The Spectator

1 March 2018

He unhooks the rope, places the knot to the skiff
and drags it towards the water. Unreadable, the waves
are pages that keep on rewriting themselves, like thoughts
of the American President on China’s artificial islands
at West Philippine Sea. He could see the structures
from where he stood, as if some rich neighbor

decided to build a strip club on a sand bar. But he was not
bent on avoiding them, these “builders in bad faith,”
as the Barangay Captain calls them. For he, his father
before him, and all the village fishermen had long
considered that reef as their inter-island waiting shed,
shoal away from shore. So he packs his provisions of fresh

water, dried fish, rice, kerosene lamp, transistor radio.
He fixes the nets and of course, the bayonet. He once
found it during an oyster dive, sharp metal stabbing sand,
glinting in underwater sunlight. Did some WWII soldier
drop it to mark our Exclusive Economic Zone as prelude
to the UNCLOS?
He asks himself, aware of the proviso

in the Constitution reserving all archipelagic marine
resources for Filipinos. He pushes for the sea, the skiff,
a sharp pen piercing through sand and waves as if writing
land titles. Better occupy the waves than be written off.
Treaties redefining territoriality become useless in the context
of man-made shores and artificial islands. He turns the radio

on and Floyd Mayweather is now being booed, declared
winner over Manny Pacquiao. The “Pambansang Kamao,”
they say, carried the game, the elusive American, all form,
all technique, won by points before a jeering live audience.
Is this how boxing should be, won by crafty non-fighters
with cheap tricks? Boxing can’t win wars
. He thinks. “I thought

I won,” said Pacquiao, apparently, more dizzy with the defeat
than the punches. Manny, you can never win against Money, no.
Not against this undefeated American in US shores
. Their government
needs him in this age of ISIS and Chinese threat. He tells the Las Vegas
prize fighter, still thinking of how Obama danced around, ran,
hugged, elbowed, jabbed, and smiled his way off a China issue,

whether or not the Philippines can expect American military
support in case of war. His motor is roaring now, in full throttle
towards the Chinese firmament. “Manny can’t beat Floyd
because he’s not bright enough,” he hears Floyd’s father.
So he throws the net down the water, a Chinese vessel
speeding towards him, his bayonet shining under the sun.

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