A job well done

CHASING THE WIND - Felipe B. Miranda -
There is hardly anything that goes right in this country. The simplest things are confounded beyond understanding. The most straightforward tasks suffer systematic complications ensuring their habitual non-performance. The nation’s most urgent concerns are subjected to criminal procrastination, even heinous abandonment, precisely by those tasked by law to manage them.

Thus, whether one considers the disaster-prone environment, the seriously ailing economy, the shamelessly dupicitous politics or the markedly desperate citizenry, a cruel fact stands out — Filipinos in the last forty years have not put together a nation they can be proud of.

Does anything work well at all in this country? Can anything turn out right so that those who refuse to romanticize the national condition might sustain their fast-dwindling optimism? Given a Pandora’s box of woes, might there not be at least one inspiring instance of realistic hopefulness?

Precisely because it so rarely occurs, anything that is truly good in this country must be acknowledged. Given the trying times, only the absolutely unpatriotic will ignore whatever might be suspected of serving the public good. And where one can be certain about the nature of this particular service, it would be a monstrous mistake not to publicly acclaim those who had effected the awesome miracle.

For at least twenty years, Filipinos in a particular stretch of the Diliman Republic — a.k.a. the University of the Philippines (Diliman) campus – had largely resigned themselves to a condition of chronic waterlessness. They of course fretted much and at times even mounted their customary protests as all decent UP people must. However, over time, most of them increasingly felt that going without running water – especially during the summer months – might really be an unavoidable fate, nothing less than a natural condition, one might say.

After all, five impressive Philippine presidents had not been able to bring them regular running water all these years. Neither the missionary New Society nor the illusory Strong Republic – both headed by indubitably smart UP graduates – had succeeded in easing their perennial drought. They only made it possible for some of the underwashed and overthirsty residents of UP’s area 1 to be supplied water by occasional fire trucks. In summer, these remarkable presidents facilitated a community ritual where residents bonded with drums, batya, timba, palanggana and assorted canisters — anything that would hold the fire trucks’ precious offering.

For twenty years, sans regular running water, most people learned to forget that showerheads in their bathrooms were supposed to provide them a soul-cleansing shower. Using their drums, batya, timba, palanggana and assorted canisters, many UP people made do with a tabo and settled for a most economical, a most efficient bath that at times probably consumed less than two gallons of water.

Government did nothing in two decades to materially change the situation for people in UP’s area 1, a place less than two kilometers away from the central office of the government agency designated to manage the public’s water supply – the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System. The public suffered their condition and the MWSS allowed the public to continue suffering.

However, about two weeks ago, residents in the same area discovered their faucets yielding more than enough water for all their needs. Day as well as night, the water pressure remained high and people rediscovered the joy of a truly luxurious, self-respect-restoring shower.

On account of water being regularly available, the residents in UP’s area 1 now have more presentable houses, cleaner clothes, brighter faces and, last but not least, toilets that give no offense to anyone.

Last week, the residents’ bright faces brightened up yet more. They had been told that their water rates would go down if only by a token amount. In a country where the cost of everything goes up even as quality and availability invariably worsens, a better water supply with a price cut however small is nothing short of a miracle!

How could this miracle have happened? The responsibility for delivering water to the public in this part of Metro Manila was simply transferred from the government’s MWSS to an efficient, no-nonsense, public need-oriented private company – the Manila Water Company. With Antonio Aquino at its helm and people-friendly, ordinary employees like Mario Lising keeping the public abreast with their unrelenting efforts to solve decades-long problems, Manila Water did in three years what the MWSS could not effect in twenty.

To the Manila Water officials and employees, congratulations and the thanks of a most grateful public, the people you have showered with timely gifts!

It’s a pity the national elections are over for this year. The country is in dire need of people who talk less and act more, people who also not only act quickly but get what needs to be done, done.

Should such people ever put themselves up for public office, neither the COMELEC nor Congress might dare undertake partisan trending or shadowy canvassing. The public, particularly those from UP’s area 1, would be properly and formidably unforgiving.

After all, people who have recovered their showers are not wont to give them up again. No, sir!

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