Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A boa swallowed a whole rat.

Boa constrictor

Abe V Rotor

I was in elementary then, I couldn’t remember exactly in what grade, but I remember pretty well one night I was aroused by a rumble below the house, in the cellar where dad also kept wood materials for furniture.

“Rats are fighting again,” my dad came to a quick conclusion since rats are real plenty at harvest time when our tenants would be delivering our share of palay which we kept in the granary (sarusar).

Early the following morning dad woke me to show a big snake, a boa constrictor we call in Ilocano beklat heavily stuffed in its middle. It had apparently exhausted itself so I was told by the rough guys in the carpentry shop who subdued it easily, and now they were going to strip its skin for shoes and belt. One guy - was it Mang Ramon? - who took a knife, honed it for a while and talking to himself, made a clean cut along the creature’s bulging belly dislodging a whole señora, a term for a queen rat. It is the señora old folks respect. “Don’t hurt the señora,” they would warn, “or she will do more harm.”

I felt no sense of pity because everyone felt triumphant for having eliminated two unwanted creatures, the snake most of all, for who would love a snake? No, no one in his right mind would disagree lynching the tempter responsible for the fall of Eden, and banishment of our first parents, who for their disobedience, bequeathed to us and our children the church calls original sin. No one takes the side of the snake, the living symbol of evil and treachery.

How about the rat? I remembered the Pied Piper, a legend of Hamlyn in old Germany. The Piper played with his pipe, and rats, countless of them, followed him to the end of the sea where they all drown. Rats are also the carrier of the deadly bubonic plague that killed a third of the population of Europe. And rats can destroy whole fields of rice ready to be harvested. No, no one loves the rat - even if it is Disney's most lovable character.

How little did I know of my biology, and the prejudices and folly of man! I realized as I grew older that no creature is without purpose on earth, that each one has a role to play in keeping the integrity of a grand design we call the biosphere. Yet in spite of this I have yet to learn and truly accept with the clarity of thought and conscience what things belong to science and what things are a matter of faith, in the same way we say, quoting Shakespeare, “Give to Caesar what is due to Caesar..."

That morning, while viewing the boa and its prey, I looked at dad my hero. As I grew up I realized the victory of man over other creatures won't really make him a hero at all. ~

Living with Nature 3, AVR

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