! Those children were freely inhaling all that dust and getting all kinds of particles deep into their respiratory system!

I am particularly concerned over this because I suffer from dust allergy. Let me inhale dust for two days or so and you’ll soon find me with a clogged nose and totally knocked down by severe headache.

Before starting to write this, I went online to educate myself about the ill effects of dust inhalation. Let me share what I have learned. But before that, let’s keep in mind that I’m not a doctor, so please pardon any slip-up.

What are dusts? Dusts are tiny solid particles scattered or suspended in the air. The particles are "inorganic" or "organic," depending on the source of the dust. Inorganic dusts can come from grinding metals or minerals such as rock or soil. Organic dusts originate from plants or animals.

Our lungs are constantly exposed to danger from the dusts that we breathe in. Luckily, the lungs have defense mechanisms that protect them by removing dust particles from the respiratory system. On the other hand, even though the lungs can clear themselves, excessive inhalation of dust may still result in disease.

What happens when we breathe in dust? The lungs are protected by a series of defense mechanisms in different regions of the respiratory tract. When a person breathes in, particles suspended in the air enter the nose, but not all of them reach the lungs. The nose is an efficient filter. Most large particles are stopped in it, until they are removed mechanically by blowing the nose or sneezing.

Some of the smaller particles succeed in passing through the nose to reach the windpipe and the air tubes that lead to the lungs. The airways are lined by cells that produce mucus and these catch most of the dust particles. Tiny hairs called cilia move the mucus upward and out into the throat, where it is either coughed up and spat out, or swallowed.

The air that reaches the tiny air sacs in the inner part of the lungs may carry dust particles that have avoided the defenses in the nose and airways. Special cells called macrophages will attack this dust. Macrophages virtually swallow the particles. Then in a way that is not well understood, they reach the part of the airways that is covered by cilia where the wavelike motions move the macrophages that contain dust to the throat, where they are spat out or swallowed.

What are the reactions of the lungs to dust? The way the respiratory system responds to inhaled particles depends, to a great extent, on where the particle settles. For example, irritant dust that settles in the nose may lead to rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucous membrane. If the particle attacks the larger air passages, inflammation of the trachea (tracheitis) or the bronchi (bronchitis) may be seen.

The most significant reactions of the lung occur in the deepest parts of this organ. Particles that evade elimination in the nose or throat tend to settle in the sacs or close to the end of the airways. But if the amount of dust is large, the macrophage system may fail. Dust particles and dust-containing macrophages collect in the lung tissues, causing injury to the lungs.

From what I have learned so far, I think that every parent’s more immediate concern for children who are continually exposed to dust is the development of allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, or asthma.

We have already learned that rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose. This is caused by allergy-causing irritants such as dust. Symptoms include: sneezing; itchy nose, roof of the mouth, throat, eyes or ears; runny nose; congestion; and watery eyes.

Sinusitis is a painful, long-lasting inflammation of the sinuses. Sinuses are the hollow cavities around the cheekbones found around the eyes and behind the nose. Symptoms of sinusitis include: congestion; green or gray nasal discharge; postnasal drip; pressure in the face; headache; fever; a cough that won't go away.

Sinusitis may last for months or years if it is not properly treated. Colds are the most common cause of acute sinusitis, but people with allergies are much more likely to develop sinusitis than people who do not have allergies.

Is It a Colds or Allergies? Colds, which result from viral infection, are more likely to occur at any time (though they're more common during the rainy season). On the other hand, if during summer season your child is sneezing and wheezing, he may suffer from allergies.

Although colds and allergies produce similar symptoms, colds usually last only a week or so. And although both may cause your child’s nose and eyes to itch, colds and other viral infections may also give him a fever, aches and pains, and colored mucus. Allergies wont cause these. Cold symptoms often worsen as the days go on and then gradually improve. Allergies, on the other hand, begin immediately after exposure to the offending allergen and last as long as that exposure continues. If you're not sure whether your symptoms are being caused by allergies or a cold, talk with your doctor.

