Early yesterday morning, Speedy received a text message from his sister, Susan, saying that their mother had been rushed to the hospital and was in ICU. She had a mild heart attack, was out of danger but her vital signs were being monitored. We weren’t able to get too many details until we got to the hospital several hours later.
The utmost question in our mind was what triggered the heart attack. For an 82-year-old, my mother-in-law is in pretty good shape — goes to church most mornings, goes shopping, cooks, goes out with her friends and relatives. She’s no bedridden grandmomma who needs assistance to walk. She’s got full control of her head and limbs. She survived mastectomy about ten years ago and is actually doing well.
Speedy’s other sister, Ava, told us the doctor’s initial prognosis. It’s about pollution. The air that my mother-in-law breathes, day in and day out, is too filthy to supply sufficient amounts of oxygen to her brain. Etcetera, etcetera. I’m not good with medical terms but that’s the gist of it.
The peculiar thing about my mother-in-law’s situation is that, under normal circumstances, she should be able to breathe better air. She lives in what used to be a residential area of Quezon City where, until the last decade or so, commercial establishments were nowhere to be found in the neighborhood. But things have rapidly deteriorated.
Sometime during the late 1990s or early 2000s, a Chinese businessman started buying up properties in the neighborhood. He bought the properties on both sides of my mother-in-law’s house. He built a factory on one and a workers’ housing facility on the other. The factory causes a lot of pollution; the housing facility (that’s a polite term, okay? It’s more of a makeshift camp)…, there’s karaoke singing during the day and into the night, the trash from both properties invade the street… You get the picture.
You know how it is with the inexistent zoning laws in Metro Manila. Except for private residential subdivisions, there are no strictly designated residential, commercial and industrial areas. Anything goes. So, although my mother-in-law’s neighborhood used to be an upper middle-class residential area during the 50s and the 60s, today, it is a mish-mash of houses and business establishments.
Of course, we always felt that my mother-in-law and her sister-in-law (they have adjacent houses) were being eased out by this businessman. He wants their property so badly to make the two that he purchased earlier one large contiguous piece of prime real estate. So, he makes life hell for them. Air pollution from one side; noise pollution from the other. Complaints lodged with the barangay went nowhere. “Friendly” cops are frequent “guests” at the businessman’s establishment. Again, you get the picture. I don’t think I need to throw around accusations. We see this kind of shit everyday.
Thing is, if my mother-in-law sells — she can dictate the price (god knows how valuable real estate is in that part of Quezon City) and she doesn’t even have to sell to THAT businessman — she can buy a house in a better neighborhood and still get to keep whatever extra is left from the sale.
Ava suggested that she move in with us. I have no objections — in fact, I was telling Speedy there might be a reason why we chose a house with an extra bedroom. I offered to have the extra bedroom painted red, her favorite color. But my mother-in-law refused. She said she cannot leave the house that was given to her by her parents. Sentimental reasons. Sentimental value.
No one can force her to do anything she doesn’t want to. She has her way of determining what is more important to her. Personally, I’m just happy that we’re moving to a neighborhood that is unlikely to deteriorate as fast, and as badly, as the neighborhood where Speedy grew up. At least, I hope it won’t.