mga awit ug yawit sa kasingkasing bisaya

Seat of wisdom

A couple of years ago, Cebu City experienced a tragedy uniquely third world: septic tank cleaners were dropping dead on duty. While gas fumes humbly took the blame, I was silently convinced mutant fecal matters were responsible. Mutant fecal matters are territorial. Used to being left alone to fend for themselves in a dark hole for a long time, they develop violent behaviours and will kill any living thing that invades their privacy. The following article was written after the death of the 3,788th victim of this fecal tragedy in the saddest chapter of our city’s history. — insoymada


ALL this news about people dying inside septic tanks has got me reflecting on man’s relationship with the toilet. If you see me down the street lost in thought while waiting for a ride home, it’s toilet that I’m thinking. If I bump into you in the mall and don’t as much as notice your smile, it’s that fatal septic smell that has robbed my mind of memories of our long forgotten friendship.

Deaths inside a septic tank just don’t make sense.

Septic tanks by their job description are supposed to help us go on with our lives, not poison us with gas fumes that, come to think of it, our bodies themselves produced.

Why “clean” septic tanks in the first place? Things that feed on wastes naturally react violently against outside forces that want to impose on others their idea of cleanliness. Now we are caught in a fierce battle with the laws of nature.

Years of immersion in remote barangays and the city’s slums exposed me to toilets that suck in not just human wastes but humans as well. These are places where lavatories and septic pits are separated only by a thin slab of concrete that is in constant risk of collapsing at the weight of someone rushing in with a diarrhea.

One toilet in a mountain barangay in a southern town had me hoisting a rope to a beam and tying one end around my waist in case the floor gave way.

This method of tethering oneself while dropping anchor had actually saved a farmer in a neighboring barangay. When the dark, bottomless pit sucked in the lavatory, the rope held the farmer swinging like a pendulum until help arrived. This method caught on around the neighborhood. A rope is cheaper than building a safer toilet, you know.

While here we continue to wage war against septic tanks, toilets in other parts of the world have been producing great minds that spew out world-altering ideas.

Take Martin Luther for example. German archaeologists are reported to have recently discovered the lavatory on which the 16th century religious leader wrote the 95 Theses that launched the Protestant Reformation.

Experts have been certain for years that Luther wrote his revolutionary ideas while on the das klo, as the Germans call it. But they didn’t know where the object was until they stumbled upon it in the remains of an annex of Luther’s house.

It makes sense if one learns that Luther frequently alluded to the fact that he suffered from chronic constipation and spent much of his time in contemplation on the lavatory.

It makes even more sense when we realized how many of us find in the toilet a perfect place to read, smoke or think. When I was a kid, I wrote my love letters inside the toilet, and cried rivers into the toilet bowl when none of those strawberry-scented stationeries produced favorable response.

In a world where few friends can be trusted with life’s intimate details, the CR can really be one comforting room.

( weekend magazine)


2 Responses to “Seat of wisdom”

  1. this is a sad & unacceptable incident.death on the job in this manner should not be included in one’s job description.typical third world scenario indeed.could there be any justice somewhere,somehow….this life,next life..the life after next….?

  2. eleonor, my paisano, uli na diri pilipinas. magtukod ta’g NGO: CEBU UNITING FOR A MORE HOSPITABLE SEPTIC TANK ENVIRONMENT. 🙂

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