Monthly Archives: August 2012

Filipino diaspora and dysfunctional families

Here in the Philippines, a Filipino diaspora’s life is widely and blatantly captured in the media, through movies, songs, teleseryes and stories. But behind all the drama, the OA scenes, the illicit affairs and unwanted children lies the true heart of the growing problem that’s slowly sweeping the country: the long trail of broken families.

Very rarely are the stories that depict the psychological and emotional journeys of those who left and those who are left behind. Sometimes the audience are distracted with the way the scenes go, rather than the real story itself, as these movies and stories are stressing to point out.

Those real stories I’ve heard, the real people who experienced them full-hand, those people who went through hell and back to survive an already crumbling family pushed me to embrace a rather extreme advocacy my friends often considered as impossible: To stop the growing numbers of Filipinos forced to leave their homes and work abroad.

My vision for the country is loud and clear. I don’t want it to be considered a maid country anymore. I want its citizens to work for the country and leave it by choice, not as a form or necessity to give food to their loved ones.

Sure the skills of the Filipinos are known throughout the world, but at the end of the day, it’s not just about having been able to do our jobs properly and efficiently. It’s working and becoming a parent for our children. At the end of the day, a disgruntled OFW would find out that raising their own kids personally and watching them grow up is worth more than the new house and lot or the brand new car.

I’ve known many sad and painful stories to not just be silent in the corner and shut the hell up. I really can’t stand having a future like this, a country full of fragmented families, children not knowing to be loved and cared by their own parents. I can’t help but to care, because I also have several of my family members working hard abroad. Some of them went mysteriously disappeared, some having another families while their original family here is starving to death.

I don’t think I wouldn’t be able to live that kind of future.



Remembering the river

Growing up in Marikina City, I have fond memories of happy family picnics and barkada moments along the banks of the infamous Marikina River.

Picnic at the Marikina River before Ondoy

My little brother with the river park in the background

Every sunday, my family would pack up some dinner and drive a twenty-minute ride to Marikina Riverpark, a recreational place near the Marikina river where there are baratillos of goods, biking lanes, amphitheater and a green lawn to lay down to and spend quality time with your loved ones.

The Marikina River Amphitheater…What a view to watch the river

The placid and seemingly harmless river

Tianggian like this is also a popular spot in the Riverpark way before Ondoy came and ruined it all

Although it may look simple as it sounds, the Riverpark is just one of the tourist destinations of the shoe capital. It has a river taxi (a boat where you can cross from the Riverbanks mall to the riverpark), an animal trail filled with statues of animals on the walk ways along the river, little carnivals and good food markets long before the Mercato and Distrito gained popularity at Makati.

Popularly called the river taxi, this boat will carry you all down through the river to the commercial center of marikina – the Marikina Riverbanks

Just me and my family eating dinner in the food market near the river

Every year, it also houses dozens of exhibits made by every barangays across Marikina. As we Marikenos celebrate Christmas, our government holds an exhibit contest with different theme each year. When you walk along the river, you will see each booth of the barangay, and you can take photo moments worthy of a space at Christmas postcard.

We used to also have what we call “Tianggian” along the river banks. It’s a very very long row of tents; a night market visited by thousands of metro manila residents at the onset of the Ber months. It’s like a divisoria near the river, filled with the blaring music from the restos behind the tents, as well as the festive sound of bargaining.

Riverpark is famous for family picnics and barkada hang-outs

And at New Years, we Marikenos will flock by the river to watch the annual New Year Concert at the amphitheater. Then, when midnight’s nearing, we’ll shout happily with the count-down for the ten-minute display of marvelous fireworks! It was always an exhausting evening but we’d go home happy and brimming with energy.

Marikina river holds a special place in my heart. It’s the place where I always bring my friends from other parts in Manila and let them see how beautiful my place is. Marikina river means marikina. If you want to see Marikina in a nutshell, the one place you should never miss is the river itself. Aside from the shoe, the river is symbolically, almost spiritually connected to it, more than the name and the geography can do.

The river in its glory

The wonders of Marikina river came to an abrupt end when Ondoy came at 2009.

The once placid and calm river turned into a rampaging monster, devastating the nearby villages and barangays, killing many people and destroying many properties worth millions. It was a horrible experience to all of us. Ondoy marked the trauma not only to every Marikenos, but also of Manilenos, that something as ordinary as heavy rains, can cost us many unnecessary loss of lives and materials we worked so hard for.

During the tragedy, we also saw the damage we incured to the river. Its murky waters are brown and black with garbage and waste. Janitor fishes were everywhere. That’s when we realized that we took the river for granted…We took Nature for granted, and now it’s teaching us a harsh lesson we’ll never forget.

My perspective of the river has changed ever since. Two years later, the river had now grown unpredictable to the point that businesses slowly decreased by its riverside. Families seldom go there for activities. There were less fishermen and bikers exercising at its bicycle lanes. The festivals, the events, the activities we have enjoyed near its riverside are beginning to disappear.

And now that a rain strangely similar to Ondoy is pouring over us this August, the Marikina River had broken records again. It rises to the critical level of 20 meters, almost surpassing the bridges and LRT tracks with its quick growth. It’s now a raging river, intent to kill and destroy, and nothing’s going to stop it on its way.

Aug. 7 – The river now

Just a few meters away, and it will be Ondoy all over again.

