‘Life’ in Metro Manila

"This is how we are."


I write this in the middle of a brownout fervently hoping that the battery of my laptop is enough to finish this piece, or that power will be back soon. 

We also have been waterless for more than a week and we survive by fetching water from my daughter’s house, or through Maynilad’s water rationing when it comes and we are home. We drive and use gasoline each time we go to my daughter’s house. So our expenses increase besides the physical effort of carrying pails of water inside our house. 

Our water provider, Manila Water posts schedules but these have never been followed. Per its latest published schedule, our place is supposed to have water from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. I stayed up last night in the hope of being able to collect water but there was nothing until midnight. I went to bed but awakened at about 1:30 a.m. to the sound of water gushing from a faucet. I stood up only to realize that it was just a dream. I even dream of water! 

We use the “tabo” system when we take a bath and we stand on “palanggana” so the used water can be used for cleaning and flushing the toilet. We use paper plates and disposable cups and utensils when we eat. We are aware that this is not doing the environment any good but what choice do we have? We do not like piles of dirty dishes in the sink because of flies and insects. 

We just have our laundry done outside because there is no water to use to do the laundry ourselves. 

My plants are dying and I feel very sad because I am the one who planted them. We are not alone as I see that my neighbors’ plants are in similar state. I live in a place where people generally like plants and it’s distressing to see a lot of plants drying up. 

I also no longer invite friends over. Since I rarely go out, I liked friends coming over to eat, chat, and just vege out. But we do not do this anymore because it means cooking, using real dinnerware, etc., etc. Because we are waterless, I do not even think of doing this for as long as the situation does not change. So, my social life is also almost zero.

We all work in my household. We do not have a maid because we thought it would be better for us since we are all adults and no one needs special care. So, we do all the household chores on top of our livelihood. You can just imagine how hard it is for us now. We need to schedule things, even our work to make sure that someone is home in case Maynilad ration comes, or water miraculously flows from our faucets. We are all almost always tired and tempers are rising. How can you remain cool-headed with all these irritants? 

The summer heat does not help. It is the time of the year when we want to take showers as frequently as possible. And now, even power is problematic. Imagine, no water, no electricity? I will not be surprised if more people will suffer from heatstroke. 

And yet, my family is not poor. We are not rich but I am past that stage when I need to work my ass off to send my children to school, make sure that there’s food on the table, and have money to spend when someone gets sick. My kids are all professionals and have their own careers. I no longer worry about their needs now. 

I know I should not complain as much because millions of Filipino  in Metro Manila have it worse than mine. I can only imagine how they are coping with the ongoing shortage of water and power supply. I especially feel sorry for families with small kids because it must be doubly hard for them. Imagine fetching water with kids in tow. In poor communities, they do not have the luxury of paying to have their laundry done. I feel for the mothers. If I complain of my life now, theirs must be much more difficult.

Yet, government says that there are less poor Filipino families now. According to the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA), the percentage of poor families living below poverty line dropped to 16.1% in January to June 2018 from 22.2% for the same period in 2015 in the entire country. It is a significant drop of 6.1%. 

My first reaction when I read this news was, there must have been some manipulation in the computations. Then I learned that the poverty threshold used by the PSA was P10,481.00 a month for a family of five. If the family earns P10,500.00, they are already above the poverty line, and therefore, no longer considered poor. 

In Metro Manila and many other places, P10,500.00, is definitely not enough to need the food and non-food needs of a family of five. This translates to P70.00 per family member, per day. You have to factor in rent, transportation, utilities, food, schooling expenses, clothing, and many other things. Clearly, to make it appear that there are less poor people, PSA manipulated the poverty threshold. 

Instead of really addressing poverty through employment opportunities, and provision of basic services, government chooses to lie to the people. Just like this water and power shortage which should have been seen in advance and addressed in advance before the problems reach the critical level, government chose to look the other way and allowed these to happen. 

No wonder, for many, life in Metro Manila is not only bad, it has become almost inhumane. 

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

Topics: Elizabeth Angsioco , ‘Life’ in Metro Manila
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