Metro Manila had long ago set itself up for its own destruction by flooding

According to Mark McDonald in a New York Times blog post, the recent floods that hit Metro Manila this week “seem to have caused little public anger over further municipal dysfunction in the densely populated capital of more than 10 million” and that, instead, “Filipinos demonstrated a remarkable civic spirit as they shared news of evacuation centers and dropoff points for donations of emergency supplies”. I’ll bet a lot of Filipinos will be more than tempted to compare this observation with the stoic dignity with which the Japanese responded to the earthquake and tsunami disaster that devasted their land in March of 2011.

That’s an apples-to-oranges comparison at best.

The Japanese suffered after preparing themselves for such a disaster to the best of their abilities. Filipinos, on the other hand, suffered the effects of the present calamity after failing to prepare for it. The irony in the words “demonstrated a remarkable civic spirit” used to describe Filipinos’ response to the disaster after the fact tends to escape people who don’t really have a deep understanding of The Filipino Condition. Perhaps, to be fair, such civic spirit exists now that there is not much choice left for any other response. But consider for a moment whether such “civic spirit” even existed among Filipinos prior to the disaster when options did abound.

[Photo courtesy]

Filipinos are not exactly known to be the civic-minded kinds when it comes to routine day-to-day living. Indeed, Filipinos are known more for their aversion to following rules and doing the right thing; prefering instead to focus their energies on coming up with creative ways of putting one over one another. Furthermore…

[Philippine] society is quite extraordinary in the sense that simple rules and regulations whether on the road or in the work place are for the most part ignored. This is because each individual has this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. It is why you see people cutting you off on highway lanes on the road or pushing their way in lines ahead of the rest in a queue. In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.

Add to that the appallingly routine dumping of garbage and human waste into Manila’s waterways, storm drains, even into Manila Bay itself. It’s no wonder flooding reaches the sorts of proportions we see today. And yet we celebrate the “civic spirit” of those who are seen to be “stepping up” to “disaster response” — a disaster largely made worse by Filipinos’ own ironic lack of real collective civic spirit under normal circumstances.

Closer to what is directly relevant today, I now defer to Neal Cruz as he sees it in his recent piece where he observes…

There are some scoundrels, however, who purposely clog the drainage pipes of some streets precisely to induce floods. Why? So that vehicles will stall in the floods and they will earn by pushing the stalled vehicles to higher ground. Or they can earn fees from pedestrians who do not want to get their feet wet to use the wooden planks that they have laid above the water. Or they can ferry them from dry ground to dry ground on their pushcarts—for a fee. Trabaho lang, they will tell you.

That is par for the course in low-lying areas like España. But what about V. Luna street in Quezon City that was never flooded before? Why was it suddenly flooded one day so that many vehicles stalled and had to be pushed to higher ground by men waiting there? Workers of the MMDA found the drainage pipes blocked with rocks and garbage. Were the rocks lodged there by the floodwaters or purposely placed there to block the drainage pipe and cause the flooding?

Suffice to say, Filipinos do indeed deserve each other.

Fortunately for Times blogger McDonald, a commenter provides some perspective that sets the record straight for him…

In a comment on my colleague Floyd Whaley’s story in The New York Times, Tomas Gomez III of Calbayog called metropolitan Manila an “abused space.”

“It is engaged in self-strangulation by not consciously decongesting and redistributing its population,” Mr. Gomez said. “Slums and squatter colonies predominate much of the terrain, occupying what used to be open canals/streams, river tributaries and even riverbanks themselves. Clogging of natural drainage arteries is the tolerated norm. It is beyond its carrying capacity and for a long time now has been bursting at the seams.”

Filipinos. Victims perhaps now. Not so in sunnier days. Filipinos can be quite selective when it comes to occasions for high-fives. But when you are the sort of person who more often than not applies a bit of brain, such occasions leave an aftertaste that is quite off, to say the least.


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54 Comments on "Metro Manila had long ago set itself up for its own destruction by flooding"

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OH this is funny.Manila,or manura as many refer to it,is just screwed.It is considered one of the top five filthiest cities in the world and is a cesspool,NO DOUBT ABOUT IT.Purposely clogged drains,squatters crapping,littering everywhere.Both city and citizens so hopeless that they can never be saved from the current state of affairs.A truly hopeless place/people,incapable of helping itself and with no apparent desire to do anything to help the situation.Although the one exception is to beg for help from UNCLE SAM,PATHETIC.


