It has been months since Typhoon Ondoy beat Luzon mercilessly on September 26, 2009 and people had started to build their lives and continue living although many are still in post traumatic stress and depression.
One time I met up with my fellow writer Maresa Gallos Engo, the daughter of the late Atty George Gallos and Adelfa Gallos and a former resident of Manila for 18 years. Mrs. Engo has always been active in her campaign to protect the environment. What she lacks in machinery she compensates in her writings and advocacy.
Engo’s latest work was the environmental-centered newspaper collage exhibit at the Bacolod City Library, which ran from September to October 2009, in support of the Bacolod City Government's observance of the 7th Development Policy Research Month which was spearheaded by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies in accordance with Presidential Proclamation 247 dated September 2, 2002. Her newspaper collage exhibit promoted art therapy and paper recycling in line with this year's theme, "Coping with Climate Variability and Change."
I soon learned that Engo and her family were among the victims of Typhoon Seniang (storm signal no. 1) which struck Manila on November 3, 2000. The flashfloods then were in Brgy. Rizal, Makati City as well as in the adjacent areas. This forced the Engos to relocate to Bacolod.
When she watched all the damages and sufferings caused by Typhoon Ondoy on TV, Engo relates that it was like reliving the ordeal she and her family had before. She remembers very well the floodwater entering their house in Brgy Rizal, rising to chest level.
Engo’s place was situated beside a stream filled with water lilies. The flooding could have been caused by poor drainage or because of the fewer trees to absorb flood water. Their barangay was just wooden bridges away from flood prone areas like Pateros and Taguig. Back in November 2000 when Pasig was also flooded, Laguna de Bay was easily seen when one is in Taguig. A news clipping from a major daily dated December 18, 2000 points to the overflowing of Laguna de Bay as one of the major causes of the flooding during Typhoon Seniang’s rampage.
The water subsided gradually within a month’s time. During that time, Engo stayed in a room for rent because of the unsanitary living conditions in their area. The locality became a huge breeding ground for mosquitoes with people dying from Leptospirosis. Fearing for the safety of her family, she decided to relocate to a safer place.
Migrating to Bacolod meant a lot of expenses for the Engos inspite of the fact that her parents and relatives provided logistical support. The Engos stayed in a small house in the family compound which was vacated by her grandmother. Her two elder children, John Peter and Jobelle (the youngest is Janette), had to adjust to a new school and they had to learn the local Hiligaynon language. The post traumatic shock and cultural shock reflected in her children’s grades.
The flooding of their place served as a turning point in Engo’s life. She became more aware of the need for environmental protection and preservation and became a self-proclaimed environmentalist. Engo strongly believes that as inhabitants of this planet it is our duty to protect it. Here in Bacolod, floods had been experienced due to indiscriminate disposal of garbage which clogs the drainage system.
Of course, it is also our duty to find suitable land where to set up our residences. As a CI/Appraiser during my days with the now defunct Prime Savings Bank, it was my work to ascertain that lots offered as collateral are not flood prone. There are low and high areas and this is a very important factor to consider when buying a lot. This conjcept of high ground is also taught in Feng Shui or Chinese Geomancy.
The changes in weather can also affect the ecology. For example, there are only about 67 Philippine Eagles left, including those held in captivity at the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao and they are now classified as endangered species. This is just a step away from extinction.
Engo’s exhibit has already been accommodated in twenty venues in Bacolod City prior to the display at the city library. Many of those who were exposed to her work were students. Engo is hoping that they will become more conscious of their environment and take active participation while they are still children and more importantly when they become adults and the driving force in our society.
Engo’s advice to the readers, “We should appreciate the trees around us. Let us plant more trees in our backyards to give us food, shade and protection from global warming. Let us save the trees in our forests through paper recycling. Let us practice waste segregation in our homes.”