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No Free Lunch

Hot summer blues

I’m sure we’re all feeling how summer has descended upon us. The heat has started to become oppressive, and makes it harder to get work done, whether of the physical or cerebral kind. The climate this time of year has a way of getting into one’s head, and I thought I’d write about thoughts running through my perhaps heat-crazed mind as I observe what goes on around.

Living where I do (in Los Baños, Laguna), one of the most unwelcome things about summer is the heavily congested weekend traffic between our town and our neighbor Calamba City. The stretch of a mere 12 kilometers, which normally takes half an hour to traverse (even that is too long!), can now take up to 2-3, even 4, hours if you’re unlucky, all because of the seasonal rush for the Pansol resorts. One would think that half the number of cars in Metro Manila head to Pansol in the weekends during summer. If you happen to be heading to the airport from the south to catch a flight, good luck; allowing for an additional several hours of road travel time would be well advised. A meme I saw on Facebook declared something like “It’s summer! Time to bring Edsa to Pansol!” (it was funnier in Filipino)—obviously alluding to the heavy traffic the resort crowd brings.


I’ve always been somewhat puzzled at why summer brings this mad rush to the hot springs and hot water pools in this popular resort area that gave our town its name (although technically, there are actually more of them on the Calamba side)—when I thought the whole idea was to escape the heat! I can well understand people who head to the beaches at this time, but a hot spring or hot water pool? I know it’s their supposed
healing properties that draw droves of people to them, but I don’t believe all these people who come in carloads and buy up colorful inflatable salvavidas are sick or something. Are there really hundreds of thousands (it feels more like millions) of city folk with some kind of ailment who need to submerge themselves in the hot Pansol waters, at this time of year when the air is already hot to begin with? Maybe I’m missing something, but there must be some sort of irrationality or madness to all these summertime Pansol crowds.

Perhaps it’s this same madness that drives many of them to behave the way they do on the road leading to or out of the place. Pansol on summer weekends is where one is sure to encounter my pet traffic peeve: drivers who take over the lanes reserved for oncoming traffic, creating an unauthorized counterflow lane, and with it, a gridlock that makes everything stand still and makes things worse for everyone on the road. What’s particularly annoying is that traffic enforcers consistently let them get away with it, often even abetting it. Only once in my decades of passing through this road have I seen traffic policemen actually apprehend and issue a ticket to those undisciplined counterflow drivers (when I did, I couldn’t help shout my approving cheers as I passed them).


We already know Pansol in the summer is bad news, especially for those of us nonresort goers just passing through. But Pansol in the rainy season has been just as bad in recent years. It wasn’t like that when I was younger, but it is now a highly flood-prone catch basin where a couple of hours of continuous rainfall could raise the water waist-deep and render the national highway impassable. I once had to sleep the night out on the roadside to wait for the floodwaters to subside there. It’s clearly traceable to dwindling forest cover on adjacent Mount Makiling, but also to lack of proper drainage systems to nearby
Laguna de Bay.

The ordeal too many people endure at Pansol year in and year out brings out things that must change in the Filipino, whether those in the government or those who are governed: our failure to obey and enforce rules and laws, lack of proactive planning, selfishness at the expense of the common good, and basic lack of discipline. Pansol is just one of many other places in the country where, summer or not, we are all called upon to change our ways. The heat of summer may be something we can’t control, but the additional discomfort we often needlessly inflict on ourselves is something we can.

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TAGS: Cielito F. Habito, Heat, No Free Lunch, summer
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