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The Tide is Low but We’re Holding On

Extraordinary water solutions featuring rain water, tabò, and timba

Updated

By JAIME C. LAYA

WATERER CONSERONSERONSERONSERONSERVATIONON The courtyard of Casa Manila Museum, Intramuros. Rain water is channeled from the tile roof via the hollow stone column, filtered in a horizontal tunnel, drops to the cistern at ground level, and hauled up back to the azotea though the dome-roofed well.

WATER CONSERVATION The courtyard of Casa Manila Museum, Intramuros. Rain water is channeled from the tile roof via the hollow stone column, filtered in a horizontal tunnel, drops to the cistern at ground level, and hauled up back to the azotea though the dome-roofed well.

It seems that both Manila Water and Maynilad are having trouble meeting Metro Manila’s needs. Angát Dam has stopped supporting power and irrigation, all available water being for household needs. This and recent rains notwithstanding, Angát water level continues to drop.

Manila Water does all it can to equalize water time availability and pressure with whatever raw water comes from MWSS and from its own limited sources. I live in the Manila Water area and am among the lucky 94 percent that have 24/7 water availability though at a rather unenthusiastic stream (seven pounds per square inch) and only on the ground floor.

Manila Water (and Maynilad, too) can distribute only what MWSS provides and what it can draw from deep wells and from Laguna de Bay where intake-clogging algae is fast multiplying. Conservation can only go so far and with a possibly longer El Niño, matters could get worse. Miracles like the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes are unreliable and a continued fall in Angát level would naturally mean less than 24/7 and/or seven psi.

Manila had running water only starting in 1882 when water began to be pumped from the Marikina River to El Depósito in San Juan and piped to hydrants in Manila. Before then, people depended on rain water gathered in cisterns, on well water, and on Pasig River water peddlers.

Intramuros’ Casa Manila Museum has a working cistern. Rain water is channeled from the roof through a filter of twigs to screen out leaves, feathers, dead bats, etc. and into a room-sized cistern from where water is drawn up to the azotea by the pail. It is further filtered through a porous stone vat and boiled before drinking.

With nothing better to do, I thought I’d try bathing with timbâ and tabò. It’s okay. Just about all body parts from head to toe are easy to soap and rinse, but I was defeated by soapy arms which meant holding the tabò vertically with one hand and pouring slowly while using the other hand to rub the soap off.

I’m probably still up to my minimum-water evening routine. The Hidalgo-Sandoval clan to which my wife belongs used to spend Holy Week in water-short Marinduque. We were about 40 people including some 25 kids, packed in my mother-in-law’s Boác beach house. Water had to be hauled in by the barrel and was therefore carefully rationed. I managed tooth-brushing, face-washing, and a midnight drink from my evening ration of one glassful.

If the water crisis gets really bad, there’s an inspired plan reported by my wife’s nephew Augusto Hidalgo III—bathing plus brief-washing with one tabò: (a) undress, toss brief onto a palanggana; (b) step on the brief; (c) soap up while pouring half-tabò on head; (d) rinse off with the other half-tabò; and as final flourish (e) swirl brief in the palanggana’s by then tabò-ful of soapy water, squeeze, and hang to dry. This should also work for ladies.

P.S. the tabò has to be extra-large.
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