LAST November 1, our family joined the millions who flocked to cemeteries to visit the graves of dearly departed loved ones. My only sister, whom we lost 6 years ago to breast cancer, was interred at Tierra Santa Memorial Park in Mabalacat City.

Like our usual practice, we brought reusable utensils and a garbage bag. Before leaving, we made sure everything was clean, and brought our garbage with us. Looking around however, I was dismayed to see garbage strewn all over the memorial park. People left mineral water bottles, plastic bags, disposable cups, food wrappers and Styrofoam right at the grave of their love ones.

This has been the scenario every year after All Saints Day. Inspite of repeated reminders from environmental groups and the DENR, people just leave trash behind. In Metro Manila last year, a total of sixty-one (61) truckloads of garbage was collected from the Manila North Cemetery and Manila South Cemetery from October 30 up to 2 p.m. Friday of All Souls' Day. Thirty-five truckloads were from Manila North Cemetery and 26 truckloads were collected from Manila South Cemetery.

Is this indifference part of our damaged culture? Along highways, it is disheartening to see trash being thrown out of windows of vehicles. Be it a tricycle, bus, cars or even expensive SUVs. Many people, rich and poor alike, treat their surroundings as if it were a big wastebasket. Sometime ago while cruising along the expressway, my windshield was almost hit by a corncob that flew out of the bus I was trailing.

In fastfood restaurants, it is common to see customers leaving their trash on their tables after eating. People taking time and effort to dispose their trash in garbage bins are rare. At the SM grocery food court, the trash receptacle is just a few steps away from the tables and yet people would still leave their litter undisposed.

Filipinos are admired by foreigners for being clean. We take a bath every day, and we keep our homes orderly and spotless. Thus, it is baffling to see garbage being carelessly discarded everywhere but we don't want garbage dumps anywhere near us. This attitude is referred to as NIMBY, "Not In My Back Yard".

But Mother Nature is fighting back. Our garbage eventually returns to our doorsteps carried by floods. The dirt we want to keep out of our dinner tables are carried back by flies, rats and cockroaches. We blame the government, factories and everyone else except ourselves for the mess.

Worst, trash is now in our food, drinking water, salt, sugar and even beer. Microplastics, plastics that have been broken down into tiny pieces, find their way into our food chain. A new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology says it's possible that humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year.