Magazine article UN Chronicle

A Loss of Memory

Magazine article UN Chronicle

A Loss of Memory

Article excerpt

My first novel, Killing Time in a Warm Place*, opens with a man's recollection of an idyllic boyhood summer spent in the seaside village where he was born, in the central Philippines. It was, of course, partly autobiographical. For me, as for millions of Filipinos, the sea is both the symbol and substance of plenitude, the bringer of many things good and wonderful. With a coastline of over 36,000 kilometers (22,000 miles), the Philippines should be richly blessed, materially and culturally, by its proximity to water.

Today, however, those bountiful and beautiful seas I remember so well seem a far cry from what my memory keeps returning to--and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The pristine beach I set part of my novel on has been despoiled by industrial effluents that have also ravaged the coral growth in the immediate area; nothing grows there now but the despondency that comes with thoughtlessness and neglect.

And almost everywhere I go in this great archipelago, the same sad turn of things has happened, not just in water but on land: mud flows from treeless slopes have obliterated whole villages and snuffed out hundreds of lives; industrial waste has turned rivers into virtual vats of death and decay. …

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