How about asthma? Asthma symptoms can be brought on by dozens of different things, and what causes asthma flare-ups in one person might not bother another at all. The things that set off asthma symptoms are called triggers. The following is one of the more common triggers: allergens. An allergen is any substance that causes an allergic reaction in some people. Some people with asthma find that allergens can be a major trigger. Common allergens are dust mites (microscopic bugs that live in dust), molds, pollen, animal dander, and cockroaches.

Another common trigger are airborne irritants and pollutants. Certain substances in the air, such as chalk dust or smoke, can trigger asthma because they irritate the airways.

I hope that parents reading this will see the point that I am trying to drive at. While excessive inhalation of dust could cause long-term damage to our and our children’s lungs, we should also concern ourselves with its immediate effects.

If your child is having colds that has been going on for weeks, this means that he has developed an allergic reaction to dust. He will most likely develop sinusitis. Believe me, having this condition is not easy. I suffer from migraines because of my allergies. There are nasal sprays that I could use to protect myself against allergens, but they are very expensive, with prices ranging from P700.00 to as much as P1,200.00 and probably even more! There are times when I’d go unprotected because I had either ran out of spray or did not have the extra money to buy another bottle. These are times when I’d be knocked down by excruciating headaches. My experience through the years had made me realize that when our sinuses are clogged, drinking cold water could trigger the headaches.

I am writing about this topic now because I am very concerned for the children that I am seeing everyday being driven through the dust on their way to and from school. They may not be feeling the ill effects now, but it will come. There is no avoiding them.

So what should we do? If our only means of taking our children to school is by open transport such as motorcycle or a multicab, we should ensure that their noses are appropriately covered in the hope of minimizing their exposure to dust.

And children being children, we cannot trust them with mere hankies. Sooner or later, they will most certainly forget that they had to keep holding their hankies up against their noses. Maybe the best that we could do is to make them wear facemasks when we drive through dusty streets.

I don't really know if facemasks are effective protection against dust, but in my mind, it’s better than nothing at all. So what are we waiting for? It’s our children’s future health that we are talking about! Let’s start doing something now!

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Dreamed a Dream

No, this is not about that beautiful song from Les Miserables that Susan Boyle made even more famous. It’s my dream that came to me as I was driving around these monstrosities we call Dumaguete streets.

I dreamed of an election-free Philippines. Yes. I dreamed of a time where the word “election” is but a distant memory. And why not? What’s the use of elections anyway, when it’s nothing but a farce, a charade where we fool ourselves into believing that we are electing people who would represent us in this great exercise we call Democracy. Ha-ha! Fat chance! We all know that those whom we send to walk the corridors of power represent all but one thing: their own interests. I need not elaborate on that. We all know what that means.

So how do our leaders come to us? How about via succession like how the royalties do it? In my dream, I had a vision of the son taking over the reign of the father. And why not again? It’s not as if this idea is totally foreign to us! Are we not seeing political dynasties everywhere we’d turn? Don’t sons, or grandsons, wives, and even mistresses join in the foray, with virtually the same motivation that aristocracies had when they intermarried … to keep the spoils within the family?

This is really sad. But let’s get realistic for a while. Isn’t this pretty much what is happening already?

I have to say this again. This is really sad. And what is sadder is that the condition of our streets had what prompted me to get transported into this ra-ra dreamland. I thought that with elections gone, we won’t have to do this daily rigodon as we travel around our city. Do I still have to elaborate on that? Ok. Are we not all saying, to explain away all these flurry of road cementing, that it’s because elections are in the air? I rest my case.

If I sound bitter, that’s because I am! Anybody who has passed through Calindagan will understand my sentiments. Half a kilometer away from the Catherina Cittadini/Don Bosco compound, you could already see the dust enveloping the area like a thick fog! On top of that is the monstrous traffic clog up during rush hours that has brought countless motorists unfathomable frustration, not the least of whom are the parents (that includes me!) of students of Catherina Cittadini and Don Bosco.

