Editorial: Gary Granada and his 'Bahay'

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Friday, January 10, 2014

THE new hullaballo over the bunkhouses for Typhoon Yolanda survivors, after a similar hullaballoo was died down for Typhoon Pablo victims, takes on ridiculous twists as the story is followed up by a national daily day after day.

At the start, the howl was against the 8.64 square meters unit allotted for one family in the rows of bunkhouses being built. Imagine a family of four (note, four is a very small number considering that those in bunkhouses are the poor people, but let's just assume there's a mother, a father, and two children - girl and boy), made to live in 8.64 square meter space. That's roughly two square meters per person. You want to imagine what a two square meter area is? A single twin bed is 1.89 square meters.

Brings to mind the beginning stanza in Davao Region-born singer-composer Gary Granada's song, "Bahay".


"Isang araw ako'y nadalaw sa bahay tambakan/Labinglimang mag-anak ang duo'y nagsiksikan/Nagtitiis sa munting barung-barong na sira-sira/Habang doon sa isang mansyon halos walang nakatira..."

Repeatedly throughout the song, he sings, "Hindi ko maintindihan bakit ang tawag sa ganito ay bahay..."

After the initial outrage, the Department of Public Works and Highways says, okay, we will break down the wall in between two units so that what used to be two units will become one. Ergo, a family will now be allowed 17.28 square meters, where each member of a family of four is allotted 4.32 square meters. How big is 4.32 square meters? Using international standards, the biggest bed or the so-called California King in the US and also called King Long in Japan is 3.89 square meters.

At a televised press briefing amid the howls raised against the over-priced substandard bunkhouses being built in Yolanda-affected areas, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, "We are following our own standards. We don't necessarily have to follow international standards. But because our concern is safety, our concern is they should not be congested."

Gary Granada's song continues...

"Isang bantog na senador ang unang nilapitan ko/At dalubhasang propesor ng malaking kolehiyo/Ang pinagpala sa mundo, ang dyaryo at ang pulpito/Lahat sila'y nagkasundo na ang tawag sa ganito/Ay bahay..."

The poor hungry survivors will have to eat, sleep, and live in a 4.32 square meter space that everyone calls "bahay", while the rich will not have second thoughts about sleeping on a California King.

We learned of this song when we first found a Gary Granada's cassette tape album (in pre-CD and pre-downloadable music scene) entitled "Pagsamba at Pakikibaka" in a Paulinian bookstore in the early 1990s. Nothing has changed it seems on how the rich and the rich government officials define a house for the poor people.

"Baka naman isang araw kayo doon ay maligaw/Mahipo n'yo at marinig at maamoy at matanaw/Hindi ako nangungutya, kayo na rin ang magpasya/Sa palagay ninyo kaya, ito sa mata ng Maylikha/Ay bahay..."

Sana nga, kasamang Gary, sana nga.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 11, 2014.


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