My life so far | Inquirer Opinion
High Blood

My life so far

/ 04:02 AM September 09, 2020

These days, what keeps a 74-year-old in one piece? For starters, he never ceases to marvel. He avidly watches on TV the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in an 89-hectare quarantined compound billed as the NBA Bubble. A 20ish Luka Dončić lofts the ball to Kristaps Porziņģis. The 25-year-old 7’3” Latvian nonchalantly catches the spheroid with one hand, dunks authoritatively, and smiles as he speeds down court to play defense.

In another venue in the Bubble, Ogugua Anunoby flips a pass to Pascal Siakam who gracefully slides to the basket. But, Ogugua and Pascal who?

So, the NBA is back. And so with us couch potatoes and once-upon-a-time weekend jocks. Our hearts pound, fists clenched, we mutter, “May kamay” every time these relatively unknown players with strange names score.

If perchance, the upstart Dallas Mavericks play the defending champions Toronto Raptors for all the marbles in the delayed NBA Finals, maybe Dončić, Porziņģis, Anunoby, and Siakam would become household names.

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In another arena, Lizzo, the 30ish R&B performer, is joined in the night sky with a fast-rising star named Kamala, senator from California. Kamala Harris aspires to be the first politician of South Asian descent to become the No. 2 official, a woman at that, in the country where she was born 55 years ago. Former first lady Michelle Obama and the 29-year-old congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from the Bronx, New York, further light up the event, and so our spirits and hopes soar.

In the home front, officials of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) confront would-be real estate brokers trying to sell parcels of the lakeshore of our largest lake. Only in da Philippines?

In Lake Lanao, our second biggest lake in terms of surface area, the National Research Council of the Philippines reports on the imminent dying of one of the oldest lakes in the world. The lake once had 18 endemic species of cyprinid fish, a spectacular one-of-a-kind display of biodiversity and drama of sympatric speciation. Only one species is left, no thanks to human intervention. Pollution, falling water levels, overfishing, and invasive species are just about to speed up the demise of the lake.

Closer to Metro Manila, the Department of Public Works and Highways is about to throw away possibly a billion or so pesos to carve out a Taal Lake Circumferential Road. The fledgling Philippine Society for Freshwater Science is up in arms against this ecological disaster in our third largest lake. Unlike no other lake in the world, Lake Taal is home to the world’s only freshwater sardinella, tawilis, which is much sought after by the locals. Only a year ago, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature rang loud the alarm bells: The tawilis is on the brink of extinction. So, too, with this majestic lake, which was formed — and conceivably to be sunk — by Taal Volcano, one of the world’s dangerous and most active volcanoes. Lakes are ephemeral after all.

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The hopes of this 74-year-old based in Diliman are kept flickering by the dedication and hard work of a dynamic corps of young limnologists based in the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas. Ready to march into hell (the Taal caldera) for a heavenly cause (to save the lake and its biota) are diehard and accomplished scientists of Ateneo de Manila University, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, LLDA, and UP Los Baños.

Keeping soul and body above the water and contagion is far from easy. It requires a balanced mix of strong inner voice and wise counsel from great minds. This 74-year-old mind needs a daily dose of Bill Bryson (“The Body: A Guide for Occupants,” 2019), Oliver Sacks (“Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales,” 2019), and Richard Dawkins (“Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science,” 2015). Preferably with Westlife and Celine Dion playing softly in the background.

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Augustus C. Mamaril has been with the University of the Philippines in Diliman for half a century. He keeps his mind off the virus by keeping his interest in freshwaters and zooplankton and staying away from social media. He lives comfortably in a middle-level village in Rizal with wife Macy, and smart kids Andrea Marie and Abraham Judah (both 18, four months apart).

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TAGS: Augustus C. Mamaril, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus philippines, COVID-19, High Blood, pandemic life

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