"I write not as an expert
in marine conservation (because I am not) but as a person who was once a
child not too long ago. I want to share with you my feelings about
conserving our marine environment.
"I grew up in the city, but I
consider my self a taga-baybayon (coastal dweller) at heart. My siblings
and I have very fond memories of life by the sea as we spent most of our
childhood summers in Baclayon. This is a coastal town in Bohol, where my
mother grew up. It is also the mainland town right across Pamilacan
Island, now controversial for its whale shark-hunting practices. My great,
great grandparents had a big old house right beside the sea, with only the
huge and ancient mangroves, pagatpatan, standing between them and the vast
"Every day of many summers (except the days of the Holy week, when outings
at sea were forbidden), we would go to the shore with cousins and watch
those little colorful agokoy (crabs) as they scampered on the sand. The
song "Si Filemon" was very real to us then because we knew what
(mudskippers) were and constantly saw them skipping about in the mud.
"We went out to shore at low tide to go
panginhas (gleaning) with the local
folk; enjoyed slurping the soup and eggs of sinugbang swaki (grilled sea
urchin); cried and sighed with relief when, after stepping on tuyom (that
type of sea urchin which is black and has very long spines), someone would
pee on the spine imbedded on a foot and the spine would melt in front of
our eyes. Fish were abundant then, as were shells, corals and many other
fascinating sea creatures.
"Truly, summers by the shore of Baclayon were magical when I was a young
"Now I am a mother. One of the very first words my son uttered, besides "mama"
and "papa", was "dadat" (sea). My son loves the sea, and all the creatures
that go with it, so we try to bring him to the dagat (sea) as often as we
"Unfortunately, the marine
life is not as abundant as it was when I was younger (although,
as I now recall, the old folks also said the same thing when I was a child).
The most common creature we now see when we go panginhas on the shores of
Dumanjug, my husband's hometown, are umang (hermit crabs). And one has to
go far, far from the shore to find anything at all. The stones have been
turned and exposed too often and most times one will only find sea spiders
"Dolphin and whale sightings, once common during those summer days as we
crossed the sea from Cebu to Bohol, are now rare. The most abundant
display of live fishes my son has seen is that at the pet shop in the
mall, the most recent starfishes are the ones on display in souvenir
shops, now dry and without life, and the only big fishes he will see,
unless we take the whale sighting tours in Bais, are those on posters or
in the shows of the Discovery and National Geographic channels.
"All these point to the alarming fact that we humans have depleted and now
threaten to irreversibly destroy our marine resources. That we, who are
responsible for this negligence, have the obligation to make amends.
And so we have become a little more vigilant about the environment.
now conscious of the 3R's: reduce, reuse and recycle. We have "I Love the
Ocean" movements. And, along the coast of Baclayon and many other areas,
both children and adults have planted mangroves which have now grown
taller and more lush than at any time in recent memory. My mother has even
found the strength to call Bantay Dagat (citizens' sea patrol) to help
drive away the people cutting the mangroves behind our house.
"And these efforts, although not enough, have gained fruit. Last summer, my
mother called to say, "Namalik na ang mga isda!" (The fish are back!).
They had woke up one morning to find the mangroves behind our house
abounding in fish fry. Now we see more crabs and hear more bird sounds,
and the blue kingfishers have come back!
"Only recently, I watched a show featuring the efforts of the Pollilio folk
in Quezon Province to protect their sea. They, too, say, "Bumalik na ang
mga isda." (The fish are back.)