The Long Walk Home (3 of 3)

Indeed the immediate area near our place was pitch black with occasional candles lit. What was surprising was the activeness of a lot of people past that time of the night. Something definitely wasn’t right. And I’m not yet talking of the knee-length water on the streets yet.

Why did things have to be hard for the past 24 hours?

Warm Coffee, Please

My wrist watch read some minutes before 2 AM when I reached home and found my wife scooping out water using a dustpan. Water in the streets were starting to rise. They said that with the dams releasing water to ease out the pressure within its walls, it was only a matter of time before water would enter the houses.

In the midst of the frustration, all I wanted was just a nice hot cup of coffee. I was cold and wet from the experience starting from the morning that I just needed to warm a bit.

Lo and behold, there was no cooking gas! Thankfully a well-meaning neighbor offered a cup of hot water or I would have blown to bits then. A few sips of coffee was all I needed to break off from the mounting chaos.

Who Needed Weights Anyway?

Then it was on to lifting stuff. My wife understandably could only do so much in carrying up stuff to the second floor of the place. Important documents, food, medicine and other such lighter articles. All while checking on the kids and the water level outside from time to time.

Thankfully I reached home with just the right amount of time to allow me to move the heavier ones to higher ground. So while she was scooping water and all, I was moving appliances– TV, washing machine, dryer, ref, microwave– to the second floor. The situation didn’t afford me to take my time doing so because water was rising fast outside. I had to help my wife then.

A few minutes later, I relieved her from the chore as she made a last swoop of things to move upstairs in preparation for water coming in. It was only a few inches before the waters outside breached the level of the apartment entrance outside. It was routinary in the first minutes then tiring the next minutes that followed. Neighbors from nearby households were doing the same just to keep the water from filling their places.

It looked like fighting a losing battle when the rise of water outside went on. It was one thing to keep seeping water from accumulating; it was another to have water gushing inwards.

Here it comes

A few minutes before 3 AM when water broke through. We left the scooping chore when it happened. It covered the floors at first before rising slowly. It turned from a question of whether water would get in to how much we’ll get inundated.

I gave up and had to lie down somewhere upstairs. Water was rising anyway and there’s nothing much we can do for now. My wife took watch downstairs as I rested while waiting for the water level outside to recede. Then there will be clean up.

As I was lying, I recalled how lucky I was to be there. It definitely wasn’t a joke but it wasn’t that hard to figure out in some sort of a mishap in that day’s worth of hardships either.

My sister-in-law arrived with her daughters by the time I was getting sleepy. It was waist-deep in their house when they left from what I heard. She and my wife was talking about stuff when I actually fell asleep.

The next thing I knew it was already morning. It was a gloomy but definitely a welcome for one who had to spent that night awake. My wife told me that it went up to knee-level inside the house before the waters stopped rising outside.

The Aftermath

It was clean-up that morning. Scooping out water, washing and disinfecting stuff and scrubbing, disinfecting floors and placing back moved appliances were in fashion among households then. We had the place clean by afternoon.

We were not without damages. Luckily ours were relatively minor ones. Apart from our water pump, we saw a TV rack, a corner cabinet and some minor articles thrown away.

We had to wait until Monday afternoon for electricity though. Prior to it being restored, I had to actually content myself with reading (and actually finishing) Freakonomics and cigarettes.

It was so much a welcome to have electricity back as my daughter needed to be nebulized regularly because of asthmatic attacks starting from that Sunday. And there was definitely so much the lack of electricity hampers. It was only then that I got to inform people elsewhere that we were alright here. It was the signal to have us organize the smaller stuff around the house. It was also only then that we got to see TV news coverages of the extent of damage the typhoon brought.

Despite what I had to go through, it would be modest to say I’m still lucky. It was all over for us in a matter of hours but not so for other people even after some days. We were affected, yes, but a lot of other people were even more devastated. Among others, we had water inside the house but a lot of other people had to deal with mud. We didn’t have to deal with more than knee-length flooding inside the house. We didn’t have to wait for more than around 2 days to get electricity back.