I just couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why the planners of this so-called road development project didn’t plan the cementing of this part of the highway in a better, more intelligent and more considerate manner! I am pretty certain that they didn’t miss out on the fact that there are two schools in the Calindagan area (not to mention Dumaguete City High School) with hundreds, if not thousands of students!

Could they not have anticipated the horrendous traffic that would result when the schools opened? THEY COULD HAVE, AT LEAST, FINISHED CEMENTING THAT STRETCH OF THE HIGHWAY FRONTING THE TWO SCHOOLS DURING VACATION TIME. Isn’t that pure and simple common sense?

Instead, they went on their merry way digging up the existing asphalt all the way to eternity and left the cementing until … surprise of all surprises (the surprise being all on their side of course, these brainiacs not having thought of hello?... THE STUDENTS!!!) … the students returned, unwittingly finding themselves tied up in knots in several places, as they troop to their schools by the thousands day in and day out!

And it gets worse! At some point in this nightmare of ours, the two gates in our school compound will not become passable for some period. And do you know what they expect us to do? Drop our children off in the Teletech area and leave them to their own devices from that point onwards. As if!!! If you are as conscientious a parent as I am, would you leave your children alone and allow them to walk all the way to their school unescorted and lugging their heavy bags behind? Of course not! And there are hundreds of similarly-minded parents out there. We would have to leave our cars where we could and walk our children to school. I wonder how they plan to fit hundreds of cars in that area outside the Teletech compound. This I have to see. But deep inside I know already. It will be the usual “bahala na mo sa kinabuhi ninyo kung mag-unsa mo!” scenario. As always, poor, poor us!

I can think of only one explanation why our present problem was never considered … these brainiacs do not have children in either Cittadini or Don Bosco! Otherwise …. Am I brilliant or what?

Whew! Huffing and puffing over our roads can be quite tiring! How about you? Any novel ideas borne out of frustration and acceptance over how powerless we really are? We are nothing but pawns, and pawns we’ll remain unless we do something. But what? That is the question. Vote? Ha-ha!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I recently became interested in the bayong because of my friends Bing Sumanoy and Chedette Mascardo. They work in the Department of Trade and Industry and are presently promoting the use of bayong in lieu of plastic bags for carrying our purchases in the market. Likewise, they are also busy providing technical support to bayong weavers all over our province. There is a dual aim for this: save the environment and create employment opportunities for the unemployed and displaced OFWs.

The bayong is a simple woven flat basket made of indigenous materials like buri, bamboo or rattan strips. I guess that most of us are not old enough to witness the popular use of the bayong during the time of our lolos and lolas. Like me, your exposure to the bayong most likely came from movies where probinsianos are portrayed arriving in Manila carrying these bayongs laden with vegetables with the occasional chicken head sticking out.

But I did live through the times when we still used the round baskets for carrying our fish and vegetables in around the market. I remember that as a child, I used to stay clear of “the basket” that stank of fish.

I cannot remember exactly when plastic bags became widely used. My farthest recollection is during the mid-80s when I became actively involved in marketing chores. We were already using plastic bags by then. I guess I wasn’t of much use to my family with these tasks during my earlier years, hence the blank in my memory as to whether plastics were already in rage from mid-70s up to the early 80s.

What I cannot blank out though is the devastating effect that plastic must be causing to our environment. I learned from my friends at DTI that 80% of groceries and stores all over the world use plastic bags for packaging and that about a TRILLION are being consumed worldwide … EVERYDAY!!!

I learned further that in a study conducted by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, the volume of solid wastes in Metro Manila alone reached 6,720 tons per day, 25% of which is comprised of plastics. Greenpeace Asia and Ecowaste Coalition claimed that 76% of wastes floating in Manila Bay consist of plastic products, broken down into 51% plastic bags, 19% sachets and junk food wrappers, 5% Styrofoam materials, 1% hard plastics, 11% rubber materials, and only 13% biodegradable discards.

