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By Kchessk P. Dimaano (of Dalahican, Lucena City; age 16), artwork by Ivy S. Agacer(of Lucena City; 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.
Every summer, the dolphins came, a whole school of them. They’d display their playful antics in the water, leaping and twisting in the air, blue skin glowing against the sun. People watched fascinated, exclaiming and shouting their approval.
One man was particularly happy, but for another reason: Tiyo Doro, who caught dolphins to slaughter. Every time the dolphins came, he’d have lots of meat to sell.
The townsfolk knew what Tiyo Doro was doing, but no one stopped him. Once, Rowena called her father Mang Cerio’s attention.
"Father, won’t you ask Tiyo Doro to please stop killing the dolphins? Doesn’t he pity the poor creatures?" Rowena pleaded.
"You know it’s difficult to talk to your Tiyo Doro about that," Mang Cerio replied. "We’ll just end up arguing."
One day, Ruel, Rowena’s brother, came upon a sweating Tiyo Doro slaughtering a dolphin, his clothes splattered with the creature’s blood.
"This animal’s giving me trouble, come give me a hand," he said to Ruel.
Ruel hesitated at the strong fishy smell. He watched the dolphin, its lifeless stare seemingly directed at him.
"Come on, lad," Tiyo Doro cajoled. "I’ll buy you merienda (snacks). This should be easy with the two of us working together."
"Uh... all right, Sir," Ruel answered.
Tiyo Doro was starting to cut up the meat portions. He handed Ruel a long, sharp knife.
Ruel sank the knife into the dolphin’s soft, fat neck, which spurted blood like a fountain.
"Yuck! It smells!" Ruel spat out, disgusted. "I quit!"
"Come now, there’s nothing to it," Tiyo Doro cajoled. "You’ll get used to the smell in no time at all. Think of the merienda I’m buying you. I’ll even give you money to buy whatever you wish."
Hearing this, Ruel steeled his stomach and ignored the smell. Soon, he and Tiyo Doro had gone to the market and back, earning P2,000 from the sale of the dolphin’s meat. "‘See how much money you can earn in a day’s work? Next time I have a dolphin to slaughter, be sure you volunteer at once for the job, or other people will beat you to it," Tiyo Doro told his nephew as he handed him his P500 share.
The next day, as Mang Cerio prepared to go fishing, he asked Ruel to go with him. But Ruel made excuses. To himself, he said, "Why should I go fishing with Father? He never pays me my share of the catch. With Tiyo Doro, the job is easy and the pay is good."
So Mang Cerio set out on his own. He was gone a long time, longer than he’d ever been that he went out to sea.
Worried, Rowena, Ruel and their mother, along with Tiyo Doro, went to the seashore to await Mang Cerio’s return. "I hope nothing has happened to Father," Rowena prayed.
Then they saw the dolphins, playfully leaping and twisting out of the water, their blue skin glowing and sparkling against the morning sun. They didn’t go near the shore. Instead, a man, pale and trembling, came ashore. It was Mang Cerio, dazedly saying, "The dolphins! Don’t kill the dolphins!"
It took a few days in hospital for Mang Cerio to recover enough to tell his story. He’d been in a squall, he said, and a big wave turned his boat over, throwing him into the water. "I fell unconscious, and when I came to, I felt myself floating," he said. "I thought I was on a raft, but when I turned to see what it was that saved me, I realized that I was lying on the back of a dolphin, which was keeping me afloat. Then more dolphins came, and they brought me near the shore, where you found me. Without them, I’d be dead by now."
Rowena hugged her father. Her mother said a prayer of thanks. Mang Cerio said, "Tomorrow, I’ll start talking to our neighbors. I’ll ask them never to hurt or harm the dolphins again."
As for Ruel, he couldn’t say a word. His chest was tight as he thought of Tiyo Doro and the dolphin he helped slaughter. "I’ll never slaughter dolphins again," he told himself. "I must convince Tiyo Doro there are other ways to earn a living."
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.
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