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Where are the bats and fireflies?

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BATS — I remember those childhood days when every late afternoon just before sundown, the skies would darken due to thousands of bats flying low overhead heading towards the mountains and the forests to forage for food at night and then fly back early morning towards their roosting places in the trees near the sea. And slept  when daybreak came.  A tree would look like a laden, black  christmas tree populated by bats, hanging upside  down. Like clockwork, they winged back to the foraging places at nightfall. And back again to roost by daybreak.

When I visited our barangay last week,  I kept looking and waiting till sundown but I didn’t see the bats anymore.

FIREFLIES —  When I went to the highlands along  the Davao- Bukidnon road a few days ago, I spotted a solo firefly in the ceiling in the middle of the night.  There used to be thousands  of them in a big tree nearby some 20 years ago when I first came to that place. I stared at the ceiling for a long time and watched it  with fascination, gracefully and softly blinking. Now, I was so thrilled seeing a single one.

I don’t see many of them anymore.
RIVERS — I was reading an  email from INTERNATIONAL RIVERS FOUNDATION, an Australia-based  environment advocacy group and I was reminded about what I experienced  when I was handling Mindanao for Malacanang several years ago.  I would always notice   the “dying” rivers from the air everytime I crisscrossed the region on board helicopters or small low-flying planes going somewhere.

One interesting common observation (and you can check this out today): populations like towns or cities — or even barangays in most cases —   cluster around rivers or lakes or bodies of water. During those early years, our forefathers knew that life was better when they lived where there were available water for food, transpo,  and other life-sustaining necessities.

Unfortunately today, our rivers are “dying”. I always felt bad seeing from the air cleavages along hillsides or what used to be waterways that no longer had water running down the slopes — or if any, they were in trickles. Many riverbeds today  have wide spaces without water. And seldom would I see rivers that have sparkling or clear water, mostly brownish and muddy.

When I was a kid in our barrio (now barangay), going to the river   to take a bath or fish was always a delight. Today, our river is so silted and must have chemicals in the water due to banana plantations and a sugar   mill around its banks that parents shoo their children away from the water. Even the fishes are no longer there. Or if there are, they must be laden with toxic substances not fit for consumption.       

DEVELOPMENT? Some say this is the price of development. Yes, definitely times have radically changed. For the better? I dunno.  But I am sure  there must be a way to revive those dying waterways and bring back the bats and the fireflies.

Remember the famous line: “WE DID NOT INHERIT THE EARTH. WE MERELY BORROWED IT FROM OUR CHILDREN.”

So, what do we return to them when  their own time comes around  to get back what we borrowed? How do we return the bats, the fireflies, and the sparkling rivers that are no longer around? Have we lost them forever? I AM SURE THERE MUST BE A WAY!
ADVOCACY MINDANoW FOUNDATION, INC. (AMFI)

by Jess G. Dureza




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