By Jun Ledesma

(St. Petersberg, Russia) – The benefit of travel is learning from other people’s experience and realizing how conditions could have been better,livelier, fun and productive if we did something right from the very beginning. But all is not lost. It needs a collective decision of people, planners and will power of politicians to alter the course of our brief stay on earth.

Urban centers, especially Metro Manila, are littered with shanties that line up like ribbons along river banks and our shorelnes. People are drawn into the cities because the opportunities are there. Business and job oportunities are there ranging from employment for professionals, contractuals, beggars and thieves all because the government spends 90% of infrastructure development funds and free trade zones in the peripheries of these capitals. Huge sum of money circulates in MM which is a veritable lure for people to gravitate in these centers of development.

Sadly our primary educational institutions prepares our students for employment and hardly a tint entrepreneurship. So where there are job opportunities we pack our new graduates like sardines in primary employment destination is Metro Manila and other progressive capitals nationwide.

Since we are stuck in this socio-economic gridlock we are not actually without solutions. The much maligned Marcos government started it, like transforming the devil’s residence called Dagat-dagatan in Tondo into the “city of man”, farms into productive fields with “Masagana 99” and “Masaganang Maisan” and the seas around us with “Biyayang Dagat” programs. But outrageous fortunes caught up with him and along with him our own future. The Aquino govenrment unfortunately turned back the clock and then we were back in ground zero.

So forget Marcos and consider the Aquinos a bad nightmare, the later having considered, in the language of author Ado Paglinawan, a fluke that “looks at every solution a problem”. This is our time and let us not squander it. Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is giving us a new breath of life.

But we need politicians and planners with visions to back up President Duterte. Let me cite some stark realities which actually illustrates the tragic ironies which Filipinos miss and suffer. In Amsterdam and in St. Petersberg among the vital assets which these progressive capitals have are their rivers. When these were not enough they built canals. In Metro Manila, we have Laguna Bay and Pasig river which meanders in several towns and cities and then the esteros. We need money to catch up with progressive cities. Problem with us Pinoys is we demand so much from government but we whine and hold rallies when taxes are raised. We complained about a bottle of coke costing P24 per bottle and rice price increasing too. In the cities along the Baltic the same coke cost P150 and a fish burger P670!!

In the two above-cited European capitals, rivers and canals are prime navigational routes that move people and goods. These aside from efficient public transport systems like railways and buses. The river and canal banks are riprapped with concrete sustaining walls and a walk way lined with shade trees and wide enough for promenaders. And then two lane roads that divides run parallel with the rivers and canals then come next rows of housing condominiums. The environs are spectacularly clean and orderly.

In stark contrast we make our esteros and rivers the prime “sanitary landfill” of squatter colonies and factories that conveniently dump their chemical and other garbage. Our rivers and esteros smell like carcass and poison gas and the waters murky. In Amsterdam and in St. Petersburg the waters are immaculately clean . River cruise boats serve lunch and dinner with nary an obnoxious smell lingers in the air.

I wish we have half of what these two cities have. In the past Amsterdam of Netherlands had to be drained of water one reason why they built those canals. Whenever needed, they pump out water to prevent flood. Metro Manila will not suffer from severe flooding if Laguna Lake and Pasig river are clean free of water hyacinths and garbage. I have seen this dream in vibrating realities as I sail the Baltic Sea.

As an aside, Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship is staffed by more than 400 Filipinos. Mark Gonzales, who is an officer of the ship and is from Bulacan engaged us in an interesting conversation about his work experience. One thing he and his fellow Pinoys are so proud of is the disappearance of drug syndicates that proliferate in their respective towns and cities since Duterte waged his war on drugs. When he learned that we are from Davao City, the more he became excited. Mark hopes that under the Duterte government he anf fellow OFWs can look forward to enjoy some retirement benefits, like a monthly pension, for after all overseas Filipino workers are the biggest contributors to the Philippine economy.


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