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The resilient folks of ‘Macababad’ town

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WHEN PEOPLE from across the globe marvel at the resiliency of the Filipinos, I cannot help but be reminded of how we, the people of Macabebe, display our own brand of resiliency in the face of the annual flooding that has become part and parcel of our daily existence.

For as long as I can remember, there has never been a single year when our town, or at least some of the coastal barangays have not been submerged in flood waters even for just a few days. Depending on the month of the year or even the time of the day, the floods that hound us are brought either by typhoons, southwest monsoon rains or even incessant high tide.

We have been so accustomed to the annual flooding that we have already romanticized this serious problem to a fault. In fact, we have come up with our own memes that have captured the attention of the social media world. Just to name a few – “Albug ka mu, taga-Macabebe kami,” “Eka taga-Macabebe nung ala ka pang kaliskis ngeni,” “Gumato ka, Macabebe,” to “Kawe ka, Macabebe!”

            When we find ourselves wading through flood waters to celebrate important occasions and events, we find humor in the littlest things that we do. We keep on reminding ourselves that life must go on and so does our zest for life’s many milestones. During the fiesta, our houses become Villa Escudeo-inspired floating restaurants. The once solemn evening procession or “limbun” to cap the day becomes an instant “libad,” with the flooded barangay streets somewhat transformed into tributaries of the Pampanga River.

In November, when we are supposed to visit the graves of our dearly departed, we find joy in lighting candles and saying our payers in the parish church or at the gates of the public cemeteries. I fondly remember how in the late 1990s, my friends and I lighted floating candles at the main entrance of a heavily-flooded private memorial park hoping against hope that the floating candles would somehow magically find their way and stop on the exact marked graves of our departed.

In December, the running joke is for friends to give each other heavy duty waterproof overalls in preparation for the floods in August the next year. Birthdays become luau parties sans the island vibe and tropical backdrop; weddings become beach gatherings without the white sand and the cool breeze of the sea. The list simply goes on.

Throughout our ordeal, we proudly say we are able to cope with the many difficulties to survive even just a day. Tricycles suddenly gain an extra meter or two in height as an alternative to the boats traversing the main road. Fishing comes easy and there is no need to go to the river or stream since the overflow of aquatic resources from private fishponds are on the main streets as well.

Being able to see the beauty or even humor in the most adverse situation is one thing; but oversimplifying the situation and making it as something that we simply have to accept is another. Do we just admit to ourselves that there is nothing more we can do with flooding since it is a natural occurrence and therefore, we just have to find creative and fun ways to enjoy it every year?  Or do we gather as an empowered people, sit down with our elected officials and concerned government agencies and craft long-term solution to this gargantuan problem? Our collective voices and concerted actions should always matter to people whose solemn oath is to serve our beloved town.

I hope you do not get me wrong. It is never my intention to put my town mates in a bad light. But over the years, our flooding problem has become a vicious cycle of palliative solutions. After elevating the barangays roads in one section of the town, the flood waters go to the other area the next year. When this flooded area is elevated the following year, the once elevated and flood-free portion becomes flooded again. In effect, the embankment of flooded barangays roads over the years has been a see-saw solution.

The flooding in our town is a multidimensional phenomenon that requires a multi-sectorial and multi-discipline approach. It cannot be solved in just five or even ten years. It cannot be done by just the people of Macabebe. But with the political will and massive support of Macabebe folks, this can be done. It may not happen in our lifetime; but still, we comfort ourselves with the thought that we will entrust a lasting legacy to the next generation of a truly resilient people of Macabebe.

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