I’m quite sure my story doesn’t even register a blink among the rough snapshots others had that fateful day.

The whole ordeal had me missing work for 2 working days in the week that followed. That was all the time I needed to get myself back in condition.

The Long Walk Home (2 of 3)

If memory serves me right, it was before 7 in the evening when I made my push to Monumento. Yes it was quite early but the terrible weather made it look discouraging to take the option. I was getting more and more worried. The stillness of traffic along with the gusts of the wind and bursts of the rain made it all the more difficult for me to stay put. My daughter, wife and her niece were the only ones at home and should the weather get worse, it was certain they would be needing the extra hand to keep the situation at bay.

So I joined the flock who were making their way along EDSA by foot. My umbrella sported a broken rib by then but it had to do against the rain. It wasn’t as exhausting as I thought anyway. With a great number of stranded souls doing the same, I had nothing to lose with the decision anyway. I passed through Project 7 then Munoz within minutes. Remaining flood waters along the way were the least of my worries as the one thing I had my mind focused on was to get home.

Same with the sight of those who decided to climb the abandoned scaffolds of the MRT under construction to buy themselves some leverage over the floods along the way. It was somewhat scary and had me thinking how fragile we all were right there.

But came the Ford building past Monumento.

I wondered what’s with the hesitation of those who went for the trek right there. It then became apparent that past the landmark was still a flood basin still somewhere around waist-level when I got there. It was hard for me to recognize what lay waiting farther because it was dark already. So I had to stop and eat a cracker.

And wait.

It was there that I overheard a woman who came from Monumento tell her tale to her friend. She told her horrible ordeal to get past the Balintawak area just before the fork to the North Diversion Road. It was waist-deep she said and she had to hold on to a rope somewhere along the stretch as the flood waters carried beneath them strong currents from the then-overflowing creeks. And she tried her best to discourage people like me from pushing on.

At least not yet.

Moving On

It was past 8 when I decided to push onwards. A lot of those people who chose to wait, after all, were starting to push forward again. Bigger vehicles deciding to move might have provided just enough encouragement then.

It was still knee-deep as I got to realize later. The water rose to at least a few inches at times but it was generally within knee-level. One thing going the way of those who braved the waters like me was that we had the freedom to easily switch to the southbound stretch of EDSA. Unfortunately that meant our feet were vulnerable to the fallen MMDA fences and construction debris submerged in the waters.

The next flood basin after that was even deeper. Waist-deep if I remember it right.

There was no turning back at that point though. Amidst women screaming because they nearly slipped, hapless parents carrying children and scores of others treading the floods, I had to move on.

Thank God it was a pretty straightforward walk after those two flooded areas of the highway.

The Lesser Evil

I was at Monumento around 9. It’s funny how worrying how to actually get there took more time than actually getting there. Yup, I was a mess to understate things but I was there at last. That’s all that mattered. It was a strategic starting point for me homebound if I were to actually get home that night.

Ironically I had to wait again for another couple of hours. I recall having barkers tell me how impossible it is for transportation to pass through then chest-deep roads leading to our place. Hence the utter absence of jeepneys.

I had a choice of two poisons really. One is the usual jeepney I take but will only get me as far as Francis. Or the then rarer Letre jeepneys which gets me somewhere guaranteed to be flooded even during just weak typhoons or substantially lengthy rains.

I don’t know what made me choose the latter. It was not the easier jeep to take for sure but something told me to take that one. Looking back, I know I made the right choice as I overheard people who chose the first recount how a lot of them got stuck there. The contrarian insight did pay off I guess.

But it wasn’t really exactly easy at Letre too.

Stuck in an Island

I got to Letre past 11 after I got to take a jeepney there. The place was a mirror image of the Ford stake-out. Only this time, things looked bleaker.

I saw a lot of people try to make way through the higher floods there. Something told me to wait again however. Maybe it was the fact that I can’t see farther into the bridge over the river that got me hesitant. That and the fact that even busses and fuel trucks found it hard to pass through that stretch.

