In the time of Fireflies

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By Gingging Avellanosa-Valle

Bahin sang Bubay

Friday, August 8, 2014

THE “Aninipot” or fireflies as we call it in our dialect, according to scientist and environmentalist Kim Gargar, is an indicator that ecological balance is still present where they exist. He said the sight of fireflies synchronizing their “dances” in a “tuog” tree mesmerize him, though he did not particularly share the belief of Indigenous Peoples that such also indicates an enchanted presence, as proven by Science, he said.

He strikes me as a cheerful, good-natured character whose interests with physics is so varied that anything can make him take another look at any given time. The first time ex-political detainee Kim Gargar and I met he was talking about what to my understanding is the “body clock” of fireflies, the “rhythm of life” among them that starts and turns off the fire in these tiny creatures, or that ‘something’ in living things that automatically awaken us or moves us into action for that matter.

A fascinating person, that was my first impression of him as he continued to talk about what he wanted to learn about the certain time of day that plants, insects or even leaves moves or interacts rhythmically with the whole universe. You do not get across such kind of personality every day. In fact, never in my life have I ever talked to a behavioral biologist and physicist who can talk so easily, so clearly and understandably about the kind of work that he does.


Later when I found myself searching through the internet just about what chronobiology is in relation to the kind of person Kim is, it dawned on me that indeed, the members of the 67th IB who mistook him as a member of the New People’s Army committed the biggest blunder of all when they later imprisoned him for 10 months in the provincial jail of my home town in Baganga, Davao Oriental.


Kim’s star shone after he marched Magna Cum Laude with a degree in BS Physics, as well as Class Valedictorian of the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology, and later joined UP Diliman in 2001 to study and teach. He has been a volunteer physicist of AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People since then. He later taught aspiring physicists at the MAPUA Institute of Technology and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and continued his studies as a student of a doctorate in chronobiology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 2012.

He only came back early in 2013 and joined the Center for Environmental Concerns where he was active in different environmental investigative missions.

Sometime in April 2013 when I joined a big contingent of humanitarian mission to Pablo-devastated areas in Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental, I was not aware that he was also there at that time because there were too many of us, and only learned about it after I met him for the first time last week after he was released on bail.

After that mission, he was said to have wanted to return to Davao to help those who were affected by Typhoon Pablo. Upon his request, Panalipdan Southern Mindanao allowed him to directly contribute to restoration efforts it has been actively doing in Pablo-affected areas in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

He had already spent some time of his environmental investigation in some Barangays including Aliwagwag in Cateel, Davao Oriental when a skirmish between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the 67th IB occurred nearby on October 1, 2013 and sent him groping in the dead of night, and later he accidentally fell off a ravine, and injured his ankle.

Guided by his positive instincts and cheerful nature, Kim related that he tried to move up to safer grounds after his fall and stayed awake for the rest of the night, although in pain. As dawn gradually drew nearer, he heard footsteps approaching and heaved a sigh of relief, hoping that farmers will find him there. However, even when he saw that soldiers were pointing their guns at him and suspecting that he was a rebel, he was still relieved with the thought that somebody would be able to bring him to the hospital as he was still bleeding.

Much later, Kim was brought to the provincial jail in Baganga, Davao Oriental and detained there for 10 months till he was bailed out during the first week of August.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 09, 2014.


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