Pest control

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    LANGAW.” That’s how then-President Corazon Aquino described Vice President Salvador Laurel and some other critics of her administration, in one moment of candor. Not very fitting for the “icon of democracy” that she was held up to be, but I guess we all have our tipping point beyond which we say things that express our deeply held sentiments.

    Then again, calling your critics “langaw” is far better than having them jailed or even executed, which Cory would have been the last to do precisely because she was sworn to rise over and above the experience her family went through in the 11 years between 1972 and 1983.

    Every President has a tipping point, some lower than others. What determines that? Well, an understanding of the whys and wherefores of democracy, I guess. Humility, or an acceptance of one’s limitations. A deep well of patience for criticism, even if undeserved. A sense of humor even.

    ‘We have a choice: to be the pests that need to be controlled, or to be the pest control! Choose your side!’

    Definitely, the lack of a belief that one is God’s gift to the Universe, or even to the galaxies, or just our solar system. Because this one would result in the opposite – a complete lack of patience for criticism of any kind. To this type of person, a critic is nothing but a pest. And pests are to be exterminated. Sumunod ka na lang. Or else.

    Funny but these were my thoughts a few days ago when I witnessed termite experts from Entom get to work trying to anay-proof a 70-year-old house I am restoring/renovating after years of neglect. It’s actually a house inherited from our father, who in the 1970s had bought it from his paternal aunt Salome, who in turn had it constructed from the remnants of an older family abode that was destroyed during the last year of the Japanese Occupation. After my dad moved in with me in April of 2015 he never returned to the house; and when he passed away in September 2016 the house was left empty – except for one time when a neighbor swore she saw my dad through a second floor window apparently doing what he does in the afternoon – watching TV.

    I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and got myself a contractor. After viewing the insides of the house I told him to turn two small bedrooms into one big library, one library into a master bedroom, a third guestroom into an anteroom for a private T&B, and to take down some old partitions that restricted the airflow around the roomy second floor. That’s when we noticed them termites.

    Not surprisingly the termites have their favorites. They’ve left unscathed the house pillars, which, if you knock on they sound and feel as if they’re solid steel or concrete, so solid you need a drill just to drive a nail into them. They also left untouched the wooden floorings – planks of wood 14 feet long or more – maybe because these too were too hard for their incisors. But they loved the double walling, some added to the house in the last 20 years or so and it is in those spaces, hidden from view, that they were doing their thing. Once the double walling had been ripped off you’d see the little white devils scampering for cover, leaving behind planks of wood in which tunnels and caves appeared to have been carved.

    The Entom guys told me we shouldn’t have ripped off the double walling once we noticed the termites, but should have immediately called for them. Termites, they told me, hate open air, noise and the smell of paint. So, when exposed, they’d disappear into the ground, at least five feet below. So when you notice termite infestation, they say, they should be summoned, so they could install bait that the termites would eat instead of the wood, not knowing that the bait would then cause their Queen to die, killing the colony. After that they’d drill holes all around your property into which an anti-termite pesticide would be injected and, voila! You’re termite free for at least two years.

    Since I had caused the termites to flee for cover, the Entom experts just did the hole drilling and pesticide injection, a task they completed in a little over four hours. They’ll be back for an inspection in a few weeks, and then again quarterly, for the next 24 months.

    The termites must feel that I have just enacted the Anti-Termite Terror Law. Now they’ll think twice, three times, even five, before taking a chance and chewing on the remaining wooden parts of the house.

    I can imagine the leadership gathered around the Queen, with briefings as to what is happening above ground and what they should do: should they move away? Should they practice social distancing? Or should they bide their time under a total termite community lockdown? Should they use face masks or even face shields? Should the termite army be equipped with proper PPEs imported by favored termite-businessmen with connections in China?

    Should the termite workforce be required to disinfect before approaching Her Majesty? Or should she go into “perpetual isolation?”

    So many lessons to learn from them termites.

    Then again, our free society, any free society can be like a house, old or new. It could look good from the outside, but there could very well be a rot creeping in from the inside and before you know it the whole structure collapses on our head. The rot could be from an “inert citizenry,” as an American jurist warned, who care very little for public affairs and leave men in power an open field on which to do their work. It could come from those men in government who, as Edmund Burke put it, “have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emoluments from it, even though but for one year, can never willingly abandon it.” Or it could come from us, deeply divided and deeply intolerant of opposing viewpoints, thereby demanding or allowing liberty to be nibbled away, in parts.

    That’s when the foundations of a free society begin to crumble, from the inside.

    We have a choice: to be the pests that need to be controlled, or to be the pest control!

    Choose your side!