People around me were just as tired and restless. I can overhear parents this time talk to someone else about how they and their children still haven’t had dinner because of all the trouble Ondoy brought. I can hear teens and workers grumble about their own difficulties. I can hear a mother tell her son to wear the slippers because they were going to brave the floods to get home.

So again I waited. My feet were tired so I had sit in the middle of the island far from the flood’s reaches. I ate another cracker just as I was holding my umbrella which, this time, had two ribs give up already.

Then the wait again.

My watch told me it was already midnight there before I unconsciously napped while holding up my umbrella. I guess I can’t hold back the exhaustion of the entire day anymore.

Homebound

It was 1 AM when municipal rescue workers came up with a truck to take stranded commuters to the municipality. At last. Somewhere nearer.

I heaved a sigh of relief when the behemoth went on its way.

Even with the truck’s height–each of us had to be hoisted up to be able to board its back–it’s muffler wasn’t spared by the waters. It was indeed chest-deep from what I saw from those who waded through it. Something tells me the river had something to do with the water level but it was too dark for me to see if the water beneath the bridge was overflowing towards Letre’s direction then.

When I reached the municipality of Malabon, there were tricycles waiting for stranded commuters.

On my last leg on my way home, I thought of having a nice cup of coffee to get myself to calm down. And maybe to have my drenched feet in hot water to ease them from the past hours’ worth of torture. Even sitting it out for a while before having a nice sleep seemed inviting then.

As I neared our place though, something about the absence of lights guaranteed that things won’t become easier any sooner.

The Long Walk Home (1 of 3)

I guess the price I have to pay for aiming a notch higher career-wise would be abandoning writing here for most of the time I’m doing post-grad studies. Countless events and issues passed yet my busy everydays kept me from revisiting my turf in cyberspace. That in spite of promising myself (at least twice if I remember it right) to devote an ample amount of time here.

An important reason for doing so is the relative ease and speed in the realm of paperworks both at work and school surprisingly afforded to me by blogging here. That and the attachment to content here more than 5 years old now. Or maybe old habits are just hard to give up.

How’s it been?

Not much really. And there would have been nothing worthwhile to push older stuff down here except for my Ondoy experience last week. Dated, yes. But what can I do? I just find it ironic that keeping watch over our place in the midst of another typhoon affords me to recount just now how I found the last week worrisome and wearysome.

To call it such is pretty much an understatement really. That’s not to attempt, however, to rank my efforts against the tides then among the saddest scenes presented in TV news coverages elsewhere in Metro Manila and Rizal. I still find myself rattled from the experience somewhat even though life’s pretty much back to normal.

It’s just pretty much one of the many stories you’ll get to hear about the disaster really.

How it was?

I was actually at UPD taking my IS 272 finals. Sure I was on my way to the venue when the rains started pouring but that didn’t give me much of a concern that instant. I was actually midway in the exam when I noticed that the rate at which the heavens was pouring was somewhat constant. If it did change, it was only for the worse.

It was raining hard mostly. Then harder. Then just hard after sometime.

I was never one to worry about rains since I was so used to such situations having been a commuter since high school. That time was different however. I forgot my cellphone and it figured out to be the most costly oversight that day. Apart from having to post something bland because of the absence of pics from that weekend, I had to station myself near the payphone at Vinzon’s after the exam to get access to communication to my family I was starting to get worried about.

Since I was practically stuck, it was planned that my brother was to fetch me since 2 hours passed and the rain was still pouring hard in the campus. Public transportation was thinning out as commuters were filling up the waiting sheds so things were indeed turning sour for me. My hunger wasn’t even the first of my concerns then inspite of me having practically no food since I woke up that morning. Nor was it the fact that I needed to doze off in bed since I had to stay up until 3am that morning for review.

It was my concern for my family that had me restless and worried from where I stood. It was practically frustrating to be left nearly helpless from there. Another hour passed and after a couple of calls more, my brother relayed that he was still stuck far south of Metro Manila because vehicles were already stuck in the streets and highways. There was nowhere else to go and nothing much he can do then.

