By Rabbie B. Jumao-os
(of Punta, Ormoc City; age 16), artwork by Cristobal R. Siega (of San
Antonio, Tomas Oppus, Southern Leyte; age 15), translation by Marne L.
Kilates. This story first appeared in 1995 in Mga Anak ng Dagat (Children
of the Sea), a publication of the Fisheries Sector Program Management
Office of the Department of Agriculture, 880 Quezon Ave., Quezon City,
watched as the sea turned brown under the onslaught of heavy rains. He
had lived a long time with his family in Barangay Punta in Ormoc, Leyte,
but he couldnít recall ever seeing the sea turn this angry color of mud.
Alarmed, he called his father and mother. His father, Mang Terio, was
a fisherman. His mother, Aling Sela, sold his fatherís catch in the town
||"Pa, Ma! The sea, look!
Itís turning into mud!" he exclaimed.
nothing," Mang Terio replied, pausing only a moment from mending his fishing
"But, look, Terio,
itís spreading fast," Aling Sela said worriedly. "I think itís eroded
soil being washed down from the mountain. You know how people have been
felling trees there for lumber."
their problem," Mang Terio answered. "They cut the trees, they clean up
their own mess. Itís not our concern."
stayed silent. But he was scared. He remembered the things he learned
in school: all things on this planet were connected, each had something
to do with the other. The sea was connected to the mountain, the mountain
to the sea and the air. People, animals, plants were all connected to
do anything," Mang Terio repeated. "How can we stop the loggers?"
only think, "Why not? Why couldnít we all act together to save our ourselves?
Alone, we couldnít do much, but together..."
you be on your way to school?" Aling Sela interrupted his thoughts. "Here,
donít forget your schoolbag and lunch."
The next few
days gave Rabbie more reason to worry. Often, Mang Terio would come back
from the sea empty-handed. Or heíd find many, many fish, all of them dead
and floating at sea.
would often say, "We have to do something to stop the loggers who are
leaving the mountains bald and wasted." Still, Mang Terio said nothing.
When the rains came, it got worse. Mang Terio almost had to stop fishing
disaster struck. Rabbie would never in his life forget that day: the
5th of November. Heíd heard there was a storm warning, but people paid
no attention. They were used to storms. They were not overly worried.
On his way
to school, Rabbie noticed the weather had turned warm and humid, though
there was no sign of rain or bad weather. Things went on as usual at school.
Then, at 11am, it happened: A loud crashing sound jolted Rabbie and his
classmates. Going out to investigate, they saw the school fence had given
way to some enormous weight. Then an electric post came crashing down
as heavy rains began to fall. The wind was howling.
from class, frightened children went home crying and soaking wet. Everywhere
they saw the muddy water slowly rising.
home as fast as he could. He found Aling Sela trembling with fright but
still bravely helping Mang Terio pack their belongings in boxes and blankets.
we going, Ma?" Rabbie asked.
me, son," she replied.
they ran out of their house and up the street where the water was not
so deep, their house gave way to the murky, rampaging water. Not much
later, they stood in stunned silence, watching the sea cough out from
its belly the bloated bodies of humans and animals. There was nothing
they could do but watch: Rabbie stood there feeling helpless, biting his
trembling lips. Vaguely, he saw his mother shake her head in disbelief,
too distraught to cry, her eyes red from unshed tears. Questions whirled
over and over in his mind: How could the water rise so high, so fast?
had months in which to ponder these questions, months when the entire
community of Barangay Punta had no electricity and no water, when people
had to rely on doleouts for food and clothing. This time, it was he who
raised the issue.
the sea and the mountain so much damage, thatís why," he said.
is connected, the mountains, the sea, the air, the trees, the animals,
people," Rabbie added to himself. "If only weíd learned our lesson
well. And earlier."
Itís never too late. Soon, Rabbieís
family and community had recovered enough to go back to the way they were
before the big flood. But with a big difference.
"Father, I hope we can do something to prevent the flood from happening
again," Rabbie said.
"That we will do, son," Mang Terio answered without hesitation. "We
will help in the campaign to stop the cutting of trees. We will help protect
the mountains and the forests and the seas."
THE ORMOC FLOODS
November 5, 1991
Estimated No. of Fatalities:
More than 6,000
Heavy rains brought by typhoon Uring. Before
the rains came, the weather bureau had raised Storm Signal No.1
(the lowest alert level) to warn people of the impending storm.
Probable Root Cause
: Loss of forest cover in the uplands,
which have been converted to coconut and sugarcane plantations;
improper land use.
Steps Taken To Prevent Similar Disasters:
Dredging of waterways;
relocation of people living near waterways to 'safer ground'; prohibition
on the establishment of new human settlements near waterways.
is a Sea Squirt?
Sea squirts are marine
organisms belonging to the family Ascidiaceae. Though seldom noticed or
distinguished by casual divers and snorkelers, they are highly interesting
and important. They are diverse and colorful, and inhabit all types of
marine habitats. They filter bacteria from seawater and can store heavy
metals in their tunic (a flexible external covering or 'exoskeleton').
A number of important products have been identified in sea squirts, making
these organisms a good candidate for discovery of potential medicinal
compounds from the sea.
This page is for you.
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