Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Where Have They Gone, Those Dragonflies?

When June came, rain started to pour over the arid soil of Zamboanga City that one could see puddles of rainwater littering the ground. The street just in front of our house was soaked in inches-deep floodwater that rose to my ankles whenever I waddle through it. Children playing nearby would almost always sully their arms and feet with mud and their clothes would surely get wet as they couldn’t resist disturbing the rainwater that had finally conquered the once dry surroundings.

The back of our house had suddenly become swampy too that I had suggested to my wife Evelyn that we do something about it. The evening news had made me extremely wary of spreading diseases brought about by insects trapped in stagnant waters like dengue or malaria. And so, we had to cover the swampy backyard with truckloads of filling materials and soon it was elevated enough that the water flooding all over it had virtually vanished.

In the weeks after, me and the kids would trooped to the now waterless backyard and attempted to weed out unwanted vegetations permeating there--those slinky grasses that could grow to almost the height of a regular adult. I had remembered that when I was a kid, I used to venture into these sorts of swampy areas where the bushes and vegetations were so robust and wild that one could get lost into it when not being too careful. In those kinds of places, I and a number of kids would go hunting for dragonflies and butterflies as if they were profitable commodities. We capture and trapped them, and then we just put them into jars until they wither and die or be able to flee from captivity. It was such a virtually a pointless activity (capturing dragonflies) but for kids like we were then, it was especially pleasurable. Maybe in kids, the primal nature of man as a hunter is more prevalent than we had ever thought before.

In our backyard, I was wondering why despite the wild growth of the grasses and other vegetations in the ground, I had not seen a single dragonfly gyrating through the air and hopping from foliage to foliage. The butterflies were also missing from my view. I wonder where they had gone. I had thought to myself that in my childhood days, dragonflies of variant colors and sizes would always enchant my eyes to no end and I would go after them, slowly and gently like a well-trained hunter, in order that they may not be alerted and flee unduly. Where have all those dragonflies gone? Why aren’t those yellow butterflies coming to visit the blooming bougainvilleas? I had these questions in my mind and had many theories about the sudden infrequency of these flying wonders in our urban jungles. Had urban decay and pollution shooed them away towards the faraway hinterlands? Or do dire weather changes push them closer towards extinction? Maybe, global warming is now finally showing its deadly pangs, and it becomes now the main culprit in the disappearance of specie like those of dragonflies and butterflies.

And then, last Saturday rain poured so hard in our city---much harder than ever before---that the floodwaters rose to extraordinary levels. There was a point there that I had thought rainwater would soon enter our living room. But luckily the rain stopped before everything got worst. The day after, I was wondering so much if the backyard would be turned again into a swampy place due to the extraordinary amount of rainfall the day before. I finally walked towards the backyard and check it out for myself. There was indeed some flooding but my fear of the backyard becoming swampy again was calmed immediately. The waters were so minimal. I walked slowly towards the center of the backyard and smelled the soil while it was still very early in the morning and the sun was still soft and radiant from the horizon. And lo and behold, I almost could not believe my eyes when I saw one huge red dragonfly just flew above my shoulder and then towards a wild growth of plants in the corner of the wall surrounding our backyard. I turned towards another direction and I saw many other dragonflies busily gyrating around like they were prisoners who had suddenly been allowed freedom and they were extremely happy for that. My heart was aglow and sweet memories of childhood came rushing all over again. And nearby, I saw a yellow butterfly slowly descending upon the leaves of an infantile Palmera and I couldn’t help but become aware of the fact that it was the first butterfly that I have ever seen in quite a long, long time.

Suddenly, like in a miracle, the dragonflies have come back again.


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