Sunday, November 29, 2009

On The Streets Where People Live

Real estate definitely is a very scarce and valuable commodity, especially in a place teeming with people not only exponentially expanding through runaway birth dates but with added growth accounted by the influx of migrants from different beleaguered parts of the big island of Mindanao.

Thus, the purchase and acquisition of real estate for housing hereabouts is simply beyond the dream of this unfortunate segment of the population.

Cagayan de Oro is a place bursting with people, reaching a nadir where one believes total population for now defies accurate census counting. I have never gotten a definite answer to the question about the current population of the city. Voter registration records should only reveal an incomplete picture, since it clearly does not include non-voters like children which number in great hordes.

A basic societal dilemma then is where to decently lodge all these people with their families. Where and how to provide sufficient and adequate places where people can live and raise their burgeoning families.

Given the gargantuan size of this problem in this particular context, one can only sadly wonder how.

But we do see daily where many of them “live”, not far from the streets that we negotiate daily in our workaday lives. Actually, many of them live partly on the streets that we use daily – parts of the street where their kids play, laundry and bathing are dutifully done, etc.

This video typifies many such streets in the city where residents live lives in their cramped and precarious worlds.

A messy situation exacerbated by the fact that these houses or shanties that people build on these sites are actually squatting on tiny strips of public land separating the actual paved streets from the boundaries of private land. In the process erasing whatever necessary provisions for road shoulders and sidewalks were planned.

Creating a scenario where a narrow street of two lanes, one lane for each direction, has not only been deprived of necessary shoulders but where parts of both lanes have been co-opted by squatter residents coming out of their reed-thin houses and their lives literally spilling into the street proper. Add to that all their parked vehicles of assorted construction – motorized or pedal-powdered, etc., garaged flushed to their shanties’ sides. And some house furniture to boot.

Imagine then how the passing vehicles have to expertly negotiate thru those extremely narrowed streets replete with impediments both human and otherwise.

Even in the terribly busy national highway that traverses the city, one can find street lanes embedded with metal spikes where clandestine vendors would attach ropes to hold down temporary tarp roofing/siding.

Life under bridges in this benighted place is another matter best suited for exposition at another time. Or what about life in a river island created by silting which has now enough residents to merit the label of a barangay?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cry For Me, Cagayanons?

Old Cagayanons pining for familiar sights in the old hometown may have to brace themselves for a visual jolt.

View these short videos taken Saturday late in the afternoon. See if you can recognize from the maze the old familiar haunts very reminiscent of your youthful memories.

Many probably would not recognize these places.

These were shot along Divisoria Park as I walked along the middle of R N Abejuela (So. Divisoria) St. inching toward Xavier University or positioned at a corner of Velez (Del Mar) and the former.

The chaotic frenzy that is now the infamous hallmark of the weekly two-day nite café has ominously masked the once rough jewel we treasured anyway as our premier park, centered right in the heart of the old poblacion. A truly distinctive landmark we used to proudly attach to our beloved hometown.

Now, it might as well be a huge disorderly movie set depicting a tent city of refugees, or a dreary scene of displaced merchants forcibly ejected from their establishments by some natural calamity, like a conflagration or a bad flood. Except this nightmare recurs every week, with the eager players showing up earlier and earlier than allowed, and showing up even during regular weekdays.

But no, for this is an actualization of a method of madness, executed with design and promoted with flagrant political self-interests by the city government. Proffered with, one is sure, some expressed sham Christian concerns for the less fortunate of the citizenry, providing them rare opportunities not otherwise enjoyed in a competitive business environment.

But in the process social order, equity, and the respect and compliance with laws be damned for the rest of the city residents, especially those who are duly licensed and taxed and also in the business of providing the self-same merchandise and services provided by the purveyors in the café.

Never mind that the countless fly-by-night (literally) bazaar-like purveyors there may be unlicensed, untaxed, and maybe selling contraband. Small pesky details really in the general scheme of things where voting constituencies are the paramount concern. Political power at all costs, that’s the price to pay.

But for whom?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wet And Wild In Cagayan de Oro

After several days of pounding from hard incessant rains, Cagayan de Oro succumbed to extensive floodings in various parts of the city. The likelihood in populated places close to rampaging creeks and the bloated river. And in many streets and highways which either had inadequate drainage or no provision for drainage at all. Which for this city is the rule rather than the exception.

Rain damage and the ensuing human suffering likened to the dire results of last January’s similar event. So what else is new?

It was a wet and wild week for the city and its residents. The pounding rains cleaned and bleached the city’s many concrete streets, and converted to muddied potholes those that weren’t so blessed. And what city garbage collection has never done adequately the indiscriminate rains summarily collected strewn and assorted garbage and dumped them into the many creeks and riverways. Hurray for garbage collection and another minus grade for the environment and ecology. Par for the course in a third world country.

Even our sacred subdivision went underwater temporarily, in some low-lying areas at least. The rains were massive enough to close the two guarded main entrances which were temporarily converted to churning swimming holes, or more aptly, riverways.

Sequestered in our downtown building for a while, one could only record the rains beating down on the hapless residents and challenging motor vehicles which continued ripping through the soggy streets.

At least we had a healthy respite from the heat and humidity. What’s a wet shirt from the rain compared to a wet shirt from smelly and irritating sweat? No contest.

Now the sun has peeked out, undaunted by the rain’s last hurrah earlier this morning. And streets have dried up, save for those with inches of rain still on them. The passing vehicles still have their job cut out for them, in turning the unlikely mixture to muddy goo. Once dried and powdery, we then will have the nose-curling dust to reckon with.

No rest for the wicked?