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Youngblood : Interconnected

September 23, 2006

By Rosanna Naig*
Inquirer
Sept. 22, 2006

I AM no superhero. If I were one, we would be living in a totally different world.

I wrote my first essay on environmental awareness more than a decade ago, when I was in Grade 6. I won 500 pesos for my piece. It was about dreaming of a world where there was no pollution, no diseases, no poverty, no corruption, no disasters, a world where Mother Earth was the No. 1 priority, not politics, not money, not even our own interests. It was how an 11-year-old girl conceived a beautiful Earth made real by our efforts to take good care of what nature gave to us.

I am not writing this piece to win another competition. I don’t even expect everyone to spare the few minutes it takes to finish reading it. I just want to bring back the little voice of the 11-year-old girl who believed that all of us are responsible for what happens to the world we live in.

My heart goes out to the children of Guimaras and nearby islands of Western Visayas. They might never see how splendid their beaches once were. They might never get to enjoy the rich marine life that their seas once offered. They might never even get to fulfill their dreams because their parents’ source of livelihood has been damaged by a green grime of oil.

I grew up loving the sea and the beaches of Antique. My father, a teacher and part-time farmer and fisherman, went out of his way to let us experience nature’s wonders and bounty. Sometimes he would wake us up at 5 in the morning to go fishing. This meant rowing the boat out to sea, casting the net and pulling it up after an hour. My siblings and I enjoyed the fresh smell of the sea, while watching the sun rising. I can say that those are the few things from my childhood that can’t be purchased with money.

Greenpeace has called the worst oil spill in our country a “ticking time bomb.” There is so little time to contain the damage. It will take years to clean up the mess and even then Guimaras will not be the same heaven that it was before. The oil slick is spreading over the clear and rich waters surrounding the island, ruining the mangroves and the marine wildlife for which it is quite well known. Gone are some of the beautiful, white beaches that the place once offered as a come-on to tourists. Gone are the days when children can have fun day after day on its beaches. They can’t even go swimming anymore. Gone are the fishing grounds and many will be going hungry for months or even years to come.

Greenpeace’s website has a story about a boy in Grade 6 who wishes that the oil will go away so that he can catch fish and swim in the sea again. I have read about a father who wonders where he will go and what he will do to bring food to his family now that he cannot go fishing. I have seen pictures of whole beaches and mangrove forests covered by oil. Those trees were planted by the people and now all their efforts have gone for naught. Some of them have been afflicted by allergies. A handful are said to have died from breathing noxious fumes from the oil spill. Reading or hearing the news from the place is so depressing.

It has been reported that millions of pesos are needed to suck all the oil left in the sunken tanker and many millions more to clean up the mess. Petron blames the shipping company for the accident. Lawmakers asked President Macapagal-Arroyo to declare a state of calamity. The Philippine Coast Guard at one time declared that the tanker had sprung a new leak, a claim Petron denied.

It is as if no one knows what is going on and no one is in charge. Before we know it, the oil slick will have spread to nearby provinces, causing greater damage to the ecosystem.

This is not the time for pointing fingers. This is the time to get our act together to solve the problem. We can ask all the “whys” we can think of without figuring out how we can solve the crisis. Guimaras will never be the same again. We can’t bring back its wonders, but we should try to restore whatever we can.

My father may not go fishing anymore, seeing that our town is quite close to Guimaras. I may not taste the fresh catch from the Visayan Sea again. But I can continue to dream of a place where people understand how lives are interconnected and how we should be responsible for each other and for what God has given us.

* Rosanna Naig, 22, is a BA Broadcast Communication graduate of the University of the Philippines-Visayas.

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