Monday, September 19, 2016

263: Flood

The torrent came heavy and unexpected, accompanied by lightning and thunder. All the while we were oblivious because we were in the mall. Another rumble came and I thought: perhaps they were moving heavy equipment? But then came the unmistakable rattle of rain on the roof. From one of the ceiling lamps on the top floor, a steady stream of water began to flow. Unfazed, we went on with dinner.

When we left the restaurant, we saw the extent of the damage. The floor of the third floor was spattered with water. The lady at the Potato Corner stall looked glumly over the railing. I followed her gaze and saw that at several places the ceiling had sprung leaks. Down below, on the atrium, a maintenance man positioned buckets to catch the water. Too late, the stream had soaked two of the Chan Lim paintings on display. What a disaster!

We took the elevator down to the basement, intending to check on the car. But there, the damage seemed much worse. Water had risen a few inches in the basement office of an insurance company. Likewise, near the department store entrance, water had also pooled. The guards had their pant legs rolled up.

"No sense getting wet," I told my wife. If the water had reached the car, there would be nothing we could do about it. We decided to go back up to wait out the rain. Surprisingly, the basement parking was relatively dry as I found out later when I went by the exit on the opposite side. The water, it seemed, was limited to the shopping areas.

These past two days I have been severely bummed out. The spark was the senate hearing last Friday. I had studiously avoided listening to the broadcasts or even reading about the testimony, but still I got snippets. But already the coverup was at work. From Facebook -- that damned Facebook! -- I heard sniggers: "Ah, yes, we know that guy, he's from Samal. He's a liar, don't believe him!" and "Yes, he's a hired gun, all right, but strictly small time."

All this pushed me close to the edge of despair. Have we become so callous that we're no longer disturbed by these types of revelations? Perhaps the testimony may have a tinge of exaggeration, perhaps the witness is a plant for one side or the other, perhaps this is just another power play at the senate.... And yet, by the very fact that we can immediately think of these scenarios as a way to avoid the real issues -- the existence of government-sponsored hit squads and the very real possibilities of heinous acts -- this just shows that we have lost our sense of shock. This is normality for us. We can be resigned to the fact that we may never know the truth behind all this, maybe that even we don't want to know. Worse yet, we can laugh all it off.

Last night, though, I received an unexpected email from a former student. He wrote me because, like me, he was disturbed at how easily such testimony could be written off. He was disgusted. The email was long because I think he wanted to vent. The email added to the oppressive weight, though I found some comfort that I was not alone in my views. I wrote back a short note of encouragement. It was all that I could do.

How will history judge Davaoenos? You look around, there's hardly any visible dissent, no sign of shock or discomfort. There's no vocal criticism because any such is silenced by the trolls on social media, said trolls perhaps being your own friends. The Church is silent, the universities are silent, the media is silent, Davao civil society is silent. We have accepted wholesale murder as the new normal because, of course, the victims were criminals to begin with and its for the good of society. But the truth will out, sooner or later.

"What have you done? Listen! The voice of your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground!"

When that time comes, history will ask: "why have you remained silent?"