An aerial view of a grassy coastline with a rectangular plot of land outlined in yellow.

Water Restores by Eddy Lee

Water Restores

By Eddy Lee

For about thirty years, I frequently journeyed to our family’s rural coastal retreat, nestled in a village that my parents established for their eventual retirement. However, this serene haven was not always as idyllic as it appeared. Initially, the land lay barren, stripped of vitality by generations of corn cultivation and the excessive use of fertilizers.

The coastline, once adorned with lush mangroves and beach forests, had succumbed to the expansion of fishponds, leaving behind empty pens that once teemed with life. These ponds, dedicated to the cultivation of bangus or milkfish, mirrored the desolation of the surrounding landscape.

In those early days, when our family purchased the property, the soil was parched and incapable of sustaining life. Our endeavors to cultivate the land and nurture its bounty required considerable investment, underscoring the pivotal role of water in our self-sufficiency aspirations. Yet, despite the initial challenges, we remained steadfast in our vision—a home where we could cultivate our sustenance and live in harmony with nature’s rhythms.

To our astonishment, after a decade of water-scarce toil, we discovered that our land sat atop a water lens, a hidden reservoir that would transform our prospects. With this revelation and our knowledge of permaculture, we undertook the construction of rainwater catchments and swales, enabling us to irrigate our nascent orchards and nourish the soil.

An aerial view of a grassy coastline with a rectangular plot of land outlined in yellow.

With our access to water, the landscape gradually transformed as fruit trees took root, interspersed with banana plants to provide shade and sustenance during their growth. In time, our orchards flourished, yielding a rich bounty of bilimbi, starfruit, soursop, avocados, and an array of other tropical delights. These fruits not only nourished our bodies but also served as a sanctuary for local birdlife, fostering a vibrant ecosystem within our midst.

Meanwhile, we endeavored to restore the ecological balance of the coastal region, allowing the tides to reclaim the fishpond dikes and revive the mangrove habitat. With the return of the tidal flow came a resurgence of life—seeds, juvenile fish, shrimps, and crabs—all drawn to the revitalized mangroves, which once again thrived.

As the years passed, our rural retreat became a sanctuary of abundance, particularly during the challenging times brought about by the Covid pandemic. What began as a two-week quarantine at the farm extended into two years of solitude amidst nature’s embrace. During this period, we were sustained by a cornucopia of homegrown produce—papayas, avocados, jackfruits, and more—enriching our lives and fostering a sense of interconnectedness with the natural world and a deeper understanding of our dependence on water.

But in December 2021, at the height of Covid and the fruitful abundance, Typhoon Rai came lashing out with severely strong winds and battered our farm, toppling our fruit trees and destroying our home. We were absolutely devastated— all the restoration work had been wiped out. It was a heart-wrenching experience, but we knew that with a water catchment system, the land would be irrigated, and the trees would grow back. Nature’s resilience is dependent on water, and in four months, we could see the regrowth of life. Nature restored itself—springing back to life.

In retrospect, our journey from barren land to flourishing sanctuary, then to typhoon-ravaged land, underscores the resilience of nature and the transformative power of water stewardship. Amidst the uncertainties of the modern world, our coastal haven stands as a testament to the enduring bond between humanity and the natural world—a bond that sustains, nourishes, and inspires us in times of adversity.

Story by Eddy Lee
Storyteller and Permaculturist, Centennial College

“I love waterfalls—the cool, refreshing water and all its shades of aqua color. Waterfalls also remind me that I cannot control everything; I have to let go and let the force of nature reign.”

Stories of Water and Change

In honor of World Water Day 2024, this online feature is dedicated to celebrating the profound connection between individuals and water, while shedding light on pressing global water issues. This diverse collection of personal narratives and photographs serves as a testament to the multifaceted relationships we share with this vital resource. As we immerse ourselves in these accounts, we are not only inspired by the depth of individual experiences but also reminded of the urgent need for collective action to safeguard our planet’s most precious resource.