EVERYTIME I see Macajalar Bay, I remember lines of a beautiful poem which begins with, “Rage, rage, rage, against the dying of the light . . .” Deep inside I feel the pain and the anger not because of the dying of the light but in the impending death of an ecosystem whose beauty is both awesome and humbling.
Having worked with the fishing communities for ten years while working as Chief Executive Officer of a non-government organization in the 90s, I remember those sleepless nights that I shared with cooperative fisherfolk leaders in conducting nightly sea-borne patrols to catch illegal fishers especially 100-ton commercial fishing boats that were making gargantuan rakings at the expense of the small fishermen.
Yes, the grandeur that was Macajalar Bay spoke well for itself. But that same grandeur was then fast disappearing as it underwent progressive state of impairment and with it, the marginalization of the coastal populace. Unlike in the 60’s when fish would literally jump into their “bancas”, fish can hardly be caught now.
Why? What were the fatal blows that caused the death of this once mighty ecosystem?
The bay has been treated as a waste pit. First is industrial pollution. Chemical wastes from industries and factories were just dumped in the bay. These wastes poison sea life and even entered food chains.
Another silent killers are the chemical fertilizers and insecticides heavily used in the surrounding plantations and farms. These non-biodegradable, petroleum-based agricultural inputs are washed from soil into rivers and into the sea. Many of our fiherfolk can attest to the fact that when it rains, many fish float dead in the rivers and in the sea. Worse, we strongly suspect that the water table may already be contaminated by these toxic chemicals. In fact, one scientist wrote an article, “Drink Now, Die Later,” as he fears that our drinking water may not be that safe anymore.
The bay is also a victim of soil erosion and siltation. What men do in the uplands affects the life in the sea. Because trees were cut, soil has been eroding that destroys corals reefs as well as our mangroves. The illegal mining activities including hydraulics have worsened the condition of the bay.
What the fishing communities are experiencing in Macajalar Bay are now being shared by those in other major bays in the country. In fact, of the 13 major bays in the Philippines, 10 are already biologically dead.
Yes, our fishing communities belong to the poorest of the poor as they have painfully witnessed the fading away of fisheries and aquatic resources. They vehemently lament the massive ecological degradation as it deprives them of their legitimate livelihood.
As my tribute to Macajalar Bay including all the bays that have been sacrificed to the altar of greed and profit to advance growth-at-all cost development strategy, may I share this poem:
Will the bays which reign to give life
Be now devoid of breath? The bay has always been like a mother to us,
As we bountifully reaped its blessings.
Fishing lies at the heart of our culture, the fisherfolk its careful guardians
The bay is now facing a crisis, representing a danger to coastal people.
Soon we will see a time when the unavoidable reality of hunger
Will stalk the earth again.
Then how heavily will the meaning of a single fish
Weigh in our human heart!
Pray sons and daughters of the Earth
That the bay be restored to health!
Wake up all that are victims of the fallacies of life! We are being bombarded by garbage of knowledge spawned by materialistic, consumerist and diabolic lifestyle that sacrifices Mother Earth, the forests, rivers and seas. Let us stand up as “spiritus luminous” (enlightened spirits) or as “homo pacem” (men and women for peace) to advance the integrity of the ecosystems that are now fast disappearing, all for the greater glory of our Creator!