Ric F. Maulion

RAINY days are here again. The message of this article might be biting to concerned officials as it challenges various institutions on their stand on the misery that happened to our environment; specially the way we treat our bridges and its surroundings. The deluge last year should be a constant reminder if only we have to deter similar incident. But when would we ever learn? Read on.

Bridges undeniably play vital role in economic development all over the world. The evolution of bridge over the centuries from logs, masonry archetypes to concrete and steel trusses connecting as far as 28 kilometers over seas is simply amazing. Without this structure, we would have remained fragmented what with abundance of water over 7,100 islands gushing from the from the bosom of the Earth in the form of watersheds, lakes, marshlands and rivers passing through different tributaries before emptying themselves back to the seas or catchments areas.

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Indeed, that those bridges usher in development by connecting, carrying or extending a road, railroad over river, ravine or even sea, facilitating growth of trade, commerce and industry of a city is mere platitude. The fact is, itÆs more than just a structural masterpiece giving premium on connectivity but most importantly, a marvel of engineering science that infuses life itself to where it is constructed.

How we therefore maintain and secure the safety of its surrounding environment specially drainage or its waterways down to its base, both sides along the road and under the structure all the way to where the water flows remains very crucial question. As a reality check, try experimenting by looking around the status of environment in nearest bridge in your area and check if you'll not be appalled by the extent of neglect and destruction of its surroundings. It seems even very probable you would be exclaiming to high heavens, your eyes short of popping out from their sockets seeing the mess and eyesore going on unabated.

Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Constantino Jaraula's call for review of drainage system lately possibly drawing up comprehensive drainage system, though late, is very plausible.

There are probably more than ten bridges in Cagayan de Oro City today of which two are relatively newly built. You could find them starting from Alae Bridge for the CDO-Misamis Oriental boundary stretching all the way to Opol. Six of similar structures are spread out and found before reaching the longest across Bridge connecting District I an II passing over Abellanosa-Consolacion and Kauswagan. Some of the bridges were newly repaired, renovated and even extended to accommodate four-lane road networks to facilitate easy traffic.

It's unfortunate thought that while the government is pushing development of those structures, concerned barangay officials and/or City Government are not matching the vision they were made of. On the contrary, allowing encroachment of its parameters by squatters and or enterprising Pinoys go unabated. Consider the makeshift shanties and concrete houses sprouting out like mushrooms on top of agricultural development by the river, eating the area right along the sides of the bridge. Witness specifically crazy-cut of volcanic slabs filing up like mountains as if spewed by an angry volcano at will courtesy of Orophil Stonecraft Inc. that is operating just right on the base of Cugman bridge.

And as its bad connotation implies, squatters prostituting the waterways of Bigaan bridge with their residential houses staring at you blankly when you pass by in Gusa. You may even wonder why dancing lights glitter under Umalag Bridge like it's all Christmas celebrated all through out the years.

But by far, the most glaring and systematic disservice given by man to the bridge's immediate surrounding beyond any rules of logic making you sick is the great expanse of unwanted settlement along Marcos Bridge from Balulang all the way to Macajalar Bay. The sight just defies description as stark reality stops right before you, taking your breath away looking on the maze of squatters. By squatters I mean not just the poor (they're just the small fries!) but different institutions church, government and schools and all that.

Look how these institutions from St. Augustine Cathedral, City Hall and different establishments along and across the river all the way to Macajalar Bay have mercilessly eaten up the waterways belonging to the river, detouring and pushing further flow of water to the left wing. Ironically, what an insult naming the Cathedral after its patron who was lover of truth, being a staunch and vigorous advocate of reason in the mold of St. Thomas Aquinas and other Doctors of the Church. From the looks of it, it seems even very probable that the construction of Taguanao Bridge at the expense of losing cultural heritage is the sad refrain of this tragedy.

When would we ever learn? At the rate of siltation and squatting progresses, this writer would not wonder if our lawmakers would someday forced to change the name of Cagayan de Oro City (People by the River) into something else.

Small bridges have also their own stories to tell. Try going around the city and chances are you might not see and know them. Rightly so unless you drop by as in the bridge in Vamenta Boulevard in Carmen where what you'll find is merely concrete or steel railings and startled where in the world is its drainage. You're right if it seems like there are no drainage except that through manÆs ingenuity, these have been metamorphosed into aqueducts instead. Where are the other small drainages then? Don't fret. Enterprising Pinoys big and small literally just buried them and resurrecting them into business establishments from sari-sari to malls from pigpens to lumber house. Cheers!

If only our bridges could only speak. They would have probably dished out litanies of ill-will and intoned fire and brimstones to those who are abusing. But they don't and they'll never be as they will merely stand as mute witnesses their voices forever clipped by the implacable and unforgiving encroachment going on squeezing their already limited waterways. But listen to their silence and they're speaking louder than voice.

Silence is like a cancer that grows, sings Simon and Garfunkel. That alone is sending very strong message only we didn't care because of the blinders of neglect, ineptitude and accommodation (read politics) that like cancer, are cankering our hearts, and has eaten too our pro-active development stance.

The buck stops right here û this should be the immediate concern. No use traveling down the memory lane or the more we'll be imprisoned by the past. Well said but what good it takes constructing development projects and losing forever beautiful river and cultural heritage. Look how the Taguanao Bridge was constructed when it could have been constructed elsewhere; it destroyed historical early settlement sites. If ever there is any consolation, however, it is none other than the awakening how different institutions exploited at will the situation in the name of religion, development, education and government. The familiar BCBP dictum from the Commission on Audit regional headquarters office seems to be directed at City Hall and the church across the river: Be honest even others are not, cannot and could not!

But the problem goes beyond the virtue of honesty as one tries to be honest as possible anyway. This my constant sparring partner Prof. and Kag. Floro Fornilos, himself a bonafide member, would agree. As it is written in corrupt English: "It's very hard to face the a problem if the problem is your face." There he laughs out loud again. Need to say more?