The village without dogs or chickens

by Bernie V. Lopez,
As seen on the August 2019 issue of The Philippine Sentinel

Back in the 80s, I met a fisherman on a beach in a sleepy village in Mindoro, Philippines. He was cleaning five large shells. When he saw my eyes almost popped out, he smiled and led me to a small shed where he kept about 40 more shells.

They were the precious Chambered Nautilus, now an endangered species.

I interviewed him and discovered he had a spot in the open sea where he dropped a bamboo trap with a stone sinker and bait of dog meat.

After a few days, he would catch two to three Chambered Nautilus.

A Chinese trader from Cebu would visit every month to buy about 150 to 200 shells from about a dozen or so fishermen.

It was a thriving business that practically supported the entire village. The fisherman treated me to a sumptuous meal of raw Nautilus meat dipped in vinegar and laced with onions and chili.

On the side, we had some local gin that scraped my throat. The problem was, they ran out of bait. They finished all the dogs in the village and had to import from other villages.

Dogs were precious, caged so they are not stolen. That was how it became a village without dogs.

Three decades after, I visited the village again and saw many dogs, meaning Nautilus-trapping had died a natural death. For this tiny village, the economy shifted from tourist commodities back to farming. The village now had a thriving garlic farming enterprise. Before the advent of garlic farming, chickens were all over the place. But they destroyed the young shoots of garlic when they would scratch the soil for food.

So, the farmers quickly ate all the chickens and banned roaming chickens from the village. Everyone ate fish instead. Mindoro was then garlic country. They no longer planted native garlic because it grew too slow and the cloves were so tiny. They planted hybrid garlic with large cloves smuggled from Taiwan, which grew fast. The more aromatic native garlic finally died a slow death, but is still available today at higher prices.

The village with no dogs became the village with no chickens.

If I were to visit this village again today, what will I find? My guess is no children. I am predicting I may find a village dying of hunger. Garlic would die if they cannot compete with other villages closer to markets with less transport cost.

Meanwhile, there is less and less fish to catch. Their children would join the millions of OFWs out in the Middle East. The village would become a ghost town of elderlies, unless the children-turned-adults give back to their parents, capital not for consumption but for new sources of livelihood.

It is amazing how globalization has its tentacles in the remotest tiniest village, where there are sudden shifts in survival modes. Industries nourishing people die left and right, replaced by other industries nourishing another set of people.

Lessons of this story: 1. Survival modes in a shrinking planet come and go. Whoever you are, a tycoon or a fisherman, be vigilant, creative, innovative, and have foresight ━ or die. 2. We are all connected. We must learn to share dwindling resources. Ω

Bernie V. Lopez

About the Author: Mr. Bernie V. Lopez is veteran journalist with a Master’s degree in Communication Arts from New York University. He was a professor at Ateneo de Manila University where he graduated. He wrote for Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler and is a regular columnist of this paper.

Updated: 2019-12-28 — 15:57:08