Neither Pink nor Red



“The biggest distinction between brownouts and blackouts is that brownouts are partial outages while blackouts are a complete shutdown of electricity. During a brownout, the system capacity is reduced and the voltage is typically reduced by at least 10 to 25 percent.” (https://neccoopenergy.com ›)


Since I was a kid, I have always wondered about the difference between brownout and blackout; because I would often hear the terms from adults. Then I realize that brownouts have been so much a part of our lives that it has been a part of my childhood (and probably yours) through my adulthood. We’ve accepted it as a fact of life just like the seasonal typhoons, the summer heat and mosquitoes at night, when we should not have. Energy should not cut off all of a sudden, nor should it be scheduled for regular extended times of suspension. Nature continuously burns energy. Yes, it could die down, but it would only happen only after millions of years.


I read a post last Saturday that says, ‘Naga is neither pink nor red. Naga is BROWN. Brownout pirmi”. For a moment there, I thought my Facebook friend was getting political. I’m attending a national training every Saturday via Google Meet; and before the start of a session, I would engage in informal conversations with the other participants. They were shocked with the 7am to 6pm power interruption. (That has to be the only incident that the absence of electricity has caused shock.) This Mindanao resident whom I was talking to shared that brownouts are rare in their place. He even bragged that even during heavy rains, power in their area doesn’t cut off. (I’m not sure if he’s exaggerating, but that’s what he said.) I remember years ago, when my aunt was visiting from Chicago and the lights suddenly went out, she exclaimed, “Terrible”. Then she went on a rant on how incidents like that are usual here. At that time, I felt that she had grown distant from her roots. Come on, brownout is part of Bicolano culture. We always go through it every time a strong typhoon comes along, which is almost every year. We’d be lucky not to have a typhoon in a year. But when I think of it now, she was right. It really is terrible. We should not go through a power drought which lasts a whole day even until the early evening. We should not wake up with a brownout and scramble to look for the old transistor radio and batteries for it. Drivers, commuters and pedestrians in downtown should not get unsettled when the city downtown area suddenly gets dark all throughout.


They say, they do it to do repairs. Okay, I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there really are so much repairs that need to be done. After all, there are low lying branches with leaves that threaten the security of electric cables. There are those electric posts that have suddenly become misplaced because of the road widening projects. They probably have other repairs that are best left to electrical engineers. But can’t they just restrict the brownout in the area which needs the repair? Has not the road widening just been initiated recently; and have I not experienced these power outages even before I was circumcised? Furthermore, I often wonder, why do they repair almost every week? Is the damage so widespread throughout the system? Setting aside those purported repairs, why does power go off all of a sudden, every now and then? Does some electrician accidentally trip off some cable? Does the switch loosely slip down? Does the current get suspended when a strong wind blows?


But we have to give credit to the consumers who are quick to adapt. When it suddenly got dark down in Centro, in a few minutes, the buildings were rumbling with their generators. I managed to hitched a ride; and from the back ride of a tricycle I could make out solar lights along a street. It’s as if the public is saying, “If you can’t give us reliable power, we’ll find our way to get that reliable power”. It seems that the public has resigned themselves to this inefficient fate.


They would say that it is unfair to compare ours with those in other places, because their systems are simply efficient. But after more than two decades in the new millennium, can’t we bring those efficient systems here?


“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Proverbs 11:3