September 3, 2011

The Bolinao Skull

Horrendous is the only word that came to mind when I saw the front-page photograph in the Inquirer showing the mountain of Baguio’s garbage that descended on the sleepy woodcarving town of Asin following recent heavy rains. In the past when rocks and soil would fall from the crags and block the roads to and from Baguio, these were called “landslides” but the recent disaster added a new word to Philippine-English usage: “trashslide.” Collecting the garbage is one thing, finding a place to dump it in is another, with towns in Ilocos and Pangasinan rightfully refusing to accept garbage from an irresponsible city that should seriously embark on zero-waste and green programs.

It is not just the mountains that are rejecting our garbage, the same is true of the sea. Until media focused public attention to it, the garbage that accumulates along Manila Bay after heavy rains is cleaned up by the City of Manila, but things don’t have to be the way they are.

Rain and garbage today remind me of times and places where something more valuable turned up. Wasn’t the four-pound, 21-karat Gold Tara image found along the Wawa River in Agusan by a Manobo woman after a heavy rain? If you stay in the San Pedro Beach Resort in Romblon, the owners will show you a plate full of shards: broken pieces of Ming dynasty blue and white porcelain as well as dark pieces from Thai ceramics that wash up on their shores after a heavy rain. Any archeologist or historian who sees this knows that there is an ancient shipwreck waiting to be found and excavated there.

I would often ask antique dealers if pieces of pre-Spanish Philippine gold turned up in Samar and places in Mindanao after heavy rain. Now it seems the only things that turn up are garbage and plastic that are not bio-degradable. Continue reading...





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