(p. 5) Around the time of every new and full moon, the sea rushes soundlessly past the trash-strewn shores, up over the single road running along the spine of Batasan, population 1,400, and into people’s homes. The island, part of the Tubigon chain in the central Philippines, is waterlogged at least one-third of the year.
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“People say this is because of the Arctic melting,” said Dennis Sucanto, a local resident whose job is to measure the water levels in Batasan each year. “I don’t understand but that’s what they say.”
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“They wanted us to go to a hilly farming place,” said Rodrigo Cosicol, 66, shaking his head at the affront. “We are fishermen. We need fish.”
“We don’t fear the water anymore,” Mr. Cosicol added. “This is our way of living.”
This unwillingness of people on Batasan to abandon their homes — instead choosing to respond, inch by inch, to a new reality — may hold valuable lessons for residents of other vulnerable island states. Rather than uprooting an entire population, with the enormous trauma and cost that entails, the more workable solution might be local adaptations.
“The climate refugee message is more sensational but the more realistic narrative from the islanders themselves is adaptation rather than mass migration,” said Laurice Jamero, who has researched the Tubigon islands for five years and runs the climate and disaster risk assessment efforts at the Manila Observatory, a research institute.
And Batasan’s residents have adjusted. They have rolled up their hems. They have placed their houses on blocks of coral stone. They have tethered their goats to sheds on stilts. They have moved most plant life from floodable patches of land to portable pots.
There are other concessions. The Roman Catholic priest at the local church declared that parishioners no longer have to kneel for prayer when the tides are high.
“We will find a way to do things because this is our home,” said Annie Casquejo, a local health committee member who once worked off the island but has, like many others, returned to Batasan.
Nature’s constant threat has imprinted resilience on the Philippine DNA.
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Children on Batasan who are lucky enough to own bikes have one option — up and down the main road, the only road.
The concrete strip runs for less than two-thirds of a mile, then peters out in a mangrove swamp near the home of Alma Rebucas, where thigh-high waters regularly infiltrate. She secures the family’s utensils lest they float away. Her dog and goats are swimmers. So is the cat.
Ms. Rebucas said she has no plans to move away. . . .
She oversees a fishing business, plucking sea cucumbers, crabs and grouper from the shimmering sea. Life here is like a magic trick, Ms. Rebucas said, making something from nothing.
“We don’t need much land,” she said. “We have the whole sea.”
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 22, 2020, and has the title “PHILIPPINES DISPATCH; Adapting to Rising Seas, Schools Move to the Rafters and Cats Swim.”)