Thursday, December 29, 2005

Innovation and random thoughts in Mabini, Batangas

Business Times p.B2
Thursday, December 29, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Innovation and random thoughts in Mabini, Batangas

FOR a long time I was held back from appreciating the water world by my phobia for deep water. I have always been afraid of anything that takes my feet off the ground. One of which is swimming. Our Christmas vacation gave me a challenge to overcome that imagined fear. So for the first time in many years, I got into the waters in the fish and coral sanctuary in Mabini, with my snorkel and mask, my hand held carefully by diver Mathias Mendoza and cheered by my sons, Ronjie and Adrian, and my friends, Drs. Josie Isidro and Joey Lapeña and the other Lapeñas—Mama, Papa, Roan and Jica, plus Emma and Ernie (how could I go wrong?).

Wow! All sorts, colors, shapes, sizes of fish and corals. And those gigantic clams. Beautiful. Exhilarating. I, therefore, conclude two things: 1) We should go snorkeling and diving (preferably in the protected waters of Batangas, Palawan and other places) to enjoy the spectacle and bounty of nature at least once in our lifetime and as often as we could. 2) Get rid of your aquarium, return the fish, coral and sand to the sea and let them flourish in their natural habitat. God did not originally put fish in an aquarium.

If WWF had not been vigilant in creating the whole nature protecting system in Mabini, I would not have had that rare privilege of a front-row seat in observing sea world’s magnificent beauty. Mang Iyas said that at the beginning, the fishermen were vehemently opposed to WWF’s program. Now they are active participants in the program as members of the Bantay Dagat Brigade.

Being innovative does not mean that we have to always invent something. Being innovative means also that we simply rearrange our thoughts, ideas, attitude, priorities and things. Instead of fishing, Mabini townsfolk are now in the tourist industry as boatmen, diving instructors, resort proprietors, and others and their family work in these resorts in various capacities. And they rest easy at night knowing that their children and their children’s children will inherit a well-preserved naturally beautiful and unpolluted environment.

That is one reason I don’t like spending Christmas in Manila. I go on a cooking frenzy because we are expecting visitors. We used to do the rounds of grandparents, relatives and neighbors when we were young while our parents wait for our visitors. Then, we had the good sense of tarrying a bit and engaging our hosts with Christmas banter and carols. Now, they come with outstretched arms with open palms—pahingi ng pamasko—and zoom away. Nobody eats because they have been to other houses and they also have plenty of food at home and they are in a hurry to move on—para makarami (Where is the Christmas spirit here?).

In Barangay Bagalangit, Mabini, family and friends celebrated Christmas together the traditional way. While we headed for the fish sanctuary and open seas to commune with nature, to feed fish with bread crumbs (take note, fish don’t bite oily bread) and to watch them dance and prance around undisturbed. Every now and then, they bump you playfully.

Being December, the water is rough, the waves are big and the wind blows real hard. Our boat went up and down at the mercy of the elements. Mama Lapeña said it was like riding a wild horse (Who needs a roller coaster?). We screamed and held on to the boat tightly; at the same time, took pictures of this exciting adventure (What Filipino does not take picture of everything?). I lost my favorite short pants when the wind blew it away and the sea swallowed it abruptly.

On Christmas Day, we went to Sepoc Wall, where there are great boulders of solid rocks. No place for a leisurely swim. Snorkeling was the order of the day. Next two days, we went to the fish sanctuary and some sandy beach for a little swim. It was so like Christmas—quiet and peaceful. My bad cough and colds was miraculously cured by the healing sea breeze. Or was it the peace and quiet?

My sons forgot their underwater camera. But, there was the ziplock to protect the camera from getting wet even underwater. Think of new uses for things and new combinations.

I was surrounded by those I love—family, friends and cell phone to connect with those who are far away. God is good! Merry Christmas and happy New Year everyone!

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