Fireflies in the rain



Jullie Y. Daza

Jullie Y. Daza

Shirley and her husband are part of a fishing community. Typically, a fisherman earns P1,000 a day, but on an exceptionally lucky day, they can make up to P11,000.

You can see why they are against reclamation, but even with two dynamic, outspoken ladies, Sen. Cynthia Villar and Rep. Baby Arenas, championing their cause, Shirley’s and 699 other families in Taliptip, Bulacan are worried sick.

The floods have been waist-high, several towns being lowland — Obando, Bulakan, Meycauayan. One other thing about Bulacan which I never knew about, they depend on Manila Bay for the fishermen’s subsistence; all along I had stupidly thought that we buy our seafood from Cavite and Pangasinan.

As it happens, Bulacan evokes excitement of another kind, for among us crowd-weary city folk, we’re impatient with anticipation of a mega-airport coming up five years from now. We deserved a new airport 20 years ago and now that it’s almost within reach, the world is changing faster than you can spell environment. Global warming, melting glaciers, extreme climates, oceans drowning in plastics, fishkills, not to forget frequent earthquakes.

We’re learning new words, liquefaction, subsidence, storm surge, slow-concept disaster. The ground beneath our feet has softened or is sinking, typhoons grow fiercer, destruction strikes without warning, if long in coming. The world shrinks, buildings rise vertically, land is reclaimed from the sea, 22 plans alone for Manila Bay. Reclamation’s other name is dump-and-fill.

To build an airport the builders would need 20 million dump trucks of soil or 150,000 chocolate hills (when Bohol has only 120,000) to fill the site. Unimaginable, the logistics! Shirley and her townmates wish the developers will not forget the small people when they connect the commas and figures and peso signs in summing up the cost of development. “We’re not against progress,” she said, “but fishing is our life,” not just a livelihood. Her husband’s grandfather was a fisherman, their home was a gift from him. When she talks about Taliptip her eyes moisten, her face softens, very likely she’s remembering a place beloved of her childhood. In the mangrove forest, she said, fireflies blink and glitter at night, particularly as it is now the rainy season… if only the trees were forever and the rain did not bring a flood of misery.