A shambles

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By Gary Covington

Looking In

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


THAT was the Buhangin covered court on Thursday afternoon, the court given over to the Insurance Commission to register and payout customers of the late Prudentialife Plans Inc which collapsed three years ago leaving tens of thousands of planholders in limbo. Or that's what I thought after catching Wednesday evening's GMA news item and the first I'd heard of the event. There'd been no informing letter or notification in the press - I checked back a couple of weeks to make certain.

Maybe planholders were expected to trot round to the Insurance Commission on Duterte Street every couple of days, I've no idea. Anyway, Thursday midmorning I'd recce'd the court, noted the documentary requirements, the four tea-for-two sized monobloc tables and the lunch break - 12 noon to 1 p. m.

At 1 p. m., I turned up along with a couple of hundred other folks expecting the Insurance Commission reps already seated and bustling into action. Nearer 2 p.m., together with more and more people, I was still waiting, but at last the officials honored us with their presence. Three of them. An hour late. No apologies, no-one stood on a chair to explain what was going on, not a word, and there being no queue-defining bollards of rope or even a helping hand from the barangay hall next door the crowd heaved forward, mobbing the tables. A cry went up - priority numbers, 1 through 40. What priority numbers ? Where was the bit of bent wire or shoebox ?

A shambles, an absolute shambles.

There was an editorial the other week telling us 'not to sweat the small stuff' but how can we possibly not when every day we are exposed to the ineptitude and unrelenting couldn't-care-less image of public authority (The last day, Friday, was better with more Insurance Commission staff in attendance).

Moving on and amongst the columns and columns of post-Yolanda hand-wringing I couldn't help noticing quite a bit given over to The Storm Surge as if it were an entirely new phenomenon, an event we - i.e., the Philippines - had never experienced before.

Storm surges - before the advent of oil rigs and such planted in the ocean - used to be called plainly and simply storm waves and that's exactly what they are; wind-driven waves which operate on the 'bigger the wind, bigger the wave' principle and Yolanda, a big storm generating big winds and moving very quickly indeed (For a typhoon) shoved in front of it very big waves.

But storm surges are nothing new. We experience them here at Davao every time there's a depression out there in the Pacific. How many times have you sat down to watch the early evening TV news and seen them reporting on shoreline stilt-houses 'partially' or 'totally' damaged by 'big waves'? Those big waves are storm surges but junior two-footers rather than the 20-foot monsters which crushed Tacloban.

Moving on again and for years now I've been convinced there's two Davaos, twin cities existing in parallel. One is reality, where you and I live, the other peopled by admen and promo-feature writers where every new residential development is ten minutes from the airport, where P1 airline seats really exist and where telecommunication companies actually deliver on their promises.

Take this example from one of the major companies - 'Billed as the next 4G technology. . . . speed tests. . . . revealed that download speeds can exceed 200 Mbps (Megabits per second, )'.

Have you ever read such nonsense? I don't know about where you live but out here at Buhangin Heights the norm is 2G with an average download speed - if you don't get cut off - of around 10-12 Kbps ( Kilobits - 1 megabit is 1 million kilobits). A five minute song takes forever to download; Youtube is out of the question as is any video. It is actually quicker for me to bicycle to the Sun. Star's downtown office with a column like this than send an e-mail. That's the real world - where telecommunication companies, internet service providers, daily promote warp-speed connectivity while failing to provide even a basic service.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 03, 2013.

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