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Water, miracles, and man-made solutions

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By José Abeto Zaide

Power, man can create. But water (like mercy), “drop­peth like the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.” (Portia, Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”)

Manila Bulletin headlined last Tuesday, “Public urged to conserve water” and sub-titled with the text, “Angat Dam nears 160-meter critical mark level.”

PAGASA announced the official onset of rainy season; but admit­ted “insignificant” rainfall the past weeks. Angat Dam’s ideal water level is 180 meters (with 160 meters as critical water level for domestic supply); but our water level already lost another 17.61 meters. NWBRD Executive Director Sevillo David Jr. said that Angat Dam is already well below its 160-meter benchmark. The last time this was breached was in July, 2010, when it dipped to 157.57, the lowest in history.

Angat Dam supplies 96% of Metro Manila’s needs. The water level in An­gat is expected to normalize with the southwest monsoon (habagat) in the period between July and September.

We had light rains in May and June; but we would welcome torrents and even a strong monsoon. We have to save together or parch together. We instituted water restrictions and 11-hour water service daily in certain areas. Residents are advised: No car wash; minimize flushing of W/C; no running water when brushing teeth; and Dehin goli or share water dur­ing bath showers (more fun). In US cities which are more accustomed to communal action, no car wash during water shortage.

To combat water scarcity, we have blueprints approved. But these will take four to six years. As I write, I hear the short burst of thunder, flashes of lightning and torrents of pouring rain. Instead of despairing of man’s resolve, we look at Situation Impossible, But Not Hopeless (as in the Monty Python film). There is an alternative – prayers. Our most common recourse is the authorized prayer Oratio Imperata Ad Fluviam Petendam, which petitions for rain in times of severe drought. Impossible situations make our populace more religious and God-fearing.

* * *

Ramon “Eki” Cardenas is, from head to toe, True Blue. He learned his first R’s from Grade 1 in primary school at Class 1-B at the quonset huts on Padre Faura under Mr. Vil­lanueva. “Eki” graduated with the Centennial High School Class ’59 and continued to Fly High at Loyola Heights.

The King and the Harlequin. “Eki” admired the double seal of the Ateneo (Lux in Domino + the Centennary seal) at Gary Lisings’ bier. He ex­pressed the same wish for himself. A wish that was much sooner granted at his wake where his batchmate the Archbishop of Cagayan de Orodo His Eminence Antonio J. Ledesma D.D., his mentor Fr. Bert Ampil, SJ and several other Jesuits officiated at memorial masses.

I learned the origin of the word “Eki,” which is not found in diction­ary or nomenclatures. He coined the word, which would become his nom de guerre. In the pre-Vatican II under the old dispensation of His Eminence Rufino Cardinal Santos, male and female genders were not allowed on stage together, and ballet tutu’s were verboten (so Maryknoll sisters designed below-the-knee skirts for ballerinas).

Transgressors were threatened ex-cathedra. Under this strict dispensation, Ramon Carde­nas coined the term “eki” to whisper the equivalent of the (unspeakable) “sexy” and the word stuck to him.

It sounds so innocent nowadays, an enriching vocabulary for what would otherwise be unmentionable. We miss the word and earthmovers and such wordsmiths like “Eki.”

* * *

Jose de Juan was a working stu­dent sponsored by the priest of Saint Pious X Seminary in Roxas City to study civil engineering at Colegio dela Purisima Concepcion.

He walked five kms to and from school every day to save transport expense. This poor boy from Capiz made the grade and came to Manila, starting as room boy at Boulevard Mansion Hotel on Roxas Boulevard while preparing for board exam.

Of seven applicants from his school, De Juan and another passed the board. Armed with license as civil engineer, he joined at the Manila City

Assessor’s office in 1991 under Mayor Mel Lopez. Working his way up to junior building appraiser, he learned intricacies of the records division of the city assessor.

He was promoted to supervisor under Mayor Alfredo Lim; then promoted by Mayor Atienza to chief appraiser before he was ap­pointed in 2013 by Mayor Lim as City Assessor.

He served as City Assessor under Mayor Joseph Estrada, who conferred on him the Special Mayor’s Award as Outstanding City Employee on June 20, 2019.

Few exemplars sur­vive and serve the changes of mayors. Such successes are worth a story of survivors of local politics, and he enters a new chapter serving his nth new Mayor of Manila the Honorable Isko Moreno.

* * *

There is no need for joint investi­gation by PH and China. To uncom­plicate the issue, we should probably just ask: If the GEM VIR 1 was well within Philippine territorial waters, what was the foreign vessel doing there in our backyard?

FEEDBACK: joseabetozaide@gmail.com

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