I had to make the push that time. A few more minutes of waiting got me in a jeepney to Philcoa from where I ate a long due brunch. A meal to catch up on missed meals and more importantly to prepare me for the worst just in case.

Stalemate

It was a stalemate along Commonwealth that time in both directions practically. Actually the directions weren’t there anymore as counterflows to avoid high water rendered either side of the island free game. Same goes for the Elliptical Road which saw the counterflows more constricting to traffic. Floodwater held the Philcoa side to University Avenue impassable to vehicles.

It was a stalemate among commuters too. At least among a lot of us for nearly two hours after I arrived there. I found it difficult to find a place to eat as a lot of persons were also helping themselves for the long journey ahead. Outside from where I ate, there stood a lot more of stranded souls waiting for the weather to lighten or the waters to recede to give some semblance of safety for at least a little while.

It was a procession for those who dared brave the waters though. Judging from the numbers of those who did so, it seemed that the flood has been there for so long that they had been forced to march along that submerged portion of Commonwealth in an attempt to push through to their destinations.

I was to go to the opposite direction however and I had to wait until at least I could get to the pedestrian overpass. That is, I had to hike towards the direction of SM North. I had to make the decision and brace myself for the worse because the scenes I had for the day until then was only getting worse.

SM

I made the push when the waters receded a little bit.

It was around 4:30 in the afternoon already if I remember it right. It was quite surprising that I made it to North Avenue from Philcoa in less than 30 minutes. I took the jeepney towards SM North from there as the gridlocked elliptical road prevented them from wandering far into the loop. The wait for other passengers and the time it took for us to get to the mall had me making the most out of my remaining cash for supplies– some crackers and mineral water for an uncertain but definitely time-consuming travel home. BPI ATMs already offline that time and stores closed by the time I got there didn’t look exactly comforting to someone having to literally inch his way closer to home that time.

I was keeping my fingers crossed because the last time I heard of EDSA that day, vehicles there were non-moving since that afternoon. It would be sensible to anticipate a possibility of a walk until Monumento with the way the afternoon panned out.

That would be the worst case decision then. It would still be sensible to wait if things turned out better– that I would be able to get inside a bus that would somehow at least crawl its way towards the next destination point on my map.

While there were people already braving the long walk northbound, there were still some people staying along the covered premises of the mall. Maybe I could give waiting a few minutes to see if things might turn out fine. It never hurts to hope in such times anyway.

It sure did hurt much to be well on your way to do the worst case however.

On Pauses and Breaks

A month ago, all I looked up to was the end of the semester. I thought much of the stress would come to a halt. I thought a lot of the pressures would ebb with school at a standstill.

I never couldn’t have been more wrong.

I’ve never seen problems at work pile up this much in the last couple of years. I’ve almost forgotten how the end of the day felt this much of a relief. Watching television doesn’t help either as there’s nothing much there except the pardons for those once controvertial persons convicted with life imprisonment, the worldwide ripples of the Wall Street problem and more social, political and economic problems everywhere.

So to try lighten up the mood, here are some things to contend with the seriousness of the times though.

  • 150 Best Online Flash Games – Just dumped it here for easier access come the time when I can bum more and worry less. I wish that time comes soon enough though as I can’t even remember when was the last time I’m driven nuts at work.
  • Earth from Above – I might not be even a step on the way towards good photography but I do appreciate good snapshots when I encounter them. I have to admit too that it was pretty relieving to see the planet in different and awesome angles.

The Digital Age in Green

In expressing my reluctance to jump into Vista’s ship a few posts ago, the main point raised there is that there’s nothing much new brought to the table at the expense of the number of computers going to the obsolescence mill. Also included is a mention of the concept paper I did for an environmental management elective–one on e-waste.

Approaching the E-waste Issue

E-waste refers to the environmental issue of discarded electrical and electronics posing environmental and health hazards to the immediate environment where it is left or mismanaged. That is so because such equipments make use of toxic and hazardous components.

In the course of my research I’ve encountered a lot of materials to help address the problem. Given what I came across with, it has to be said that environmental groups have been creative and therefore effective at presenting the issue to the public. A very good case in point would be Greenpeace‘s Guide to Greener Electronics.

