A couple’s nest

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

In the middle of a calamity where thousands of people are rendered homeless with some begging for food along the highway, over-eager government bureaucrats with probably nothing better to do could think about sex as if that was a priority. They spent government money and time on how to service the couples wanting for intimacy in the middle of hundreds of people huddled in evacuation centers.

“It will serve the people more if they’ll set up evacuation centers,” Father Jerome Secillano of the Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro Parish in Manila said in reaction to the offers of privacy by these government employees for those wanting to have sex. He was referring to thousands holed up in cramped evacuation centers in Tagaytay.

They called these private enclosures as “couple’s nest” as if the evacuees were birds on their mating season.

Indeed, as the priest and everybody watching the flow of evacuees know, there is a need for more centers where people displaced by the eruption could stay. For how long, nobody knows. Taal Volcano does not show it will simmer down soon. In fact, the news yesterday said the volcano is showing new restiveness and can erupt at any time. The ash flow that also prevents people from staying within the danger zone can continue for another month or more.

Rightly did the priest assess the situation. “Intimacy is the least that people will think of amidst a calamity.” In those moments what matters in the mind of people is survival especially those families with children, elderly and handicapped. Thousands are hobbled in crowded evacuation centers for lack of space and some wise guys or perhaps perverts in Tagaytay want to set aside rooms for the couple’s nests.

The local health authority in Tagaytay had earlier set up “couple’s nest” rooms in an evacuation center to cater to the coupling needs of married evacuees. This kind of space is usually provided in jails. No wonder the Tagaytay system is like the prison rules.

Couples can go to the couple’s room by providing a slip which they could ask for in the evacuation facilities where they are staying, and then they can go to “our mini-hotel”, the couple’s nest, where they can present the slip. However, those who wish to use the room need to secure permission and undergo a family planning seminar.

The Tagaytay government will provide, as in all public family planning seminars, contraceptives and condoms “in each room” and “commodities they needed” that surely means expenses of tax money.

The reports said that the “couple’s nest” idea has “drawn flak from various sectors and little praise from couples who approved of it.” Among the reactions said, setting up of the Couple’s Nest “is insensitive” for some to even think about coupling during a time of calamity. They should think about providing evacuees with decent toilet facilities.”

Indeed, sanitation has become a problem in the evacuation areas, and this poses a health concern. Schools have these facilities, but they are limited and inadequate for thousands who stay in the centers 24 hours a day. Maintaining them daily will be a great task.

While we can agree on the need of people for intimacy, to set aside space and facilities for this in moments when danger stalks, rooms are overcrowded, food and other necessities of life is a daily challenge and at government expense in a “mini-hotel” setting is more than being insensitive. It is unconscionable.

If these health officials are deeply concerned with the intimacy needs of the evacuees, they should not put the burden on top of the primary needs of people displaced from their homes and sources of income on the evacuation centers. They can open their houses, if they are not already full, for this private need. As they say, “charity begins at home.”

People from unaffected places are coming to the aid of the afflicted areas and the national government is raising P30 billion to help the displaced people and rehabilitate their communities and restart their sources of livelihood. Every centavo counts. This is the priority. Sexual intimacy can wait for a better time, unless one is so fired up seeing a disaster or looking at other people’s misery as an opportunity to exploit to enforce an artificial birth control program.