Strange tides

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By Roberto P. Alabado III

Planning Perspectives

Friday, April 4, 2014

TRAVELING alone with my trusty not-so-young car will always have some risk.

My job these days involves going often to Mati City where life is now here. My recent trips had some episodes of engine overheating that just required a few minutes of rest somewhere along Pantukan area. Earlier this week, it happened and I once again had to make a stopover.

Choosing an area close to some houses, I stopped and requested a bystander to help open the car hood to cool down the engine. As I explained my dilemma, he said I must have some relatives in the area since my car seems to overheat always in the area of Pantukan. I told him that that would be impossible, since the Alabados are from Panay Island and my relatives in Mindanao are concentrated in Cotabato area. To my surprise he asked if I knew the Alabado who worked at DILG and I said yes and then he in-a-matter-of-fact manner informed me that that Alabado's son is his friend and lives not far from where I stopped. It was really weird and strange when I realized the coincidence... if ever there really is such a thing as a coincidence...


Mr. Sajit Constable was the fellow who helped me and stayed with me while I waited for my car to cool down. We talked about his livelihood, which was fishing. He proudly told me that he owns a fishing vessel and use nets to catch tuna and other large fishes for the market. He explained to me the seasonality of different species and the best methods one could use to catch them. It seems that the gulf provides him and his relatives with enough income to send their children to school. I also shared with him the fishing techniques that we use as sportfishers.

By this time, he invited us to sit on the porch of his relative's house so we can relax a bit. Some of his relatives started to crowd around curious on the stranger.

I learned that they were members of the Ka'gan tribe and was reassured that I am in safe hands and they always help strangers in need. We talked about some of their unique culture and how they easily mingle with other tribes and religions. They proudly stated that with their traditional ways of resolving conflicts, rido (clan war) is unknown to them.

It was a strange feeling that I found complete strangers who assured me that if anyone within the area would do me harm all I have to do is tell them and they will come to my aid. It was also heartwarming when they told me that they are Muslim and would not touch alcohol so they do not do some stupid things unlike some of their neighbors down the road who are Christians and would do stupid things like throw stones at passing cars when drunk.

As a planner and community development worker, I grabbed the chance to conduct some investigation on the perception of fishers on government proposals. I asked their opinion on the planned commercial fishing close season that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources or BFAR will be implementing on Davao Gulf, and they replied that the problem with the proposal is that this was done by non-fishers who only see the fish but do not understand the biodiversity of the seas. They blamed the lack of enforcement of authorities on those using illegal means like dynamite fishing, illegal fish nets among others for their dwindling fish catch.

The authorities must first try to apprehend these perpetuators rather than add burden to fishers who abide by the law. What's more threatening they say are the pesticides and chemicals coming from mines and agribusiness plantations. They explained that fishes have sensitive sense of smell, so a whiff of chemicals on the water drives them away from the near shores that fishers now have to go to deeper waters just to catch the good sized fishes.

They further elaborated that government technicians who made the proposal may just have studied the fishes but didn't study the economics of their proposal. Who will now feed their families if they are not allowed to fish? They lamented that they who are abiding to all fishery laws will now be affected by some policies that should have targeted those who are engaged in illegal fishing activities.

As my stopover ended, I realized that I learned much about the biodiversity of the gulf and how this contributes to the development of small communities along the area. I learned something about the economics of the fishing industry in the local setting and that strangers can become friends.

While in Mati City and the calm waters of Pujada bay, I see the opportunity for locals to engage in water sports and leisure activities. I imagine dragon boats and rowboats streaking across the peaceful waters of the bay. Kayaking will not be hard since the waves are gentle, with the gentle breeze windsurfing and sailing will be a pleasurable activity. Diving and snorkeling to view the coral reef systems will also be fun.

I remember my friend, British planner Bob Summers who made Davao as his area to do volunteer work. He said that upon seeing on the map the huge gulf, he deliberately chose Davao because he was anticipating the various water sports and activities that must exist in the area. He was disappointed to observe that we neglect the treasure we have in our midst; rather than flock to the beach to enjoy the sun we troop to the malls. Rather than go sailing or fishing to commune with nature, we prefer to watch basketball on TV. Rather than value properties that have a great view to the sea, we allow the urban poor to build their communities along the shorelines.

Turning my thoughts back to my stopover, I realized that when people's culture and livelihood depend upon a resource most of them will take action to preserve and sustain the resource. With the towns' and cities' culture and activities alienated from their resources, people now tend to do activities that destroy the environment. They have already detached themselves from nature but have attached their culture and activities to the concrete jungle and its pollutive fumes.

During this summertime, reconnect once more to nature - explore the beaches, do some diving and snorkeling, take your bike to the various mountain trails, hike up the hills and mountains of the region. Do not be afraid of strangers you meet along the way. It is when you are freed from the clutches of energy-sapping urban life and commune with nature that you realize that this is life.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 05, 2014.


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