Guide to Greener Electronics takes a scorecard approach in benchmarking household names in “personal computers, mobile phones, TV’s and gaming consoles.” That is, given a defined criteria, Greenpeace ranks the manufacturers and presents the order quarterly. The latest results given last March shows Samsung and Toshiba sharing first place with a score of 7.7 and Nintendo still lagging the pack at 0.3.

Since I doubt object embedding can be done object embedding cannot be done here at wordpress, here’s the a screen shot of the ranking graphic they have for the said period:

Guide to Greener Electronics Ranking

Supporting Green Products–Who Would’ve Known?

U600 pictureWhile Samsung really hasn’t changed it’s score from last December’s evaluation, I find their resolve for greener products a coincidental bonus for my change of mobile phone last December. While my actual intention was to have something which gives me the capability to read PDF files, I didn’t want to give up what my Asus V66 essentially does for me, (camera, video recorder, mp3 player, radio, storage.) Just goes to show how minimalist, (or practical, or both) an IT guy I am I guess.

The need for the PDF viewer however, had me getting something so as to maximize my travel time during the weekdays for the past semester. At a time when I barely had time to rest because of the need for a strict time management*, it only made sense to tap into the time I spend for travelling (3-4 hours daily) to read up on school stuff.

Throw in a better camera and video recorder, more storage, a slimmer built and the fact that I “inadvertently” supported an environmentally friendly product and I’d have to say I’m pretty satisfied with how I spent my hardearned money on a new U600 then. That despite having a noticeably short battery life and an irksome glare when viewing the display under direct sunlight that is.

The image btw is linked from the GSM Arena section for the U600.

*I guess the fact that I didn’t actually have the time to blog about my little acquisition was the give away there. 😀

Flipside of More PC’s: Vista Factor

Here’s something I have written for more than a month now. Obviously it spent a lot of time in the heap of blogging todo stuff. Thankfully I can post a something substantial on the subject already.

A Technology Perspective

When there were noises about Microsoft Vista as early as 2 to 3 years ago, I knew it was not for me. Back then I was already pretty adept at the normal use of Linux just as I was contented with XP. Linux was not that resource hungry and demanding in terms of hardware requirements so the computer geek that I am, (oh the redundancy,) found the OS just right for me. XP on the other hand served other purposes for me such as:

  1. As a full-time developer, I am involved with a lot of proprietary technologies officially supported under windows that ditching the operating system would almost be synonimous with suicide.
  2. I have a notebook that other human beings who understandably find windows more intuitive, also use.
  3. The same users from (2) use the notebook for gaming—a realm that’s still seriously dominated windows.

Given my bias against a platform becoming more and more power hungry, what came out in inquirer.net early last February from Joey Alarilla didn’t surprise me at all. Thanks to an exposure in Linux and a concept paper on Electronic waste for an elective on Environmental Management the past semester, that is. In the inquirer article, Alarilla cites Greenpeace’s opposition to Vista saying that Microsoft “could effectively hasten the obsolescence of half the world’s PCs, especially in the absence of fully-functioning global take back systems for PCs.” The stand isn’t really surprising given that longer life of electronics and computers is typical of Greenpeace’s drive for responsibility among electronics and computer manufacturers.

According to Alarilla:

In the first place, many Filipinos don’t even have access to a basic PC, let alone one powerful enough to run Windows Vista… what’s worse is that this “forced upgrade” that could have a negative impact on the environment is not even the result of software innovation. We can already do many of the things Vista is touted to do with Windows XP and the service packs and patches that are already taking up a lot of space on my PC. I don’t think that our problem with bloatware can be solved by upgrading to new bloatware.

Many of us have dutifully upgraded with every new OS, even when we had doubts that it was worth the hassle. Isn’t it about time we learned to say no?

