More than an act of God
The downpour was a welcome respite from the humidity and the heat that have been lingering in the air two months after summer was supposed to have ended. More importantly, the rains gave reason to hope that the impending water crisis that we’ve been warned about continuously in the last few weeks would be averted.
The rains came after a weekend of what the Catholic bishops called “storming the gates of heaven” with prayers. The call for prayers was sounded off by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales last Saturday. Thus, the Oratio Imperata (Obligatory Prayer) was recited last Sunday during holy mass and the bishops have called on the faithful to continue praying “until the rains finally come.”
It is too early to say if the downpour last Monday already signals the start of the rainy season or if it was just nature’s way of temporarily indulging the Catholic faithful.
But there is no denying one fact: The rains did come after the prayers were made.
So it can only be one of three things. One, the Catholic hierarchy has access to some information about weather patterns that others don’t. Two, our bishops have a great sense of timing. Three, and this is what we Catholics would like to believe, of course, the rains were an act of God, the answer to our prayers.
As I write, though, the rains have stopped although the sky over Metro Manila remains overcast. Weather experts are still unsure of the possibilities of more rain—and understandably so. Science may already provide indications of weather patterns, but as the cliché goes, the weather is unpredictable. There is just so much about nature that we do not know about. The scientific community even remains bitterly divided over the question of whether or not the ongoing climate change is caused by global warming.
I don’t discount the power of prayers and in my heart of hearts, I do believe that prayers can work wonders, particularly in situations when hoping and praying are the only seemingly viable courses of action left. So I do not begrudge the Catholic bishops’ call for prayers as a solution to the impending drought.
But I also believe that ascribing everything, including the changes in the weather patterns, as mere acts of God is disastrous in the long-term. We must recognize that there are other factors causing the changes in global weather patterns. Many of these factors are caused by man. Many of our problems are of our own doing. To a large extent, the impending water crisis is also our fault.
If we come to think about it, this whole idea of ascribing weather problems simply as acts of God is a throwback to the early days of civilization when people offered sacrifices to their “gods” for rain or for protection from other natural phenomena (think Apocalypto, the movie which partly showcased the demise of the Maya culture due to prolonged drought although of course there is so much debate about the accuracy of the religious rituals or for that matter, the general portrayal of Maya culture in the movie).
While we can all continue to pray for rains and hope that they will come, there are many other things we can all do to help forestall the impending water crisis.
Obviously, water conservation is on top of the list. The government and other sectors have been issuing dire warnings about the need to conserve water. Angat Dam must already be the most-photographed and most closely watched body of water in history, but I guess just showing photos indicating how dangerously low the water levels have gone down at Angat is not enough to rouse people from apathy.
The usual reaction is that we’ve been there before. This happens every so often, remember? We’ve seen those pictures in the past.
What people are not getting is that the main difference is that while in the past the water at Angat Dam would only plunge to dangerous levels every four years or so, this has become a more frequent—in fact, almost yearly occurrence in the last decade.
We can track the front pages of newspapers and note that the pictures of an almost-empty Angat Dam have become an almost regular feature every year.
It is difficult to convince people of an impending water shortage because we happen to be a country that is surrounded by water. Our streets do get flooded a lot. Don’t we have a dengue problem which clearly indicates the presence of too much water in our surroundings? And of course, we haven’t closed down our golf clubs yet —one golf course consumes more water in a day than a whole barangay—have we?
So why worry when the rains do come when we begin storming the heavens with our prayers?
Thus, if the rainy season has indeed arrived and that the current threat of a water crisis has been averted, it is highly likely that all these will soon be forgotten. We will all go back to our normal lives and forget about how close we came to rationing water. All these dire warnings about the dangers of a prolonged drought will just become a thing of the past.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not praying that the current situation continues until the painful lesson has been learned. All I am saying is that there must be more strategic and more proactive ways of addressing this problem.
I hate to be accused of having little faith, but we can’t always rely on prayers for deliverance. At some point, we have to remember nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.
Water is the next major crisis. Contrary to what many among us think, water is not an infinite resource. On the contrary, most water reservoirs are drying up and with climate patterns changing globally, water supply will even become more unpredictable. And as we all know, water is an absolute necessity. Water means health, sanitation, hygiene, food, energy, etc.
We need more concerted, proactive and strategic solutions. The problem requires more than an act of God.