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Cleaning Up October 14, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, cebuano, clean and green, Legally Opinionated and Jurisprudent.
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Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

I am rousing myself from my self-imposed intellectual slumber to take part in a movement around the world calling one and all to care about the environment. It’s a movement called Blog Action Day, where bloggers like me are endeavored to raise ecological awareness.

As a Filipino living in the second most heavily-populated metropolis in the country, my ecological concern is about sanitation and garbage management, one of the biggest offshoots and problems arising from the rise of urban living.

As children, we were brought up to believe that “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” And although I was not the tidiest and most fastidious child in the planet, I was however very conscientious about putting my trash straight into the garbage can. It makes sense. We cannot abide clutter in our houses, right? We don’t like to see torn plastic packets, dust, fallen leaves, refuse, bottles, and food wastes lying around where rats, cockroaches and other vermin may scurry about and infest our well-kept homes and tidied apartments.

What doesn’t make sense to me is why our cleanliness and sanitation practices are left behind when we leave our houses. We are supposed to be a well-educated and highly-disciplined nation, and yet, when we go outside, it’s a common sight to see people throwing their waste and refuse just about anywhere. Back when I was still a student, I was distressed to see my fellow schoolmates throwing their barbecue sticks, puso wrappers, and candy packets on the floor, not caring enough to find a nearby trash can to throw their wastes.

I wish the practice stopped as I got older where people are supposed to be more mature and disciplined, but I fear that the older people get, the more callous they were of their surroundings. In fact, I often witnessed one of my classmates in law school, a professional, repeatedly throwing his candy wrappers inside our own classroom, when a garbage can was only a few meters away from where he was eating. I wanted so much to point out to him that this practice was offensive to me because I shared a classroom with him and as students of a prestigious university, a higher caliber of discipline and cleanliness is expected of us. I don’t know which is more disturbing to me, the fact that my highly educated classmate could callously live like a pig or the fact that I who knew better could not bring myself to scold him about his littering in the premises.

The fact is that our littering must stop. It’s the cause of so much of our problems as urban dwellers. Indiscriminate littering has clogged up our sewers and esteros so that come rainy season, we find our streets flooded with dirty rain water and the ghosts of our unsanitary practices coming back to haunt us. Our littering is then washed up to the rivers and seas, causing the pollution of our waters and the poisoning of our precious reefs and fishes.

But even these serious ecological problems aside, doesn’t the sight of trash and refuse disturb anyone anymore? I’ve had the privilege of living in great urban metropolises abroad, from Los Angeles, to San Francisco, to New Jersey and New York. I’ve been to Hong Kong and Toronto and seen cities that are much more heavily populated than Cebu or Manila, and yet walking along their busy causeways and streets, you would find nary a candy wrapper, biscuit packet, or broken bottle lying for all to see or walk on. In fact, it would be very rare to find ANYONE throwing their trash and refuse just about anywhere on the street.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, we Filipinos are PIGS. Our sanitation and littering practices are atrocious. Whether you’re walking along the highly urban streets of Ayala Ave. in Makati City or the sub-urban paths along Cardinal Rosales Ave. in Cebu City, you’re likely to find trash, refuse and the leavings of insensitive urban dwellers so callously left behind on our public streets and avenues.

In fact, one little anecdote sticks to my mind pointing out how unhygienic we Filipinos are. During my first time in the U.S., my American uncle treated the whole family out to a snack at MacDonald’s. I was the first to finish eating, and like most Filipinos, I just left my burger wrapper and plastic cup on my tray, lying on the table for the MacDonald’s busboy to clean up. My uncle called my attention and pointed out that in the U.S., after the customers finish eating, it was expected of them to put their own litter in the trashcan. And true to form, I saw the American patrons cleaning up after themselves, leaving the table ready for the next customer to use them.

We Filipinos pride ourselves in being thoughtful, educated and cultured as a race, and yet, why can’t we emulate something as simple and efficient as that? It’s just a simple matter of cleaning up after ourselves.

Whenever I confront the notorious litterers among my friends, they always give me the excuse, “Well, what are we paying the janitor for then?” Having a janitor or a busboy or a metro-aide to clean up after you is no excuse for us to practice good sanitation and hygiene in our premises, regardless of whether it is in the comfort of our own homes or in public areas of common use. The fact is that as supposedly highly-educated people, we owe it to ourselves to be responsible of where we throw our garbage.

As urban dwellers, you and I are no longer carefree citizens whose domain stops at the perimeter of our fences. We are very closely inter-connected that the practices of one will have a domino effect on the life of another. Every time you play your music too loud, or callously throw your refuse on the street, or even breathe out your cigarette smoke where other people breathe, you are already polluting the environment and affecting the people who live in the city with you.

We all have to be responsible because we do not live in a vacuum where we alone are affected by our own actions. The misdeeds of callousness of one can lead to the degradation of the quality of life of another.

I still believe that cleanliness is next to godliness and we Filipinos, who profess ourselves to be the only dominantly-Christian country in Asia, owe it to ourselves to reflect the Christ within us by living clean and pure even in the most little of practices.

Please… help ease our country’s garbage management problems by simply putting your garbage where it belongs… inside a trashcan. It’s really just as simple as that.