Nov 20


By: Glo Abaeo Tuazon Email: twilight_glo@yahoo.com

Child of the Sea

“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky. And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.” – John Masefield (British poet, 1878-1967) As once immortalized in the words of poet John Masefield, the overwhelming passion of the seas are such, simple, often forlorn and explicitly lonely. Yet the seas and fishermen have always had portions of history since the dawn of time. Some even played important roles time and again that even in the Bible they have their lot of verses and chapters to boast. There is never a continent without the mention of a fisherman being part of their social grouping, or being an important player in the making of a society. They have always been there, and until the continuation of time, they will persist to be part of history and the future. But like elsewhere in the world where the seas and oceans are the life source of people, climate change is in effect affecting everything including the waters and those whose lives depended on it. In the coastal towns of La Union, the fishermen dwelling here are finding it more difficult to get by everyday. As usual they set out to sea at dawn, toting oil or gas lamps, their nets and nothing else except maybe the nudging hope that the day would bring a better catch. For extended hours until about 7 or 8 in the morning, they head back to shore with whatever they were able to net during that whole time. I often wonder how it is to be enveloped by the sea, in a tiny boat, in the clasp of darkness and the unknown with only a flicker of light?

Everything is teamwork.

The calm days may be a bit better, but when nature throws her tantrums, the rage of the seas are not something to toy with. But this fact and so many more are things that these people learned to live with and conquer. So it was a little past 8 in the morning when the boats were visible from the shore. The floaters were nothing more than tiny slivers of colors in the vast blue of the ocean. Seconds moved to make them noticeable, then people waving to the shores with the chug-chugging sound of motors. The shores were littered with locals, an assortment of family, buyers, children not in school, and beachcombers and beachgoers interested to buy. The men and lads waded in to meet the boats and help them ashore, lugging chunks of logs to roll them easier to land. The children scattering about with the shooing of the ladies toting pails and basins smelling of old sealife. As the fishermen jumped about to stretch tired muscles, the lady in charge uncovered the catch compartment and started scooping out the loot. Silvery fishes the length of the palm, her face showing the placid disappointment.

Fewer catch each day.

The catch gets fewer by the day she says, and she worries much about the future. Further away, a team of men brace themselves on the shore, pulling tightly on a net they set up that dawn. Their legs maintaining a stance against the force of the sea, and they count to every pull, drawing the net closer with hopefull expectations. As the net draws closer, the strain relaxes. Again with every pull their faces dims with the knowledge that it isnt heavy enough. And they were right. Picking on the fishes caught across the net only amounted to a handful of the same silvery, palm-length fishes. Yet they nod and go about the chore like a well-practiced routine, unmindful of my pestering as I clicked on them while making casual conversations. Life is a wheel one says, this day didn’t bring a good catch but tomorrow may be better, or the next days. And so I smile with them, unable to say anything but watch as they tend to their chores. My camera suddenly was not of any good use. I turned it off and moved away a bit, observing with sadness the joy of the innocent children goading me to take photos of them. What future could they know? Will the seas still be as tame and generous to them when their time comes to challenge the seas? I looked away and started walking, faster with every step trying very hard to outsmart the sickening realization.