China, as always, is already leaps and bounds way ahead of us. Alarmed by the millions of plastic bags clogging their canals, its governments recently banned the use of plastic bags, and promptly ordered its citizens to start using baskets or re-usable cloth bags for either shopping or going to the market. Chinese citizens were warned that those violating the ban will pay high penalties and that the government will close down shops still using the same.

I found out from my own research that the City of Makati has promulgated an ordinance requiring all food chains, restaurants, supermarkets, eateries and other like establishments to replace all plastic and Styrofoam packaging with environment friendly materials. Los Baños, Laguna and the Municipality of Sta. Barbara in Iloilo have banned the use of plastic bags. The latter received an award from the Mother Earth Foundation for this initiative.

How about us? What part can we play in this increasing worldwide endeavor to spare Mother Earth from further destruction? There are little things that we can do. I, for instance, decline plastic packaging for purchases that I could easily put inside my bag. I just make sure that I do not lose the receipt. And I request store personnel to put additional items I’m buying into plastic bags that I already have containing earlier purchases. Small steps. But with a lot of us doing the same, maybe, just maybe, we could put a minuscule dent on the trillion being consumed daily.

We could also start using the bayong. But unless somebody up there gets serious against the use of plastic bags, market vendors will continue to use the same for every kilo of fish or vegetable that we would purchase. This would definitely defeat our purpose of using the bayong to help save our planet.

The bayong project of DTI is very laudable. But to my mind, for it to be able to achieve its worthy goals, it has to be paired with the banning of plastic bags. Unless this happens, the use of the bayong would merely become a ludicrous exercise. Even if all of us would use bayong in the tiangge, the continued use of plastic bags by the vendors will nullify all our efforts.

I have nothing but full enthusiasm for the bayong initiative. But … I do have one “but” … the bayong has to be strongly constructed out of sturdy materials for me, and all like-minded housewives out there, to consider using it on a permanent basis. It should be able to withstand the weight of several kilos of purchases.

I am fairly certain that nobody would want to keep using the bayong if they would have to buy one each time they would go to the market. One bayong should at least last for months. Minus this very important factor, it will be difficult for buyers like me to support this program. And without the consumers, the budding weaving industry will crumble.

Finally, we should all urge the City Council, if it has not done so yet, to promulgate ordinances similar to those that were imposed by Makati, Los Baños and Sta. Barbara in their respective jurisdictions. If they were able to do it, what is stopping Dumaguete?

Hayden in our Homes

I’m a Hayden victim too!

Ha-ha! Fat chance! But seriously, I count myself a victim .. sort of. That is, if you consider missing the evening news at the peak of this sex video brouhaha the kind that would qualify me into that category.

Let me put this into frame. My daughter Abby owns the TV. Weekends during schooldays and during the entire summer vacation, Abby holds absolute dominion over the TV remote. I have long since given up the fight for it, but I did managed to squeak in my parental prerogative for American Idol and the evening news.

But wait! Before anyone starts getting images of a wild child running loose in our home, let me clear things up. The word discipline hangs heavily over this household. I simply do not stand my ground on every issue that comes between my daughter and myself just because I could. I let her get away with inconsequential stuff (like the remote) and dig my heels in only for those things that really matter.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to my TV privileges and Hayden. As I was saying, I insisted on getting the TV only to watch American Idol and the news. Imagine Abby’s delight when AI had its finale … “I’m so happy!! Now I can have the TV back!” So I only had the evening news left as my sole claim to it. This was the only time when I could tell her to go to MY channel, regardless of what she may be watching at that time. And I had to give this up too because of HIM!!

I know that almost everyone is as sick and tired of this pathetic excuse of a man as I am. But I am writing all the same because this issue had not been tackled down to the level of family, more particularly, its impact on my child and how it had caused a big upset on my efforts to raise my child in ways I think best. Maybe the distasteful effects of Hayden’s capers have reached your homes too.