An Environmental Perspective

So what’s the negative impact of speedy obsolescence of computers with the advent of Vista on the environment? With the higher specifications it requires from hardware intended to run it, environmentalists see more users giving up a lot of computers to acquire those which can accomodate the power-hungry Vista. From an environmental perspective, the introduction of Vista will mean more of the same equipment adding to the problem of e-waste management–something I should add is practically non-existent in this country except for a few ISO-compliant companies which have the budget to spend on it.

Apart from the said corporations and industries however, Philippine society for the most part has no idea on how to go about with the proper disposal of computers which have reached their end-of-lives (EOL.) What would happen when the digital divide becomes less of a social issue and more of the same people who are currently deprived of access to Information Communication and Technology (ICT) equipment?

Perhaps a certain Chinese province called Guiyu provides a glimpse of a very possible scenario. In 2002, Basel Action Network (BAN) brought to international attention the environmental and health hazards caused by exporting disposed ICT equipment. The findings of the study document the “environmental injustice” in Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia. In effect the worldwide attention resulting from Exporting Harm had the Chinese government implementing stricter measures to prohibit the export of discarded electronics as noted by this National Geographic feature on the topic. The latter read on the other hand, primarily focuses on Ghana, a country in western Africa.

As I have written in my concept paper:

A look at present sociocultural indicators among the lowest income members of Philippine society point to a seriously impending e-waste issue… A lot of the factors at Guiyu and Ghana are already present… the still prevalent primitive processing of solid waste and the lack of health precautions and measures among waste workers, and the presence of child labor in the waste trade are all too glaring parallels to ignore… the fact that there are good reasons to believe that given the tighter measures taken by China, the Philippines has already been the destination of illegal e-waste export.

And add to that a large coastline in an archipelago which the authorities have difficulty in securing and one will not find it difficult to understand where the environmentalists are coming from.

Modern-day Trends

IT Anyone?

While the IT-sector of the Philippine economy has undoubtedly grown, I never thought the figure’s currently pegged at 400,000 related jobs from 8,000 last 2000. That is if co-Chairman of the National Competitiveness Council, Cesar B. Bautista is to be believed.

In an Infotech article written at PDI today, he spoke of a positive outlook for the country’s BPO services sector as something “to overtake India” in the near future. This as he cites a Frontier Strategy Group report released early this month as the reason for the optimism.

I hoping that the present crop of IT workforce could stand up to the challenge-if ever there really is going to be one.

What was that again?

A PC World article featured at Yahoo news tells of the effect of frequent mobile phone usage that is brain slowdown. The result of a study on 300 persons for nearly two and a half years indicated that the slowdown was still considered normal though.

However plans on expanding the study this time for a longer period of study on 17,000 people, is already on the drawing board.

Now that’s something definitely worth looking into as mobile phone usage has made it to the just about any common man’s routine. That and the fact that society adapted to it so quickly that just a decade ago, only the most affluent in this third world country could be seen flipping their phones in public, all point to a possible health hazard to a mobile generation of humans.

The Long Way Home

So the average L.A. driver gets to spend the longest time in traffic according to a Reuters report on the 10 worst metropolitan traffic in the U.S. In particular, those in L.A. waste 72 hours annually in traffic, (that’s 3 whole days of a year spent in traffic alone.) Runner-ups include (unfortunately) San Francisco, Washington D.C., Atlanta, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arllington area, San Diego, Houston, Detroit, San Jose and Orlando in that order. Read the rest of the whole article here.

I’d like to see an independent study come up with something on Metro Manila traffic to give L.A. a run for its money though. :))

I Want My Money Back

One of the reasons why I keep few personal stuff besides not wanting to spend for something I won’t use often is that protection for consumer rights here in the Philippines still has to go a very long way. How many times has the mediocrity of products and services been read or heard?

Sadly I’ve had my share of things such as the shrug of the shoulder, inefficient support and downright defective products and service. The thing is protection for small-time public consumers is still practically non-existent here even if service providers are given the green light to clamp you down with an exclusive contract for a good number of months.

In a society whose government does strive to protect the voter’s interest, some steps on complaining do get results. Looking at that article, it’s not hard to see how much consumer protection in this country still has to improve on.