Sira-sira store: Can’t eat reef-A A +A
By Ober Khok
Friday, January 25, 2013
“I CAN'T eat anymore,” my friend Illustracio lamented this week.
“Why?” I asked.
“I broke up with my bilmoko girlfriend. She raked through my savings with her endless demands to buy her this bauble and that gadget.”
“Oh, I thought it was something else that was bothering your mind so much that it shut down your stomach.”
“But honestly, Obz, I can’t eat at the thought that one maritime mishap can damage a portion of the Tubbataha Reef off Palawan.”
We were having a heavy merienda, celebrating my niece Krystal’s birthday. The intimate circle of loved ones and friends partook of palabok for long life, rich dinugoan ug puto, cloud-soft orange chiffon cake, moist carrot cake, sangria, soft drinks, lechon, fresh lumpia with garlic sauce and lumpia Shanghai made with tuna and ubod.
The meal was designed to see us through dinner—and we intended to linger on the table as we always do when we have small, family celebrations.
“Here, try the dinugoan. Lami kaayo,” I told Illustracio.
“We’re very vulnerable, Obz,” he told me as he ladled a portion of the blood soup into his blue bowl. “It makes my blood boil—hey, lami lagi ni; naay iba ug ginaling nga karne,” he said.
My aunt, Tita Blitte, sipped her sangria and then said: “It is said that a coral reef is the rainforest of the sea.”
“Can anything be more beautiful? The colors and formations are surreal,” Joy, my other niece, said.
My walking-Internet-of-an-uncle Gustav said that coral reefs are structures made of limestone deposited by living things. “They’re alive, and so when the US Navy ship scraped over the edge of Tubbataha, the corals were crying in pain.”
“Ironic that it’s called the USS Guardian, uncle,” Krystal told me.
“There are a lot of ironies in the world, Krys,” I replied.
“Animals! They’re animals,” my uncle said.
We all shouted: “Who?!”
“Corals are animals, not plants. They look like plants but they are actually composed of tiny, fragile animals called coral polyps.”
“That’s why I can’t eat anymore,” Illustracio said.
“From sorrow?” Tita Blitte asked.
“No. From the thought that if we lose all our coral reefs, other marine creatures will be jeopardized. Fish fingerlings love to hide among coral branches,” Illustracio said.
“And to think that TV5 said corals grow exceedingly slow. Something like between five and 25 millimeters (0.2–1 inch) per year. It can then take years for a coral to be fully mature. The area of damage was compared to the size of two basketball courts—small, but when you think of how slowly corals develop, you cringe with regret,” Uncle Gustav informed us.
“No wonder coral reefs are treated as national treasures. They are gems of the sea too,” Joy said.
“That’s why I can’t eat,” Illustracio said.
“Because so much beauty has been damaged?” Uncle Gustave asked.
“No, because I am now so full,” he said.
We all laughed but then my aunt had the last word. “When the sea hurts, we think it’s a small matter. But it is not. We get hurt also and no matter how we replace what was damaged, it will always be on hearts that we lost an old and beloved portion of Tubbataha.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 26, 2013.