We all reacted in various ways when this scandal broke the surface. But react, we all did! We all professed shock and disgust over this man but undeniably, many of us got curious. Countless Dumagueteños crowded around office computers to scour the internet for these videos. I know of many who have the videos in their cell phones and flash disks. CDs sold like pancakes.

But while everyone waited with bated breath for the next installment of this latest melodrama, I became wary of TV news and started avoiding it altogether! And that’s how I missed out on almost everything that went on during that time. I had to. Abby watches with me and I did not want her to see half-naked Hayden and Katrina gyrating before her in the TV screen, or be bombarded by blurred but still highly suggestive and thought-provoking photos of an apparently-naked man and woman while the news screamed SEX SCANDAL!!! I knew exactly the kind of questions that I would be inundated with. And I wasn’t, and still am, not ready for them.

But as we all know, even the fiercest guard dog (that’s me) couldn’t keep the guard up at all times. Almost immediately, I slipped when I left Abby briefly in the care of our house helpers when she was in the hospital. When I returned, I found all three of them staring up into the TV screen seemingly mesmerized by those hateful images. I could only imagine what may have been going through Abby’s impressionable young mind as she watched them. Children’s brains soak up information like hungry sponges. I braced myself for the barrage of questions that I knew my inquisitive child had coming for me.

Abby is no stranger to sexy scenes though. She sees them in TV all the time. The reality is that THERE IS NO AVOIDING THEM. They come to you even while you are merely surfing for channels. Even cartoon characters smooch non-stop in kiddie channels. I have already been asked why foreigners sleep without their clothes on. She considered it stupid because the lady would have to keep holding the blanket up to cover her chest.

But I don't think she ever gave any of it much thought except probably to shake her head in wonder at the stupidity of some grownups’ peculiar habits.

But things changed after this Hayden scandal. The tiny wheels inside her head started turning and putting two and two together and whoa!! she had become wiser on this subject! She must have picked up snippets of information from her school friends, from TV and movies, and from everywhere else then lumped them all together and came up with an almost-perfect picture.

Then the questions started. I wanted to wail. I wanted to scratch Hayden’s eyes out! I wanted to give him the kind of circumcision that finishes everything off! I thought of that former policeman who poured water over his head and wished he had used muriatic acid instead!

“Mama, what is sex?” (waaaah!!) “No, not the male and female thing! I mean THE BAD THING!” (WAAAAH!) By then, she had me cornered! I could not think. My mind was filled with images of a glistening pair of scissors, clicking ominously, as they moved with deliberate slowness towards a cowering Hayden for that much dreamed-of circumcision!

How do we talk about sex to our children? How old should they be before this sit down about the birds and the bees becomes imperative? I have absolutely no idea. There’s supposed to be a book on this subject at National bookstore. I should have gotten that the moment I knew that I was going to have a child!

But it was too late by then. I was unprepared for her direct questions. I crossed my fingers secretly and lied through my teeth … “it’s another word for mating Langga, you know, like what our dogs, chicken and love birds do to have babies.” (It’s still partly true, I told myself!) “I KNOW THAT ALREADY!!” (Huh? Oh yeah! There goes my chance to wriggle out of this!) “So, what is “it”? Why is it bad? What is a scandal?” (HAYDENNN!!!) If I were really that guard dog I said I was, I’d be baring my fangs and growling and bristling at him by that time! But deep inside, I was writhing in agony. Add a foaming mouth in your mental image and that’s the accurate picture of what I went through at that time!

There was no way out by then. I had to face my curious child’s questions (although I still wasn’t above skirting some if I could). In essence I told her that sex is what people do to have a baby. I added that, by itself, it is not bad and that in fact, it is very beautiful and good. But I told her that it is beautiful only when done between husband and wife as God commands it. And it becomes bad only when people do it before they get married. “Or ARE NOT married!”, Abby added.

