BUTUAN CITY ( MindaNews/ January 25 )- When a friend in Davao City posted on Facebook that she is now officially a certified flood victim, I was tempted to tell her I’ve always been one—45 or so years ago.
The city I grew up was regularly visited by floods, and locals have accepted it like one’s tradition. Thisis due to the traditional rains that come every January. And since we’re blindly proud to call our city the “Timber Capital of the Philippines,” we never saw anything wrong with it. Back then, I supposed we never saw the link between the floods and the cutting of trees. The loggers, belonging to the local elite political families, just cut, cut and cut the trees.
The floods were infamous and dreaded by my relatives in Cebu and Bohol. My aunts would teased us as the” family from Bahaan City,” and never would they be interested to visit again.But once when Bohol was in drought, my father hit back, telling them, “We’ll send you flood waters.”
But I loved the floods. What child of five would not? When the water rose outside our rented woodenhouse, I leaned over the veranda and talked to the fishes. The tiny haluans and guramis(fish varieties) became my companions while the folk were in school or at work.How they loved the bits of bread that I feed them.
When we built our own house towards the end of the road, the world—and the floods—doubled. All around were vast tracts of grass with wild ducks ascending and descending.I saw them everymorning and afternoon, taking off and landing, seemingly fearless and unconquerable.
During elementary years, it was “SOP” (standard operating procedure) that when rains come heavy at night and towards the morning, there will be no class for me.How I loved it. I kept hoping it will rain the whole week.
In high school, I became wiser.You automatically know there is no point of going to school. The classroom would be half-empty the nextday. The day after, the evacuees would take over.
The place to go then for my classmates and me was the Magsaysay Bridge. We would gaze at the over-flowing Agusan River with its menacing sight. Heavy currents bringing all kinds of debris rolled fast and past where we stood. I thought I felt my feet tremble.
There were floods (lasting two to three days) that I was lazy to go out. Sometimes I just enjoyed thehand-made”gakits” (raft) to wade in the neighborhood.
One big flood was in 1981.
The floodwaters lasted for two weeks that we were forced to go to Cebu because my mom could not take the cold anymore. It was getting to be miserable. We could not even visitthe wake of an old woman who was dear to us in the neighborhood. So we took a boat that docked at the riverside. Luckily, the current was not that strong.
Minor floods then come and go, some negligible or too ordinary.
But another big one came in 1991 when floodwaters from theAgusan River spilled dangerously a kilometer away to the national highway. On the radio,I heard for the first time an environmental debate between a politician’s paid commentator and anunknown environmentalist. The former said“there was nothing to worry as this was a natural cycle occurring every 10 and 20 years.”But he never answered the issue of vanishing forests.
Of course we keep on hoping the floods would “vanish” from our existence forever, but unless our drainagesystems get fixed too, we’ll probably be telling our fellow Mindanaoans this: “Welcome to the club of certified flood victims!” (Ramon Jorge B. Sarabosing/MindaNews)