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Dugong mistaken for mermaid

By Kim Atienza

THE Dugong (Sea Cow) is often mistaken by people as a mermaid, especially when viewed from afar. It is possible that some tales of mermaid sighting in Palawan and other islands have been caused by dugong.

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The Dugong looks like a half-horse because of its snout, half-mermaid because of its tail.

The locals in Busuanga, Palawan swear by the uncanny appearance of sea cows.

In the past, sailors thought they have been seeing mermaids when they would spot dugongs from above their ship. Some dugongs look like a fat lady.

Dugong is a Malay word meaning “Lady of the Sea.” Dugongs can also be found in Bicol, Romblon, Antique, Guimaras, and Northern Negros.

They are classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) because of loss of habitat, hunting, and killing. Dr. Lemnuel Aragones states that dugongs in the Philippines are endangered since there is little data and they are rarely seen today.

C3 Philippines is a non-government organization that focuses on the study, conservation and protection of dugongs in Busuanga. Dugongs eat sea grass. They deliver important nutrients to every marine organism and feed on them. There are 12 individual dugong sightings in Calauit, Palawan. Dugongs need to breathe every 6-7 minutes to prevent themselves from drowning.

The average lifespan of a dugong is about 70 years. Dugongs are often seen here because the sea is rich in sea grass which is their favorite food according to C3 Philippines.

Excerpts from the very useful book “Living With Folk Wisdom” by Abercio V. Rotor, Ph.D:

When planting cuttings like malunggay, siniguelas, katuray – First dig a hole, elbow-deep and large enough not to bruise the stem cutting. Position the cutting to insure balance and sunlight exposure. Cover the base with fine topsoil, compact it, and make a “well” to keep water in, particularly during dry season.

Send your questions on anything and everything to Kuya Kim through my Twitter account @kuyakim_atienza using #AlaminKayKuyaKim.

Ating tuklasin ang mga bagay-bagay na di niyo pa alam. Walang ’di susuungin, lahat aalamin. Ito po si Kuya Kim, Matanglawin, only here in TEMPO.

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