After this I braced myself for the particulars, the HOWS … I had absolutely no idea how to answer this or even how to avoid answering the questions I was sure were coming next … should I tell her already how it happens and exactly what parts of the anatomy are involved? In my mind, I was still deliberating over truths vs. lies when my brat dropped her million-dollar conclusion … “So you and Papa do it, right?” (Oh my God! I did not expect this! This is killing me! How does anybody ever answer THAT question to a nine-year old?) “But how come I don't see you take your clothes off? Or dance like this?” She raised her arms and wriggled her hips! These are obviously the images that she associates with sex.

By then, I was too exhausted even to give Hayden Kho a mental growl. I sought refuge in my lies and told Abby that those things are done only in the movies. “Besides, can you imagine me dancing like that??? With all my bilbil (tummy blob) hanging out???”

Humor saved me from further torture that day! We had a long, good laugh over that. Abby couldn’t get over the ridiculous idea of her mama (with her bilbil flying all over the place) and papa dancing the way Hayden and Katrina did. Then an idea occurred to her, “Oh yeah! I came from medicines right? You had to be injected so you could have me!” I just nodded vaguely. I was thankful for this temporary relief from the questions and the need to be upfront with her.

For now, I am happy that the questions have stopped coming. She seems content with the knowledge that she developed directly through the fertility drugs that I received while undergoing treatment.

But the crucial question still remains. How and when should we talk about sex to our children?

I know that some readers may find me too conservative regarding this matter. But is it too wrong to want your daughter to remain innocent for as long as possible? What parent wouldn’t want that for his child?

I have no intention of not taking up this topic up with Abby. I just think that at nine years old, she is still way too young for these sorts of worldly concerns. I would have wanted her to remain, in every essence a child, for as long as possible.

But what can I do? Time and circumstances have gotten way ahead of this mom. There is nothing much that we can keep from our children nowadays. The wisest course of action at this point for me will be to educate Abby about sex not only within the physical context but more importantly, within the proper context of God and religion, family, society, consequences and responsibilities, and of course, morality.

As for Hayden Kho, I still have modified circumcision in mind for him. Seriously though, his utterly selfish acts have far-reaching repercussions, way beyond the obvious damage that it is doing to the women he had victimized. He almost single-handedly corrupted the minds of countless children all over the country (with the help of the sensationalized treatment given by irresponsible TV journalism) thereby robbing them of precious innocence.

He forced into my Abby an awareness that she can still do without. He is forcing me to confront an issue that I’m still not prepared and not willing to meet at this time.

But there it is. The need has arisen. I have no choice. So off to the bookstore this Mom goes!

Is Dumaguete Ready for the AH1N1 Flu?

When this article came out in the May 30 issue of the MetroPost, the Philippines barely had 10 confirmed AH1N1 cases. As of today, the Department of Health announced 77 cases. WHO declared the Philippines as having the most number of cases in Southeast Asia.

Dumaguete has been spared so far. Last week, 2 foreign students of Silliman University exhibited flu-like symptoms and were advised to go on quarantine. As of this writing, there has been no update as to their status.

The children have gone back to school. Colleges and universities will be opening their doors on June 15.

We continue to hope and pray that Dumaguete will be spared from the H1N1 virus.

This column has to come out of hibernation to ask this question: are our hospitals prepared should, God forbid, a possible H1N1 case rears up its scary head?

I remember that during the SARS scare our hospitals, albeit belatedly, set up screening points in their entrances. Looking around now, I am dismayed to see that, while the whole world seems to be panicking over swine flu, Dumaguete hospitals are still in their “business as usual” mode.

Why is that? Shouldn’t they be the very first ones to “panic”? After all, hospitals are where sick people ran to at the first signs of illness. And especially at this time when the threat of an H1N1 pandemic is very real, our hospitals should be gearing up to meet this head on.

So what are they doing about it? How are the hospitals planning to handle a possible swine flu patient? Have they set up plans to protect the other patients from possible transmission of the virus? Like isolation or something? I am particularly concerned over this because my mother-in-law is presently hospitalized. Would they place a possible H1N1 patient in a room next to hers? How would that affect visitors and family members like us?

