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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
July 1998 Vol. 1 No. 7

                    What is a Sea Squirt?

My Friend
the Guardian of the Sea

A young girl and her brother befriend a member of their Citizens' Sea Patrol and learn to appreciate his work as a "guardian of the sea"







By Aubrey A. Salavaria (of Aurora, Zamboanga del Sur; age 14), artwork by Paul P. Autida (of Tambulig, Zamboanga del Sur, Metro Manila; age 14), 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, Philippines.

My friends and I often play at the seashore. We play hide-and-seek among the row of boats berthed there.

One day, I hid inside the boat of a member of our citizens’ sea patrol. That was not something I’d normally do, for the man who owned the boat, Mang Jun, was said to dislike having children near his boat. But the boat was empty. Nobody would know if I climbed in and hid myself, I told myself.

Then… "Psst! Get down! I don’t want you kids playing there!" I heard someone yell.

"Oh no! It’s Mang Jun," I said to myself as I scrambled out of my hiding place.

"Pung, Janice!" Nonet, the "it", shouted, counting me out. Now I was "it."

I was mad at myself. And I was so mad at Mang Jun -- I wouldn’t be "it" if it were not for him.

I was used to seeing Mang Jun around. He didn’t look like someone you’d call "Mang Jun". He wasn’t as old as Father, he looked about the same age as the other young men in our village. But that was how everyone called him, so that was how I called him, too.

But Mang Jun was not like the other young men in our village. I’d often see the others while their time away at the neighborhood store, but not Mang Jun. Mang Jun often kept to himself or was busy cleaning his boat. Or he’d help the other fishermen mend their nets. At meetings of the citizens’ sea patrol, he seldom spoke. He’d nod and smile. And he was always attentive.

One afternoon, I saw him sitting under a talisay (Terminalia catappa) tree. He was reading. Not a comic book. A book! When he looked up, I smiled. But he just nodded back.

My friends and I didn’t like Mang Jun. My friends said Mang Jun was snooty. He never gave us candy or ice "scramble." He wasn’t at all like the other members of our village’s citizens’ sea patrol, who’d often give me and my friends those little "treats" that we kids loved.

Then, one day, I found out Mang Jun wasn’t so bad after all -- in fact, I found out he was quite nice. That day, Mother sent me and my brother Lepoy to bring Mang Jun a bowl of viand. Mother is like that – she’d always share some extra viand with our neighbors.

So I and my brother Lepoy went to Mang Jun’s house. The house was small, just like ours. It had very few things, like ours. In one corner was a milk box, where Mang Jun kept his belongings. But something else caught my attention: books, stacks of them.

"Do you like books?" Mang Jun asked.

I didn’t answer. I didn’t like Mang Jun. I remembered how he shouted at me to get down from his boat, how he made me "it" in our game.

But Mang Jun didn’t seem to notice my sullen silence. He took out a book and started reading Lepoy and me a story. Before we left, he invited us to visit him in his boat whenever we were free.

So one day, we went to see him while he was cleaning his boat. Lepoy asked him what the citizens’ sea patrol did.

"We’re on the look-out for illegal fishers," replied Mang Jun. "Small fishermen catch fewer and fewer fish because of the illegal fishers. These illegal fishers will take everything if we don’t keep watch."

Once we saw Mang Jun talking with our village chief.

"Trawlers," I heard him say. "I’ll go after them." And he quickly got into his boat.

Trawling is bad, Father always tells me. It spares nothing, not even small, young fish. Trawls pulled by powerful pump boats also scour the sea bottom, destroying the places where fish live.

The motor of Mang Jun’s red boat sounded angry. Such speed! Mang Jun certainly knew what to do. He wended his way easily around the waters.

People were gathering at the seashore. They had heard of the chase Mang Jun was giving the trawlers.

When the trawlers saw Mang Jun, they revved up their motor, clearly intending to make a run for it. But Mang Jun had a ploy. He changed course, positioned himself in a hidden cove, then met the trawlers head on. His boat moved fast, slicing across the waters like a knife. The waves seethed in his wake.

"Stop," Mang Jun shouted. "Stop!"

The illegal fishers had been caught. Behind Mang Jun were several other boats, all ready to assist him if necessary. The illegal fishers had no choice but to stop their boat. Their motor wheezed and sputtered like an old man short of breath.

The trawlers were brought to the police station, where the village chief filed charges against them.

Later, Mang Jun related the whole story to Lepoy and me. "They deserve to be in jail," he said.

My brother and I have become close friends with Mang Jun. Mang Jun would now often read us stories from his books. He’d teach us the different names of fish and sea plants and how they live in the water.

I no longer call him Mang Jun. This is a term for old men.

"Kuya Jun" is what I now call my friend, the guardian of our sea.

What 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.

Children Speak!

This page is for you. If you have any poetry, artwork, photos, comments, experiences about the sea, news, suggestions, questions -- anything at all that you would like to say about our ocean -- send it to

and we'll post them on this page. Don't forget to tell us a bit about yourself (your name, age, the name of your town or city and the name of your country).

Adults who write for children are most welcome too!


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