Every morning when I wake up, I drag my bedraggled self to the bathroom to pee, brush my teeth, and wash my face. I use a bucket of greywater* to flush the toilet. I wash my hands, catching the drippings in a small basin to pour back into the greywater bucket. I brush my teeth and wash my face the same way, making sure that nothing is spilled and everything goes back to the greywater bucket. This is how I spend the first minutes of each morning with Maynilad**.
Since the start of this year’s very long summer (officially this is no longer summer but the onset of wet season), we have lived with the shadow of a severe water crisis looming large over our heads. We still had some water over summer, mostly in the late afternoons, but that situation has since been turned around with Maynilad Water’s imposition of the water rationing scheme. Implemented last week, what was initially supposed to be a daily seven-hour shut-off of water supply has turned into days and nights of waterless waiting. Our taps are dry. We have no water out our faucets. None. Nada. Zilch.
It’s not as if we’re not used to this kind of living. For many years, before Maynilad Water changed hands from one private corporation to another, we suffered from their seemingly inutile attempts to bring water to our area. Still, we had youth in our side then. What we lacked in water, we made up in sheer brute strength as we perfected the art of hauling water from one area to another. Multiple five-gallon containers of water were filled, lifted, and transferred daily without much difficulty. And late, late nights (actually, more like really early mornings since we had water only at dawn) did not deter us from functioning like normal human beings in the light of day.
Now, we are ages older and our bodies suffer from the prelude of old age. Creaky knees, sore backs, and even an injured neck prevent us from hauling water like the pros we were before. As such, we save and conserve every drop of water until the next haul schedule. We wait for the rains each day, trying to “harvest” every little drop to add to our water stores, and though not potable, rain makes up for the shortfall in cleaning water we need. And when we have to haul water again, water that comes from the generosity of our relatives, we pray that our knees don’t give out in the process.
It’s not all Maynilad’s fault, to be sure; we cannot blame them for the lack of rainfall or for last season’s drought or for the unnaturally hot weather. But while we understand that forces of nature are often beyond man’s control, there are some things they did not have the foresight to plan ahead. Indeed, the problem is much larger than just today’s current crisis. But let’s not get into that for now and just focus only on what is before us. Given the circumstances, water rationing is acceptable and perfectly tolerable, but only if plans had been drawn to make the distribution of water -whether via water tankers or fire trucks- regular, scheduled and predictable. Lack of coordination with local governments, either at the barangay or city levels, has made distribution haphazard and disorderly. There are no fixed schedules and no predetermined areas. And because people have no assurance that water will come, they fight over it now like crazed creatures.
I called Maynilad’s 1626 hotline last week and having been given a reference number, I was told to wait for the tanker that will come and give our household some respite. A week later, we are still waiting. I understand where the panic and fear and anger and anxiety come from; these come from not knowing what to expect. If our local governments involve themselves in coordinating with Maynilad for water delivery schedules and area partitionings, or if they take the initiative to provide relief to those who are suffering, perhaps it will ease some of their constituents’ worry and anxiety. As it is, the disappointing silence and lack of action of the newly-elected public servants in my city (Quezon City) are matched only by the equally inadequate and unsatisfactory response by the local officials of my barangay (Barangay Paltok). For some strange reason, they all seem oddly immune to the plight of their waterless constituents.
It’s eighteen minutes past one in the morning. Another long night beckons as I wait beside the now dry faucets, checking them every hour. My vigil will run through the night, till around five in the morning. It has been a long day and I am tired. But I can only wait and wait and wait. And while I wait, I pray some more for better days ahead.
*greywater is waste water from washing dishes, laundry and bathing
** Maynilad Water Services Inc. is the private water concessionaire to the West side of the metropolis
Fore more on Angat water levels, click here (Angat water level drops to lowest in history)