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.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

[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.

54 Replies to “Metro Manila had long ago set itself up for its own destruction by flooding”

  1. 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.

      1. I guess I am glad that there are no reports of looting/destroying of stores here in the Philippines like those in Europe and Americas. – Positive note.

        But hey, @Howard Lee. We have got to face the music. Try not to be too sensitive. This is no time for sugarcoating as the situation is getting worst after every typhoon. And to think there was no typhoon declared these past few days.

        Calm down. It is time to think to solutions. Prevention is ALWAYS BETTER than cure.

      2. You moronic pinoys are always proud but not humble simply because you can’t handle the truth and want to escape the problems you faced.

    1. Very well said, Ronnie! Many typhoons have already passed, and those Manila people DID NOTHING to prepare for this time. THOSE WHO LIVE IN THE SLUM AREAS DESERVE THIS FLOOD FOR CLOGGING THE WATERWAYS.What’s more infuriating is that they are called “residents” on TV. pathetic.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. Nah. You just wanted this to be like NORTH KOREA, which is a REAL communist state. Vietnam and Cuba are slowly embracing capitalism, mind you.

    2. You should be proud because Noynoy’s adviser is also your fellow commietard. His name is RONALD LLAMAS.

      Enjoy hell. You’ll love it. 😀

    3. Yeah,right.Vietnam is begging the U.S.A. to ‘Please,come back…and bring your dollars with you.’.Who are you kidding? The U.S.military had mercy on that country and could have wiped it off the face of the earth.The U.S.A. left and 35yrs. kater they are screwed and need the U.S.A. to save them from ‘Good-friend China’.Left by themseleves they could do nothing,like another S.E.ASIAN country I could name,but will not.

    4. Perhaps Pancho is right in one thing… Vietnam opened its economy and Cuba is planning to open it. And they’re going to let Uncle Sam in.

  5. 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!


  6. 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…

  7. 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.

  8. Benign0,

    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.


  9. 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.

    1. What you think is stupid now will be brilliant later. 50 years from now, Manila will be the top tourist destination in the world as its transition into the Venice of Asia is complete. Imagine the amount of employment having millions of Pinoy Gondolas (we can call it Pinoylas) transporting people throughout the metropolis.

      Filipinos will be so good with rowing that we might even sweep all the rowing events at the 2052 Olympic Games which will be held at …. you guessed it Manila!!! Imagine that: A Venetian Manila Olympics at 2052. Filipinos will be so proud of themselves that Antipinoys will all come back to loving their great culture and even deny that they were Antipinoys to begin with. On that day, Benign0 and people like yourself will apologize to us and we, being the better and smarter men, will accept your apology.

      Mabuhay and Pilipinas! Manila Olympics 2052!!!

      1. That is ONLY possible if the Filipinos turn away from their bad attitudes/habits. And why wait until the place is flooded to try and make the place habitable and attractive, when we can do it NOW???

        Sabi nga ng el presidente – yuck – “Kung hindi tayo, sino pa?” at “Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?”

        And come on, why aspire to be something else when the Philippine culture, if not corrupted, is beautiful as is?

        Why do you think people are unsatisfied and people continue to write about the good and the bad of our nation? Because we can actually do something to salvage it!

  10. “Benign0,

    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.

    1. Wow,

      Yes I agree. It was dumb to say that will make Manila into Venice. I should have said: “We will make Manila GREATER than Venice”

      Also, check out my post about making Venetian Manila as the site for the 2052 Olympics where Filipinos will dominate all rowing events.

      1. Buko ka na. 😛 Can’t wait for benigns to delete all of your comments since all of them are SPAM and will permanently block you.

        1. Lol! His only crime is doing a bad impersonation of both a pastor and a patriot. So far he hasn’t violated any of our Terms of Service. 😉 If we banned every sockpuppet operator here, there’d be nobody left. 😀 IP Address (which is a single one shared by both “Proud Pinoy” and “Pastor Ernie”) is noted for future reference, nonetheless.

        2. Daido,

          Well I was using old spoof nicks all the time. So old folks like Ilda, benign0, Toro, etc knew all along what was up.

          I am still flabbergasted why so many Pinoys don’t appreciate satire and sarcasm. Sometimes you can make a point more devastatingly effective that way.

          Oh well, back to life. Until the next Philippine catastrophe. Have fun guys. The Philippines will remain a shit hole and there is only one solution: GET THE F*** OUT.


        3. @Proud Pinoy: That’s so defeatist of you. If your intent is for sarcasm and satire, then you could’ve told us in the first place. But you didn’t.

          That’s your problem, not mine. Actually, I really care for my own country, branding you as an anti-intellectual prick. But it’s too late. So YOU should be the one who should GET OUT.


        4. Do you understand the point of sarcasm and satire? You would have to have almost no reading comprehension at all not to sense the dripping sarcasm obvious in his posts. Don’t be rude to him because you are too dim to get the joke.

  11. 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.

    1. Accountable for what? Filipinos are blameless. We are just making the best of what life throws at us. You might as well blame Indonesia for the Tsunami.

      1. Indonesia’s tsunami was caused by geologic forces.

        Manila’s floods were caused by human indifference.

        And besides there already is an Asian Venice: it’s BANGKOK, and they have a BETTER flood management system than ours.

    2. If not now, when? When people put all of this “in the past” (as many Filipino often do)?

      Manila had THREE YEARS after Typhoon Ketsana to come up with a comprehensive flood control program, and yet apparently this flood was even worse than the last time. Worse, ALL flood control programs already in place were taken away by the current administration. It’s easy to actually see who’s responsible for all of this.

      1. When? Probably after people are able to get off their roof.

        I have no problems making heads roll for the lack of preplanning that made the tragedy worse but the the timing of the article (which was last wednesday)was just insensitive). It’s no different from people saying that we deserved the flood because of the RH bill.

  12. 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 the time out to make a change. It is always possible. One step at a time.

  13. 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 country find the right fix to eventually stop the flooding in the future! I trust the true spirit of bayanihan still exists in this day and age.

    1. “The governement as well as the citizens need some intensive lessons in working out solutions maybe w/ the more prosperous nations helping too!”

      Um, no. Why should any prosperous nation help out a nation that flat-out REFUSES to help itself in the first place?

  14. 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.

    1. They go for the easy meatbags that are Filipinas. And no, being white there means sellers jack up the price ten fold since they think all foreigners are high rollers.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.