HE WAS then lying on his deathbed; in fact, he would die five days later of bone cancer. But for Mr. Antonio “Nong Tonyo” Salcedo, a 65-year-old fisherfolk leader in Macajalar Bay, cancer had no match against his will to protect the remaining forest in the watersheds of Lake Lanao and Cagayan de Oro City.
While he was dying, it was the days of rage against logging as Task Force Macajalar with some 1,000 members taking direct actions by staging human barricades to stop the unceasing flow of logs from the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro, Lanao and Bukidnon. That was in 1991, the days of barricades that would last for 10 years which had stopped only when the loggers were able to convince the court to issue arrest orders against the barricaders.
Nong Tonyo called the doctor to release him from the hospital because he wanted to join us then. When told that he better rest because he would soon meet his Creator, he replied by telling the doctor that the more that he be released because he knew that he was dying. He said, “kung pangutan-on ako sa Ginoo unsa akong gibuhat aron mapanalipdan ang kinayaihan nga iyang gibuhat, akong ikasulti Kaniya nga Lord ako gayud gibarikadahan ang mga logging trucks aron mahunong ang pagkagusbat sa among nahabilin nga kalasangan.” He added, “Ang pagpanalipod sa nagusbat nga kinaiyahan ang pinakataas nga matang sa pag-pangamuyo ug pag-alagad sa Kahitas-an.”
Well, he was not able to join us then because he died a few days later. But am sure Nong Tonyo had leaped up to the Great Beyond to the loving embrace of the Almighty for his struggle in protecting God’s vanishing creation. He, as member of Task Force Macajalar, was in the forefront of protecting Macajalar Bay when he was still alive against the dark forces that were causing the Bay’s demise, i.e. illegal fishing, industrial pollution, massive siltation due to logging and mining operations, among others.
His words until now reverberate. Yes, we reaffirm, “protecting God’s vanishing creation is the highest form of worship.” We printed those words in bold stroke in streamers as we bravely faced armed men who were threatening us then. In fact, a hand grenade (m2k2) was thrown to us barricaders one evening that fortunately, by Divine intervention, did not explode. That reinforced our belief that “If God is with you, who can go against you.” Yes, all kinds of harassment had been employed against us but we were not cowed. When one faced death mustering all the courage to nurture and to heal back the blighted land, all the biblical learning were proven to be right. Indeed, “If you have faith even as small as a mustard seed and you tell the mountain to move from here to there, it will move.”
Today, that nurturing spirit to protect God’s vanishing creation looms amidst the fury of nature. For the kindred like Nong Tonyo, Gaia (Mother Earth) is indeed in pain and Her sons and daughters must now take the cudgel of healing Her pains. Our mega-diversity is now becoming extinct, the flora and fauna that have undergone the process of creation for millions of years are now being erased from the face of the Earth because of the contemporaneous mindset that is dominating and exploiting. It is time to debunk that mindset and be replaced by a new thinking which is one of bio-equality. Human centeredness in creation has given way to massive exploitation of the earth’s resources that as if all plants and animals must be sacrificed to satisfy the human’s consumerist and materialist pursuits.
The new mindset is now one that recognizes the right to life of other life forms, be plants or animals. We must now take heed of the warning that if man has to be saved from doom, development must be in harmony with nature and not at nature’s expense. But the present dominant development paradigm has no respect at all for nature. We cut trees in the name of development and in so doing, make so many life forms that live in the forest homeless,
We extract resources from the bosom of the earth and in so doing, impaired the balance of nature. We rake our seas of fish and even turn the bays as waste pits. We convert mangroves into subdivisions and commercial centers and lost the “nurseries” of fish. We bombarded the ozone layer with green house gases (GHG) resulting to climate change, global warming and the rising of the oceans.
All told, human dominating behavior is causing the collapse of the global system, and that if the business-as-usual pattern will continue without let up, the tipping point will be reached in less than one hundred years and the in-imaginable will become imaginable that is, the end of life on earth.
To reverse the unsustainable pattern of development, let us take heed of the words of Nong Tonyo: “Protecting God’s vanishing creation is the highest form of worship.”