And those mongrels throw insults to those who refuse their help or pay. Now that is what you call bayanihan. It is so much fun in this wretched city.


Well, our tourism slogan cannot describe it more. Pinoy ingenuity makes Philippines fun(and funny).

IF we really want change, we have to be ready to pay the cost. Massive tragic calamity must first happen, perhaps 20 times worse than Ondoy. Filipinos are sleepyheads. That’s why I do not have any hope in this country. Not in our generation.


The Philippines should of went communist and kick out the capitalist pig known as Uncle Sam. Vietnam, Cuba are real countries who actually did something about it.


BS Aquino: I liek teh Phils. It is maunlad!

Biased News Network: All Hail Aquino! Owait! Jessica won teh Amerikan Idol! Be proud to be Filipino!

But oh no! Biased News Network is low on ratings since they don’t liek to report ze news! Oh well, let’s blame Arroyo and do coverage and not advise citizens any good tips for this disaster!


Hyden Toro

We have not learned from previous flood disasters, like Typhoon “Ondoy”. It is worse than Typhoon “Ondoy”…Noynoy Aquino administration is fully to be blamed. Not the people, who did not heed the typhoon warning. Noynoy Aquino has the Fund and the power to repair the “esteros” and remove the Squatters. He even cancellled the Master Flood Control Plan, in favor of his own Pork Barrels and his friends Pork Barrels…


I’d say Filipinos deserved this. Don’t get me wrong or anything as I, myself, am a Filipino & I’ve lived in the Philippines since birth to my preteen years. Garbage was a serious problem especially in Manila & neither the government nor the people took any initiative to solve it.

It’s about time ALL Filipinos learned a lesson & take immediate, preventive actions.

Proud Pinoy


You underestimate the power of the Filipino Spirit! If these floods become a regular phenomenon in Manila then we will make Manila into VENICE!!! Anong say mo ngayon ha!

The Filipino will always triumph in the end.


Amir Al Bahr

Uhm, Proud Pinoy,

Venice is a group of islands upon which canals were built to facilitate transport and trade. If Manila becomes Venice it’s because Filipinos allowed it to sink, not because they improvised around it.

Don’t compare apples and oranges, please.


Venice in asia made of floodwater??? You have got to be kidding me lol.



You underestimate the power of the Filipino Spirit! If these floods become a regular phenomenon in Manila then we will make Manila into VENICE!!! Anong say mo ngayon ha!

The Filipino will always triumph in the end.


That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. Not with the amount of lazy idiots living in this country.


Writing this article now is like going to a fat man’s funeral and telling people that he shouldn’t have eaten too much if he didn’t want to die of a heart attack.

People should be held accountable but there is a proper time to start pointing fingers– it isn’t now.

Power, corruption, greed, ignorance; one thing leads to another. Clearly a complete overhaul of the system is needed. We will not survive another flood if we continue to argue amongst each other and care about only ourselves. Change starts with you. One step at a time. For now, let’s open our minds and realize that in our own ways of ignorance, we have brought this upon ourselves. We planted these seeds long ago by seeing what was happening yet not doing anything about it. Time for argument and talk is over. It is now time for awareness and action. Take… Read more »
Maria Sherven
No amount of blame or pointing fingers is going to fix the flooding so stop the bickering and do something about it. I grew up in Manila in the 60’s & migrated to the US in 1974. Even back then flooding was a regular occurrence so this is nothing new. Obviously it got worse over the years as no solutions have been made at all. The governement as well as the citizens need some intensive lessons in working out solutions maybe w/ the more prosperous nations helping too! Tama na ‘yan sagutan! Let us pray that God will help our… Read more »
Grace Disney

The Philippines is hopeless… with all of its corrupt politicians and scumbag people, it should be destroyed like gotham

oliver mia

If PH is hopeless then by the same dim insight the world is hopeless to get rid of the banksters.


we may have issues about our country but we Filipnos know how to mend for what our country lack. If Philippines is really that bad I don’t understand why expats/foreigners are still here? probably cause its the only place they can afford.


When you think of the deliberate clogging of pipes, it makes me wonder: politicians aren’t the only things that are corrupt here. Even the ordinary people are. Doesn’t matter whether they’re rich or poor. You are what you do.

The Philippine Guild

the president is probably horrified that running a country is not about glitz and glamour. it’s been two years since he took to power to serve but all I heard from him is his constant request to give him space and time to work. this year, though, the spiel is different. he seems to opine that he needs more time to finish his projects with so little a time ahead of him.