On Higher Ground

Karen Carpenter once sang that rainy days and Mondays always get her down. Down does not even begin to describe how living in Manila feels like right now.

I can honestly say it’s been a while since I last saw true sunshine. Probably before Typhoon Saola (local name: Gener) made landfall here last week of July. At first the rain came in spurts and light drizzles. But soon enough it really began to pour. For the last few weeks, I’ve been waking to the sound of rain beating against the roof. I’ve been going to bed with the sound of howling wind and the rain singing me an eerie lullaby. And the smell of dampness pervading this old house where I have lived for most of my life has been getting stronger and stronger.

But at least I still have a roof over my head. I may be cold, but I am dry and safe. And this old house I live in that smells strongly of damp stands on higher ground, one of the least flood-prone areas in Metro Manila.

Not everyone is as lucky as I am. The torrential rains of the past weeks have transformed Metro Manila into a “water world.” Families have been evacuated from their homes to escape the flooding. People have lost property and even loved ones to the flood. Businesses and services have gone to a standstill as Metro Manila’s roads become impassable. The Malacañang Palace suspended work in the public sector and invoked police power to include the private sector in the work suspension order, which became an issue with some employers that run BPOs here.

What’s strange about this is Saola has come and gone. There is no typhoon over the Philippines right now. This is just Nature throwing a ginormous tantrum.

“Heaven must be crying…”

Some people here believe this horrible weather the Philippines is experiencing is a sign of God’s wrath over HB4244, otherwise known as the Reproductive Health Bill. It’s a piece of legislation that aims to provide wider access to birth control methods and maternal care in the Philippines. It’s also a piece of legislation that has been sitting in Congress for the last ten or so years.

A tweet from Congresswoman Milagros Magsaysay, which read: “Heaven must be crying… we have to undo what has been done,” has been interpreted as referring to the Congress’ decision to finally end the debate on the RH Bill and move it to amendments and voting. Although Rep. Magsaysay clarified she was referring to climate change rather than the controversial bill, it nonetheless sparked a social media battle between pro-RH and anti-RH groups.

It’s no secret that the Philippines is one of the poorest countries in Asia, if not the world. No amount of window-dressing by the current Administration will hide that fact. And while so many other factors contribute to poverty in the Philippines, it can’t be denied that the ballooning population is one of them.

The math is simple. If your resources are very limited and you have this many people depending on you for their welfare, is it really a good idea to let that number of people grow unchecked?

Is it even moral to do that, knowing you won’t be able to feed, clothe or educate these people the way they should be, and you won’t be able to prepare them to take hold of the good life they deserve?

Living in uncertainty is no way to live.

The Catholic Church said God wants his children to go forth and multiply. But surely God would especially not want his children and his children’s many children to live in miserable conditions in the slums, under bridges, on the banks of garbage-filled waterways and on the slopes of denuded hillsides, where sickness abounds and where hunger is rampant. Where they are most prone to harm when torrential rains and flooding descend upon this disaster-prone country that sits on the avenue where super-typhoons love to promenade.

If an aborted fetus is left in church, this doesn’t automatically mean the mother is a loose woman. She probably didn’t have access to information that would have allowed her to make better decisions about her impending parenthood. She also probably knew she won’t be able to provide for her baby once it’s born, so she left it in church with a prayer that her baby’s soul will find a better life elsewhere.

The so-called guardians of Philippine morality can’t take the moral high ground here. That high ground is shaky at best; mega churches mean big business, and there’s nothing more mega than the Catholic Church.

Here ends my random, rainy-day rant. If you’re in Manila right now, I hope you’re dry and safe on higher ground.

Image: Yahoo.com

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Anna Sibal-Gonzaga is a freelance writer based in the Philippines. She likes reading books and watching movies and TV shows in the sci-fi, fantasy and historical genres. She is also a casual gamer and an all-around nerd.

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