Power hungry

Hours-long power outages have plagued Visayas and Mindanao for a few weeks now. Locally, the situation has worsened to the point where brownouts happen daily in at least one part of the city. I’ve observed that the city is divided into two general areas. If at 600pm there is no power outage in Area A, then Area B is definitely without power (and vice versa). The brownouts occur alternately, too; on Monday, Area A gets no power, Tuesday, Area B, Wednesday, Area A again, and so on. It’s almost like the interruptions are scheduled. Many have suggested that they are, and that these outages are part of some administration ploy to somehow influence the outcome of the May polls.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines says the outages are caused by low water levels in hydroelectric power plants and not a disgusting and insatiable hunger for power of the political kind. Apparently the country is suffering a dry spell of some sort (it rained as hard as dog dung this afternoon and yesterday, so I wonder how they can say that), and as a result the power plants are producing much less electricity than we need.

I find it hard to buy this explanation. It doesn’t help that the rotating brownouts began right around the time when the presidential race was beginning to really heat up. In other countries, it might seem implausible to think that power interruptions would be deliberate and that they would have something to do with elections, but this is the Philippines, a nation that has, for nearly a decade now, been under an unbelievably, pitifully self-serving administration. This is the Philippines. Our ancestors fought to free us from abuse by foreigners, only for our own countrymen to abuse us generations later. This is the Philippines, where politicians have one hand gripped tightly on a rostrum in the Senate as they passionately condemn dishonesty and corruption, while the other hand helps itself to the nation’s coffers. This is the Philippines, where a promise made to the people on national TV means absolutely nothing. This is the Philippines, a country that boasts that it is well on its way to becoming a first world nation by 2020 while one of its highly urbanized cities suffers daily power interruptions. In the Philippines, everything has become possible, from votes magically multiplying to public funds quickly and inexplicably disappearing.

Sometimes, I go through the newspaper and have to wonder if we’re absolutely sure we’re not living in a psychedelic Alice-in-Wonderland universe. In the darkness of my bedroom, during the frequent nights when there is no power and nothing to do, I’ve begun to wonder more and more.

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