Friday, November 13, 2009


I HAVE LIVED ALL MY life beside the Lahug Creek in Cebu City. I have followed its source up and beyond Busay Falls beginning from the waterfront area near Escaño Shipping Lines office. The creek, or canal, have been part of my playground when I was a student at the nearby Tejero Elementary School and I have traversed along its length and width as an escape route from pursuing childhood enemies, playing catch me with neighbors or just gathering gobies – a tiny fish which we popularly called “rainbow”.

In those days the creek was already dirty but living things still inhabit therein and all about. Aside from the fish, tadpoles and toads share the creek with an occasional tortoise or monitor lizard. Rats ran roughshod in the night over the riverbanks foraging on morsels of food flushed down from the houses lining the creek with their population being picked one by one by juvenile pythons. Clumps of bamboo grow along the banks found upriver and is home to avians, reptiles and insects. But not anymore.

And according to my late grandmother, Purificacion Lavilles, they used to wash clothes by the creek during “peace time” - the years before World War II – and her brothers would place two nets across the creek during high tide and wait for the water to subside and then harvest the fishes caught in between the nets. During Liberation my great uncles would play franks with the American soldiers and wait for them to squat at the riverbank after supper their white rumps a perfect target in the dark of their taut slingshots. When I was small, I used to see a small boat with a sail and outriggers traveling up and down the creek every high tide.

As far as my memory could remember, the creek have been dredged of silt thrice, the last time in the year 2000. In the early '90s the creek bed had rose to a few feet providing flood waters to overflow the embankments and denying tide water to gain access to the narrow channels due to the unabated large-scale development in upper La Guerta and Nivel Hills where erosions of loose soil and silt washed down to the creek and it was that time that I have developed the habit of sleepless nights during a rain, even how slight.

The creek will overflow during strong typhoons and ceaseless rains and brought with it silt, clay and mud from the hills which caused inconvenience in my locality. My former house used to suffer from the constant floods as it is located in the lowest part of an embankment and I would find myself waking up at dawn or in the middle of my sleep plugging holes or washing away the filth and the mud before it hardened. Often, I have company with reptiles and varmint dislodged by these floods.

After a flood the water is very clear, the banks swept clean by the current and it is that moment where life appear for just a few hours. Gobies converge on the minute springs that appeared overnight resulting from runoffs of areas inundated with rain and flood water. For just a few hours these tiny spots became the last refuge for this tiny fish after they are forced down from their abode after a heavy downpour. Then, slowly, toxic pollutants and detergents and other filth get to work its way down the current and blacken the creek snuffing all minute particles of life.

The Lahug Creek is ecologically dead! And that is a fact. My neighbors and people living upriver throw their garbage unashamedly placing a strain on the creek bed itself. I have waged a one-man campaign against this practice for many years and my pleas fell on deaf ears among my neighbors and among the barangay authorities. I have created animosity amongst friends back then because of this advocacy and they couldn't blame me for they have seen me cleaning their pathways of weed and litter every month to make life bearable for them en gratis!

Four years ago when the large garbage bin of Tejero Elementary School was closed people looked for an alternative to throw their refuse and they found a convenient place at a vacant area in the southwest corner of the school. The new garbage dumpsite is found beside the road and a bridge and is on the entrance to a creekside path that led to my place and it emitted a foul smell. Some of these waste would find itself falling into the creek and will not be retrieved unlike on the dumpsite itself were it is hauled into a passing garbage truck.

The location of the garbage has caused me severe embarrassment when someone visits me and my family. It is AN EYESORE AND IT STINKS! Technically, it is within the jurisdiction of Barangay Tejero and it is for this reason that they supplied the garbage truck to collect the accumulated wastes and, even with that, it failed to address the hygiene issue. Apparently, Mr. Jesselou Cadungog and his council have tried their best to clean the place and ran out of strong ideas to remove permanently the area of garbage.

In the meantime, another barangay that shared the creek with Tejero – Barangay Tinago (where I belonged, yes) - seemed to be happy sitting on its fence even when the majority of the schoolchildren that passed by that area (and some garbage throwers) came from their barangay. Mr. Joel Garganera never lifted a finger to help address this problem and it took another barangay captain after the elections to solve this eyesore.

The honorable Domingo Lopez, the present head of Tinago, did a hell of a job clearing away the area of garbage, reminding people never to throw anymore their wastes there and pursued the clean-up of the Lahug Creek along its boundary with Tejero with so much dedication and enthusiasm. He even installed a wire mesh under the bridge on the side of Barangay T. Padilla to screen out the floating garbage that would find its way downriver and lighted the creekside path with CFL bulbs.

He is always there to supervise his people and monitored his clean-and-green projects every now and then and he never failed to replace a busted light bulb and I am aware of that and I am so glad that I have not wasted my vote for him. He is very different from his predecessor. The creek have never been in good hands under his watch and I take my hats off for Mr. Lopez. He reminds me of my late great uncle, Enrique Alba, who used to take charge of Barangay Tinago with a big stick.

Meanwhile, I walk on the path from my house for work and I am not ashamed anymore to stand on the sidewalk waiting for a public jitney where there used to be a garbage dumpsite or be bothered by the stinking odor. The eyesore and the stink are there no more. The creek, oh, it is dead beyond repair but there are no more garbage placed inside shopping bags, tarpaulin sheets, old tires, broken furnitures and other large discarded items thrown on the creek bed. My neighbors have completely understood the message of Mr. Lopez quite well...and mine too, although a bit belated.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer.


John Du said...

I salute you and your advocacy. By the way, I'm 50% Cebuano so we have something in common. Go go go!

PinoyApache said...

Aside that, we both love blues.

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