SAN FRANCISCO – My sister and her hubby, Jose, live in a hundred-year-old house a short bus ride away from downtown. Its construction and looks are that of the so-called Edwardian era wherein the architects and builders try to marry the functionality of the modern times and the ornateness of the pompous Victorian era.
My sister, trained in interior design, has done a splendid job of restoring the elegance and injecting new but un-intrusive elements in their home. They may look plush but they are mostly outcomes from patient DIYing the whole ambience. My brother-in-law, an engineer, doing plumbing, masonry, and little electrical fixing with finesse. With stained glass portals here, chandeliers there, and a score of painting by Asians, mainly by my father and brothers, everywhere.
Three or four decades ago, according to Jose, citizens of Chinese descent bought most of the old homes along their street and razed them down, despite protests citing their historical significance. So now, Jose and Nikka’s home stands out against edifices that shamelessly look like boxes with rectangular holes.
Their porch is so truly lovely and has even attracted odd people that, at different times, have stolen her pots of succulents, mobiles, and other flowering plants. Good thing, her Pampanga lantern has escaped such petty thievery. It has only been once that the house was nalooban. A family of raccoons, them guys with robber masks, invaded the inside of their house and rummaged through their trash bins.
Their house is near huge parks, one of them being the Presidio so, once in a while, you’d also encounter squirrels (“rats with furry boas” – Craig Fergusson) running down the wide streets where cars habitually and politely stop for pedestrians to cross. My sister had encounters with coyotes on her walk to work. She and the animal have had a staring contest, each probably asking: what are you doing in my territory?!
Strangely, my full awareness of the overlapping of habitats of man and other denizens was when I was taking up a summer course in Cornell University in New York ages ago. Each morning, squirrels would tap at my dormitory window, looking adorable. But I have been warned never try to be chummy with them because they might carry rabies. They cannot be domesticated – like dogs or cats.
There is such a thing as human-wildlife conflict (hwc) when the needs and behavior of wildlife impact negatively on humans and humans, in turn, negatively affect the needs of the wildlife. When we claim parcels of the earth to build our lovely homes, or build farms and factories and stores, we could be encroaching on other creatures’ territories. When they come to damage our crops, or crap on our lawns, it is abiding by a law of reciprocation. Or there could simply be an invasion.
It was in Palawan in the late 70s when I first witnessed monkeys nonchalantly crossing the airport runaway. Then in Subic, them standing on the road finagling for food, despite the warnings. It was in Bali, when we woke up to a clan of black apes, with their babies, atop the whole fence and silently staring at us through the glass doors and windows. With the sun barely rising, it was both an eerie and endearing site.
When we first transferred to Tagaytay more than 20 years ago, the towering camachile lit up some nights with clouds of fireflies. Now they are gone. There was a time I installed an electric mosquito zapper in our lanai because the biting insects were such a bother. I left it overnight and, in the morning, I saw dozens of amazingly beautiful beetles and other bugs, fried on zapper’s grills. Drenched with pity, I unplugged the death machine. We, as man, might be able to delineate our territories with laws, titles and such but, really, the rights over land, the waters, and even the skies, are not just between us humans. -