Ooooooh man I love this place. I feel like I’m starting to feel the beat of the island. I know what time the giant fruit-bats head back to their haunts in the canopies. I know the most patient hunters here, the white egrets head north in the morning and fly back to the rice paddies south of my village as the sun sets over the islands. I know the names of those islands, and have visited most of them, Higatangan, Capinahan, Dalutan, Poro-Poro. I’ve faced-off with a banded sea snake on my first scuba descent, witnessed the hugging (mating?) of rainbow-spotted nudibranchs sliding along coral highways , witnessed roarless lionfish and colorful moon wrasse chilling under coral fans making bubbles.
These water-kingdoms are becoming sacred to me, much like those larch-tufted ridgelines back home that I sometimes miss. These reefs are called the “rainforests of the ocean” for a reason, and they are just as endangered. I’m working toward some coastal resource assessments here in Almeria, and hoping that our current proposals are approved so we can A) figure out what resources are still there and B) start working towards how we’re going to conserve them and maintain a sustainable fishery. Oh we fight issues at the surface too…
I talked about Red Tide once already, but we’re still technically experiencing it. It’s been months now. Nitrogen flows off the rice paddies, El Nino brings warming temperatures, human waste adds its own chemicals to the curry and these right factors come together for a two-month long red tide. Red tide? Tiny dinoflaggelates get wild on each other and blow up into gnarly algae blooms, toxifying the fishing grounds. Shellfish, the natural filters of the ocean, bless them, are a good route for paralytic shellfish poisoning. Fish, best to not, though if you must then clean and cook those buggers really well. Fishing industry semi-crippled, subsistence fisherfolk sometimes turned farmer sometimes left waiting in nipa huts sipping tuba, waiting for something, either the paris talks to kick in or for the ghostbusters to come cross streams on those dinoflaggellies that we discussed earlier. It’s not good, but the folks here are strong, resilient people. They bend, adapt, hold each other’s families up. Biliran is full of tough folks.
I’m starting to feel very comfortable. I’m good with rocking a bright colored “Frozen” umbrella if it’s raining tough, and I’m fine with saying taligsik lang if it’s just drizzling. But if you’re trying to be Filipino or “Americanoy” then always bring the umbrella. If it’s hot and sunny you should be rocking it anyways. During morning low tides I enjoy watching people from the barangay walk slowly through the coral rubble, like hunters stalking prey, as they gather kinhasoon, shells. They’re like giant egrets with hats and buckets. I’m learning to cook traditional Filipino dishes, adobo manok, tortang talon, turon, etc. I’ve been to all the barangays in my Municipality too, which is really neat. They all have code names, mostly related to how it feels when I run or bike there but sometimes they end up sounding like items from a deli. I’ll apologize in advance, but some of my Barangay route monikers include:
- the Caucab Quad Crusher,
- the Salangi Slammer,
- the Pili Pain-Puncher
- the Jamorawon Hammie-Jammer
- the Tabunan Taboo-run (this is terrible)
- the Talahid I Lost My Speed run
- the Pulangbato Fat-O run
- the Lo-ok! I’m Back Home Already run
I recently attended my first wedding here in the Philippines. It’s amazing how many things there are to celebrate here, which seems like another testament to the strength of the people here. No matter what the circumstances are, there are so many reasons to celebrate, be with family, and…eat. My Ate got married and I think around 200 family members, coworkers, and members of the community came out to celebrate. The service was pretty short but was very similar to weddings in the United States. A couple major differences I noticed were that the aisle you typical find at weddings in America was not there, and as far as I could tell it didn’t matter what side of the room I sat on. The mayor of Almeria actually led the service, and was there while the bride and groom signed paperwork making their marriage legal. While there was a first dance for the new couple, other guests did not dance. Unless you were a baby, then there might have been some dancing. As expected videoke followed the eating, I’m always impressed by some of the singing here. Some of the singing. Some. As with most fiestas there was plenty of opportunity for me to be brought out in an embarrassing situation, this time in involved playing a game of pass the flower (think musical chairs) where I eventually realized that no matter the outcome the foreigner was pre-assigned to be the loser. What followed was plenty of laughing (at me), and feeding someone wine and cake while the MC did his best to try and facilitate a kiss for the entertainment of everyone watching. I’m getting used to being put on display like this…but it’s never my favorite. Overall it was a great wedding and I’m ginhawa pa, still breathing.
There’s a lot of fun things happening with work right now too, which I’ll share in a post after things flesh out a little bit more. This island has so many things to explore, the Biliranons have incredible amounts to show and teach me, and I’m still keen on pretty much any adventure that comes my way. I’m still super happy to be a member of the #bilisquad, this island is rad.
fox-faced bats and nudibranchs,