water, water, everywhere

But not a drop to drink, as the rhyme goes.

Ultimately, that’s how it’s looking in Metro Manila and other provinces after Ondoy (“Ketsana”) and Pepeng (“Parma”).

But it doesn’t have to be that way, thanks to a new technology that quickly turns dirty water into clean, potable water.

Nonprofit organizations are working to bring this technology to the Philippines to help those affected by the floods. If you’d like to help, click here.

Watch this video to learn more:

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more on water

If anything, these floods have reminded us that we are an archipelago. It’s a fact of life: water surrounds us. Rivers and creeks criss-cross through even our big cities. Naturally, these bodies of water swelled up and spilled over on the streets during the heavy rains. Driving through Quezon City last week, I was suddenly aware of many bridges marking even small waterways. For sure I had passed those bridges countless times before, but with hardly a second thought.

The floods have also underscored what may have been only subtly hinted at in the past — that our society has become increasingly consumerist and trash-happy. Plastic bags are everywhere, choking our landfills, cluttering our streets, floating in our waters. How many thousands of plastic bags do those malls give out in a day? As I drove along Araneta Avenue in Quezon City last week, I was appalled at the garbage lying along the street — at the volume of it as well as at the realization that there had been that much garbage in the river, and the river just had to spit it out, heaps and heaps of it, back onto the road.

Near E. Rodriguez Avenue, cutting across a residential area to get to St. Luke’s Hospital, is another bridge. My friend and I were wondering how high the water had risen. Our answer came in the form of the ubiquitous plastic bag — several of them — caught on branches of trees along the road.

In all the finger pointing that ensued after the floods, it became obvious that no one was going to point the finger at him-/herself. Well, the truth is we are all accountable. It was we who allowed plastic bags in the millions and other solid waste to pass through our hands each day. We dumped our garbage in the nearest waterway, or turned the other way when we saw it being done. And in the name of progress, we allowed malls and factories to be built right beside rivers, practically giving them license to pollute those rivers.

It’s time we took these things a little more seriously. We must take a little more care where we dump our waste, and what kind of waste it is. Our government, perhaps through the educational system, might want to look into consumer education so that even schoolchildren will know how to handle plastic and other non-biodegradable items.

And while we’re at it, we should try to develop an awareness of how much of the things we use or own, and how much of our habits are actually harmful to the environment. The environment, as these floods have taught us, is not out there in the oceans and seas, not in the ozone, not in some forest in Central America. The environment is here, around us — in our communities, on our streets, in our cities.

Maybe it’s hubris or just plain stupidity for us to have assumed that Metro Manila would never be flooded to the extent or scale that rural areas sometimes are. Let’s make this our wake-up call. Let’s not allow this hubris, this stupidity to lead us to commit the same mistake a second time.

Let’s not wait for this to happen again.

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