by Patrick Regoniel on 06/01/10 at 3:17 pm
It is amazing how some people can adapt themselves to the changing conditions of their environment. The floating houses on logs in Agusan Marsh exemplify this.
In Search of Crocodiles
I recalled that time I travelled to the remote place of Agusan in Mindanao many years back. I was a die-hard researcher conducting an investigation then on the distribution of crocodiles in the Philippines together with the project director. We passed through Prosperidad Agusan del Sur which served as our jumpoff to the appointed site where allegedly a crocodile, an endemic freshwater crocodile Crocodylus mindorensis, was caught.The freshwater crocodile was then in the danger of extinction as there are very few places in the Philippines where they can be found. And people are destroying their habitat in favor of farmlands or exploitative activities or just plain ignorance of the importance of these reptiles in the environment (see my post on the role of crocodiles in the environment).
The Narrow, Outriggerless Boat
We boarded a boat without outrigger powered by a 16 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine. We plowed through Agusan River on the quiet waters. I was a bit apprehensive we might capsize because the boat was narrow (similar to the one below) and the operator has to rely on the balance of all the passengers. (In fact, upon our return, our boat nearly capsized upon meeting another boat so closely that the wake caused some water to almost fill our boat.)
Rural Yet Interesting Place
Agusan Marsh is an interesting place because it is so rural and the people, mostly natives like the Manobo or whom they call in general as the “lumads”, live along the river and other places in the marsh. They were wearing their traditional dress when I saw them along the river.
The whole area is a marshland but there are communities where people managed to adapt their lifestyle to the condition. Although there are high places in some parts, the river flood those areas, especially during the rainy season. This did not deter the locals, probably they have no other place to go, that caused them to devise ways to cope with their plight.
The Floating Houses on Logs
It is here that I came to see a coping mechanism nowhere found in other parts of the country. The local inhabitants have constructed their houses on logs! Whenever, the rains come and flood all areas, the house on logs would just float on the water. When the floods recede, the house again is back on land. I noticed a big, steel cable anchored on some sturdy tree or structure keeps the houses within the areas they once were.
This is an awesome adaptation of the local people to the changing levels of water in their chosen habitation. This may have been an effective system to cope with the rising floodwaters. But I recall vividly that time, when we could not endure the heat and jumped into the water, that some human “bombs” were floating along the rushing waters. And we could not help it but get back quickly to evade an impending disaster.