WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Nobody home

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Oct) – My neighbor Jimmy Sasin had a stroke and died some years ago. His wife and kids went away to New Zealand. Back when the Sasins still lived there, our children would call out to each other across the fence and would soon get together to play.

I do not know these people who have taken over their house. They used the property wall that separates us to build extensions to the house. They also located a wash area flush against the wall. It’s a very low fence and thus does not make for good neighbors anymore. These people have a bad habit of throwing their trash over the fence to rot in my backyard. The roof to their extension does not have a gutter. When it rains, the water spills over into my backyard, redistributing their discarded junkfood wrappers, PET bottles, milk cartons, broken toys, discarded face masks, used sanitary napkins, empty jars, shampoo wrappers, empty lotion and talcum powder containers, and all manner of single use plastics all around my house.

In the afternoons, weather permitting, they used to bring their kids to play on the concrete driveway to our back gate, there to litter our drainage ditch some more with their discarded candy wrappers. When I asked them to stop using our backyard as their very own garbage dump, they also stopped bringing the kids to play out there.

Twice in less than a week, my house had flooded. This after I had brought in landfill and contracted people to work on flood control in anticipation of the rainy season. The drainage was a problem. There was just too much waste plastic material coming down the drainage ditch outside my fence, there to lodge in the corner where the CVO outpost is. As soon as the water gets high enough, it breaks the dam of trash, rushing the flotsam down the corner to slam against my low culverts and float over my driveway out front.

Past my driveway, it comes up against Dodoy Magdolot’s driveway which is so much higher. Dodoy has a bigger culvert beneath his driveway, but he built it higher and covered it with a heavy duty grill. He had promised me that he would monitor his grill, but he was in Cotabato when it rained very hard last October 7. His stopped up grill and high driveway dammed the water in the drainage canal until it reached road level and could then drain down the street.

The problem is that my house is lower than street level. So, of course the flood water came in swirling fast, giving us little time to save our stuff. I paid the garbage truck to haul my water damaged stuff. This had never happened until Dodoy constructed his driveway last month.

In the morning, I sent a letter to BC Bendor A. Calamba enumerating the sources of my disaster and pleading for his action. The secretary gave me the number for BDRRM Officer Jun Jovillo. I contacted him by phone and asked about the legality of impeding the floodwaters. He said the drainage is government property. He agreed that government representatives may remove Dodoy’s grill even in his absence. I texted Dodoy to explain the matter and he agreed to have the grill removed.

Still the problems of my neighbor’s garbage lodging in the corner and the water from the roof over Jimmy Sasin’s house remain. I checked out that street corner and found that the occupants of the CVO outpost push their trash down the gap in the wall. They had also used the back of the building as a garbage dump.

So back to the barangay satellite office I went yesterday carrying another letter for BC Calamba. The lady who received it said the CVO outpost had been given to the Talomo police for use as a subprecint. In other words, the CVO outpost and its occupants were not the responsibility of the barangay. Oh.

I called the Talomo police station and they sent a mobile car to investigate my complaint. Later that afternoon, several civilian auxiliary personnel came to tidy up. However, they left their sacks of garbage leaning at the back of the outpost, there waiting to eventually fall into the drainage canal any time.

Now I have a beef with how the police have laid claim to this subdivision outpost. There used to be an open space fronting the road where residents could sit and wait for the taxi. The police however walled that up using the corner lightpole to support their makeshift wall. They also added stacked tires around the front and sides, eating up road space, and obstructing traffic some more every time they park their car and motorbikes near the outpost. They said they have the barangay’s permission to expand and fortify.

The police said they have located here to prevent hooligans rioting at night. That’s quite true. I had often called the police at odd hours of the night because of kids trying to kill each other out there. And it’s also true that such goings on have been a thing of the past since that subprecint was set up. It is very likely though that rioting would come back if these youngbloods could not find a heathy outlet.

So yes, we do need police visibility, but I prefer that the police do not obstruct subdivision traffic. I expect they would enforce, rather than violate, the law on solid waste management and the right of way of floodwaters. And when they can’t be at the outpost because they are busy manning the COVID-19 checkpoints, I also hope that they would secure the outpost and not leave it open for lovers to tryst and for drug users to get high. These ones often do me the courtesy of relieving themselves against my fence before sneaking back under cover. I am now an expert at male anatomy, having shone my flashlight on many a squirting penis. I now know for a fact that when it starts to dribble, it can’t stop until it’s over.

I’ve been asking the satellite barangay office people how to go further with my complaint about my neighbor’s roof constructed past the property line and draining into my backyard. They said I first have to have the purok leader look at it. So every day for three days now I try to see Tisay Hermosa up the street. No such luck. She’s never at home. Neither is she at the satellite office nor at the village chapel. I doubt if she’s a real person.

Every time I come knocking on her door, I cringe at the load of garbage she has littering the street fronting her gate. I just know that the floodwaters would eventually carry those down to my drainage canal. Dolores Rabanillo, the lady who politely receives my letters at the satellite barangay office, told me that residents are expected to do bayanihan in cleaning up the trash from the subdivision roads.

For over a month now, I spend an hour each day out there with my garbage picker. Every day, I get a sackful of basura from the canal and the road. This despite the big signs on my fence that says Bawal Magtapon ng Basura sa Kanal at sa Kalsada. My God, we even have a neighbor who dumps his tree cuttings in the drainage ditch! I had to bully the telecom company people working out there this morning to free up the canal after I caught one of them throwing his water bottle among the branches.

Aside from these young men that nanay (that’s what he called me) shamed into complying, I rarely see anyone else out there who’s picking up trash. It seems to me that my neighbors just wait for the rain to come and carry their basura down my drainage canal. And the barangay would not do anything about it.

Hmm… Maybe Talomo is just too big for the barangay functionaries to handle. Maybe it is time for Bangkal to secede and be its own barangay. From where I see it, Bangkal meets all the requirements to be a barangay. There are government offices here, a hospital, a telecommunication facility, several schools, restaurants, a big church, two major banks, and a grocery chain.

Indeed, am looking at the beautiful pictures of our barangay officials posted at the corner two blocks down. I’ve lived here 21 years, and I do not know any of them. Maybe they are not from Bangkal. Maybe that explains the kind of government response I’m getting. Like, none.

(“Wayward and Fanciful” is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. llagan is the chair of the Psychology Department at the Ateneo de Davao University. She heads the Peace and Development Committee of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division Multisectoral Advisory and Action Group.)

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