Aug 7 – The river is slowly surpassing the bridge

Marikina in itself is a valley, a natural low-lying area. All the waters from the nearby mountains cascade down to the Marikina River where it rises and surges into power. You couldn’t blame it for behaving such a way, especially when we human beings are also accountable of the injuries we inflicted to it. It’s just a way of nature getting us back.

Restaurants being swallowed up

SM Basement parking flooded

The river is just a facet of Mother Nature. It’s beautiful, it’s splendid and gives us a reason to celebrate life. It witnessed some of the special parts of our lives. But in a wink of time, it’s also monstrous, scary, unpredictable and totally out of control, with us in its mercy.

I just wish that the residents near the River would be safe and sound. As well as all others affected by the flood. We will survive this through sheer will and guidance of God. We’re Filipinos after all, the allegorical ”cockroaches” who can survive through anything.

The scene of the park then

The scene of the park now

And I wish the river would return the same way it is before. The one place where you can create happy memories with, not something you’d fear when a typhoon comes. Through working together, I believe we can restore it to the state that it had been once, through our simple efforts such as tree-planting and correct garbage disposal.

I’ll always have this nice picture of Marikina River in my heart. Not its scary image flashing on the TV right now

Be safe everyone!

Twitter is flooded with tweets of “Marikina River” and #PrayForThePhilippines. Imagine how scary it had been. 

Pictures of the flood belong to their respective owners.

One hell of an experience!

If there’s one lesson the Typhoon Ondoy (International Name: Ketsana) left us, is  that a day-long of heavy and continuous rain, even without the strong winds and lightnings, can get really nasty.

I live in Marikina, one of the places in the Metro that was heavily affected by the deluge of Ondoy. I stayed at home that fateful day, unlike most of my friends who risked life and limb to wade through chest-deep, rushing waters just to get home from school. Even if our family wasn’t victimized by the flood as most others, we all felt the effect and the trauma a mere tropical depression like Ondoy had caused.

Yet it seems like I wasn’t spared by circumstances on having to go through the same ordeal that is part of every college student’s life when studying in Manila – braving though the flood and winds just to get home.

Today, our class ended pretty much early. The rain doesn’t seem to plan stopping anytime soon, but instead of going home as reasonable, sane humans do, we’ve got some maggots in our brain to go on duty for our OJT at heart of the capital – Manila.

We did some survey work and a little office work. By 4 PM, we decided to go home because our mentors weren’t at the office. Inside the intramuros, universities were already suspending classes and there was an outpour of students on rush to go home.

My two buddies and I hated the rush hour hassle so we decided to pass some time at SM Manila – our favorite hang-out mall. By the time we get to SM, the flood is beginning to rise up by the roadside. There are so many students crowding in the entrance, staring anxiously at the rain and the flood while pedicab drivers are whooping in excitement for having to earn extra income from customers who wanted to avoid the flood.

An hour later, after spending some time in a cafe shop, we decided to go home, thinking that the rush hour phase is over and the rain may have already stopped.

But man, we were dead wrong.

There were lots of people than it is before. And unlike an hour ago, they have nowhere to go. They are literally stranded, by an ankle-deep flood on both sides as well as on the roads. It’s like SM Manila is marooned on a tiny island surrounded by an ocean complete with big waves generated by the tires of the cars passing by. To go to the other side means wading through it.

My sneakers are already at their worst form. Everytime I stepped on my feet, I’d feel a sickening sticky squish squash. I couldn’t afford to damage my shoes any further by wading through the flood wearing it. I have no choice. I peeled my soaking socks off,  folded my pants to the knees, and prepared myself to walk barefoot.

My two friends did the same thing. We stared at the dark, murky flood for one gut-sickening moment then plunged our feet in to the ankle-deep water.

It was damn cold! It was raining hard and our clothes were so soaked that we felt the cold to our bones. Arm-in-arm, we slowly wade through the water while trying to avoid the cars crossing through, yelping and gasping as we blindly navigated through the dark waters. There is no telling if there’s a man hole or some sharp objects that could hurt us. We relied solely on instinct and with each other.

Just imagine, the whole filth of the capital, the garbage stuck in the sewers, dried spits from rude pedestrians, rat pees and maybe human pees, could be on that large pond of a flood and we’re risking our asses wading through it!

Everytime I felt something soft and feathery in my toes, I felt a shudder ran through me. It was one of the most mortifying thing I’ve ever felt. It was the way of nature telling me that yes, I never fully experienced the wrath of Ondoy, but there’s no damn way you’ll spent the rest of your life without having to experience the trauma of the flood.

And yet, it was an experience I’ll never forget. Everytime I go to SM Manila, or walk through the Intramuros, I’ll always remember that moment where nature pushed the qualms out of me, and I have to do whatever it takes, no matter how mortifying, just to get home safe and sound.

Manila is a flood-prone area. Unfortunately, most of the universities and schools are located there. I wish time would come where students don’t have to experience the harrowing moment of unnecessarily braving through the floods. After all, college students are no different to elementary and highschool students. After all, we’re all humans who haven’t still reached that evolutionary phase of having to develop gills. 

After I got home, I doused my legs with my dad’s ethyl alcohol. My dad’s going to kill me for clearing almost half of its contents for my pruned out feet but hey, at least I didn’t have to spend the rest of the night stranded on some place.

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