Otters, Mangroves and Pasir Ris Fishermen

With the haze almost gone, I went out today to see some nature. It’s ironic that I could do this with ease here and not in Manila. The Singaporean government has made it possible for people to experience nature by making their nature parks and reserves accessible to the public. For example, they managed to link their major parks through what is called ‘park connectors’, these are series of pathways that allows people to hop from one park to another. Town planning here as you can see is unbelievably impeccable–something we Pinoys could all, well, forget it.

Quietly reeling in all kinds of fish. Small but plenty. Pasir Ris has some good beach scenery when weather is feeling generous.

I frequent this place because it’s not far from where I stay–meaning it cost very little to go here. The entire area is called Pasir Ris park–a 17 hectare of natural and ‘man made’ nature. An interesting spot, a personal favorite, is the ‘mangrove forest’. They constructed elevated wooden pathways and platforms so people could observe the fascinating biology in full display when its low tide. You could see crabs, monitor lizards,fishes and birds that feeds on mud creepers that’s only visible to them. But I’m cautious whenever I’m around these parts because I once saw a curled up brown snake (looks like a pit viper) resting in one of the branches near the pathway. But that’s what these reserves are all about–people experiencing nature. As long as you keep your distance from these animals you’re fine. Last year when we visited the river near the area, we saw these giant monitor lizards basking in the sun. Somehow they managed to crawl up to the sides of those slanted thich trees near the river to catch some sun!

Bakawan in Tagalog. Mangroves is know for its resiliency. Scientists has been experimenting on its chemical properties looking for something that could help save mankind! Talk about survival, this plant not only survive but it thrive in some of the harshest conditions.

Two years ago, some people spotted a python near a housing estate up north. When wildlife officers came, they just instructed people not to go near it. The python then went to a grassy ditch, then disappeared. When I was a young boy I remember my uncle (may he rest in peace) catching a large python (after the Pinatubo eruption). He killed the poor animal, skinned it and cooked it! Conservation of wild life is something that’s lost in our society, the ‘ubos ubos biyaya’ is our attitude towards nature!

We once rented bikes and went around this wide park. Trouble is that you can’t go in the forest side if you’re on a bike. I noticed a growing number of Filipinos biking in the area–they’re some of the best dressed, best equipped bikers you’ll ever see. The beach of Pasir Ris is always serene but rarely you’d see people swim its waters. Even when there’s strong winds the waves remains small and this makes the area great for fishing. Across Pasir Ris is one of the bigger island in the country, Pulau Ubin–which is also accessible but much wilder–monkeys and wild pigs freely roam this island–I think they took over after the British left their mines!

This area is popular for those who wants to shoot (with their cameras and not guns) birds that visits the area whenever tide goes down.

Along the beach of Pasir Ris there’s a floating house which I think is a shelter for local fishermen. I  like seeing those old guys fishing along the surf. I don’t think they care that much what they manage to reel in–for sure, it’s that zen-sque moment that a rod and reel gives a man that makes even a catch-less day worth it. The banks were said to have been developed with anglers in mind. It was also last year that I saw otters in this beach. I didn’t know then that there were such animals in the area, so just imagine my surprise when I saw these animals!:

Along with Changi, Pasir Ris are in the east side of the island and were once dominated by Malay ‘kampong’, rural villages that was prevalent before the development of the country. “Landscape Planning in Singapore” by Edmund Waller provides great detail how the new town Pasir Ris was planned. Here I learned that the name of the town means ‘white sands’ in Malay. The old town was known for its coconut plantations, fish ponds and mangroves. “Kampong” villages, still exists in Malaysia and even in our country, in the south where families in wooden homes are brought together by livelihood and religion. Even today, Islamic influence could be seen in the towns central bus terminal, which also serves as the convention point for young Singaporeans serving in the army during weekends. There’s an island not far from here that was developed to serve as training grounds for these young soldiers. They’re mandated by law to render two years of military service.

In the 1960’s, several skulls and bones were found in the town which were believe to be that of WWII casualties. These bodies were exhumed and given proper burial. A curious place gaining popularity in this town is what locals call the ‘Red House’. I have not seen this place nor I intend to but I know this is of interest to those people seeking ghosts. I don’t know why some people would you want to see one but there are people that do. They’re not crazy, just a little weird! This is Remembersingapore‘s most hunted. If there’s one thing I found out about Singaporeans is that they’re like us, they like these kind of stuff.

I was having a great time reading some of the comments of Filipinos about the ‘haze’ here in Singapore. I thought we would be the last to react but I guess some Pinoys enjoys the attention and making ‘drama’ (one comment in Inquirer even said she felt it was the ‘end of the world’!). The haze was pretty bad but it’s temporary and I don’t think it’s as bad as the smog that chokes us in Manila everyday!

Message to Pinoys: C’mon, stop being sissies and drama queens.

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