Obando seeks salvation from floodsBy Carmela Reyes-Estrope
Inquirer Northern Luzon
A member of the Facebook group, “Obandonado,” posted on its page a picture of an Olympic synchronized swimming team doing a pool routine. His comment reads: “Baka ganito na maging step ng fertility dance sa Obando … hay, ang hirap niyanresidents of Obando, Bulacan, is a tongue-in-cheek look at the serious situation faced by residents of the coastal town that is home to more than 65,000 people, who have to live with water in their midst.
Obando is known for its fertility festival, where childless couples pray and dance in the streets to seek the blessing and intervention of Sta. Clara, the patron saint, so they could complete a family. The three-day festival is held during the summer month of May, when the town is generally dry.
But even Sta. Clara (St. Clare of Assisi), also the patron saint of good weather, could not save the town from the perennial flooding worsened by high tide from the Manila Bay.
Maritess Delfin, a resident of Barangay Pagasa, says she relies on humor and lots of hope so she and her family could live with a semblance of normalcy when floodwater, from a foot high to 5 feet, submerge the 11 villages of the town.
On Friday last week, Delfin, 42, was among the residents who received relief goods as teams from the provincial and town governments and the Department of Social Welfare and Development made the rounds. Obando has been submerged in floods in the past two weeks as Typhoons “Ferdie” and “Gener” crossed the country.
“We just entertain ourselves and laugh so we will not lose our minds. We are happy when we receive relief goods; even a few packs of instant noodles are good enough,” Delfin says, as she wades through floodwaters 2-foot deep.
Rolly Santos, 47, a driver, says he failed to earn because of the high tide and rains. The floods rendered the roads impassable and people use banca (wooden boats) and makeshift rafts to move around.
Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado says even the mayor, Orencio Gabriel, has been struck with a sense of helplessness and has been begging that his town be saved.
“Umiiyak na sa akin si Mayor Gabriel (Mayor Gabriel has come to me crying about the situation),” Alvarado says.
The mayor says flooding has worsened due to three damaged dikes, the continuous heavy rains and the high tide.
The floods, he says, have stopped business activities and government transactions for two weeks now. Classes have been disrupted.
The town, he says, has lost an estimated P50 million
“Floodwater at the town hall is knee-high. People do not go here because public transport is unavailable. Who will dare transact with the government with floodwater rising?” Gabriel says.
The town’s major economic activities are fishing, garments manufacturing and food processing. Gabriel says Obando has less than 10 factories engaged in plastic, neon lights and garments manufacturing. Most residents rely on home-based businesses and variety stores for livelihood.
Gabriel says many residents work in Metro Manila, while others had left town to avoid being inconvenienced by the floods.
Alvarado has been urging the national government to release funds to improve Obando’s dikes and to elevate its roads.
Glen Reyes, provincial engineer, says many of the road projects have been started but these have been slowed down by bad weather.
“The governor wants us to expedite this project because he wants motorists to drive through Obando’s roads, regardless of whether it is high tide or not. But it is the flooding which has delayed work,” Reyes says.
A P49-million dike program being developed by the Department of Public Works and Highways may finally solve the problem.
But like the other town projects, even the mandatory surveys for this initiative had been rescheduled due to the rains, says Gene Leaño, the deputy of Bulacan’s second engineering district office.
Elpidio Avena, Obando municipal engineer, says the proposed concrete dike spans 11 kilometers.
Gabriel has been encouraging residents to stay and not lose hope on Obando because flood control projects intended for Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela cities in Metro Manila) would benefit their town.
“Let us not abandon our town. We should help each other. We are doing our part for our town and I hope you do your part by not giving up on Obando. We can weather this challenge. Through perseverance and unity, our life in Obando would be better,” he says.