We were building a few gas stations in an island in the Philippines and I have to check all of them every so often. The island is so rural it felt like stepping into the past. And it’s small enough to be circled in just three hours by motorcycle through a seaside highway. Though not so many, it has a steadily rising population. There are lesser people in the south part, and a long stretch of beach is un-peopled for most of the day. I usually stop by a bluff overlooking the sea, which has a view of other southern islands. The last time I passed by the area, there were 4 boys on the beach with nets, homemade spears and goggles to catch aquarium fish. Except that, it’s all empty space and blue skies. This has become my favorite spot to rest, and also to skin dive.
There is really nothing special in these waters, except for one type of fish I haven’t seen before. It’s a medium sized, regularly shaped fish, with a noticeably black square on yellow spot, a pink dorsal and anal fins, and a silvery body. I turned around to face it squarely. It became still, then turned dark bands amidst sea grass. I moved closer; it moved away towards sandy bottom before turning very light while the bands disappeared. I watched it for 5 minutes before I saw others as I drifted with the underwater current.
I reckon, just like human beings, fish also have different temperaments though too subtle to notice. However this one stood out! While the others prefer to just move away or hide underneath rocks, it moved around in a wide circle. It was extremely agitated by my presence that sudden movements turned it on like a switch. As I mimicked a chase, it turned dark bands as often as a blinking traffic light. It’s like an ill patient on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Sensing this, I swam away to ease the tension the fish must have felt. Then I let myself drift further towards shore. It was time to go….