Has the hospital staff been briefed on what should be done in this event? They should not be clambering over each other asking what they should do to protect themselves, should a consultant for instance, call up to inform them that he’s sending up a patient who had just flown in from Central America and who is exhibiting with flu-like symptoms!

Does Dumaguete have the antiviral drugs to combat this flu?

I just have to ask. I am not a doctor, and obviously, I do not know enough. All I know are what I hear from the news and what I see and hear in our hospitals.

And from the inaction that I have seen so far and from the stories that I have been hearing, I should start getting seriously alarmed!


Whenever we’d sing praises of Dumaguete, we almost never fail to mention how fortunate we are to have mountains shielding us against the worst of weathers. February 7 made us realize that we are not that fortunate. We didn’t even have the worst of weathers that day. News reports informed us that a low-pressure area over Eastern Mindanao had brought about the rains.

And yet last Saturday, Dumaguete and its neighboring towns were driven to their knees, its people incredulous at the sight of floodwater as it started to gather at their doorsteps. We all know by now that those waters did not merely stop there. They continued to rise as the rivers swelled. As a consequence, precious lives were lost, homes, belongings and valued livestock carried away, and the collective fallacy of Negros being a haven against nature’s fury shattered into pieces.

Although many of us were fortunate enough not to get flooded, somehow, we still felt the brunt of Banica’s ferocity. For instance, we lost our water supply for more than one day here in Batinguel. We were informed that rampaging waters busted the main supply pipe in Candau-ay. Yes, there was no escaping Saturday’s calamitous event. In some way or another, we all felt, and continue to feel, Mother Nature’s unequivocal message: we have always been and will always be at her mercy.

And yet, it is during times like these that our humanity shines at its brightest. Many a time we read about people rising above their own selves to lend help in times of disaster. Many a time we silently rejoice as we listen to stories of ordinary men doing extraordinary deeds. For who wouldn’t rejoice at shining moments that give boost to our sagging faith on the basic goodness of man?

It is no different this time. People banded together to help neighbors. Lifelines were provided and countless men, women and children made it to safety. A life was given to save a loved one. Who hasn’t heard of the heartbreaking story of the father who let go of the rope that would have dragged him to safety? He did so to save his child, losing his life in the process. We could all identity with this father. We’d do the same for our children.

A poignant image struck me in MetroPost’s issue last Sunday: that of the boy and his dog. In times of disaster, we worry about saving our loved ones and ourselves first, and only of the other family members next. It warmed my heart to see that this boy had not forgotten his pet. I worried for our 11 dogs and 6, 7, or 8 cats too. I had mental pictures of all these dears running amok in our bedroom in the second floor as I thought of the possibility of the floodwaters reaching our area.

But just at humanity had shone in this dark day, my family had a brush with man at one of his darkest. It was really an insignificant encounter, forgettable even, but thinking of that incident, I realized how that little event mirrored a sickness that ails the hearts of so many: selfishness.

As I had mentioned, we lost our water supply. Although we managed to store some, it eventually came to a point where we had no water left even for cooking rice. My husband, Nonoy, then decided to get water from a barangay artesian well located near his brother Joel’s house. After securing the necessary permission from the man in-charged of the well through my sister-in-law, Trining, he proceeded to draw water with the help of our houseboy, oftentimes stopping to give way to the residents who also came for water. They weren’t able to finish though. A woman accosted them, questioning their right to draw water in Taclobo after learning that they were from Batinguel.

Indeed, it was a small event. But against the backdrop of the disaster that had just hit our City and the need for water that became extremely urgent for some of us, this lady had effectively declared: what is ours is ours alone.

Sharing that water with anybody in this time of need would not have cost her a thing. In fact, it would have been an opportunity to lend a helping hand to anyone who had been affected by the recent flooding. And it would not have even created a dent in the underground reservoir.

Pray answer this then: isn’t that an illustration of man in one of his darkest?