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Saving the earth through bones

“MOST of us self-professed environmentalists are committed to save the environment – we plant trees, we dispose our garbage properly, we save water, we observe the Earth Hour every year.  But Darrell’s way of preserving the environment makes our combined efforts almost trivial.”

That was former Davao City councillor Leonard R. Avila III wrote in his foreword for the book, The Bone Collector: The Story of a Man Who Advocates of Saving the Earth from Human Destruction.

The 160-page book is sort of a biographical sketch of Darrell D. Blatchley, the curator and owner of the D’Bone Collector Museum, which opened last January.  It is now one of the most-often visited museums in Davao City.

Avila’s thought-provoking words seemed the set the tone of the book.  In his concluding statement, the ex-lawmaker pointed out, “If you have not met the man yet or visited the museum, this book is akin to spending a few hours with Darrell over cups of Davao coffee and surrounded by awesomeness of nature we are so fortunate to experience.”

The book is authored by John-Eric Taburada, who described himself as “a motivated poet with interest in human attitude, culture, spiritual nurturing, and philanthropy.”

Taburada is also the man behind several other books, including Amazing Archipelago: The Hard Facts and Unbiased Information about the Eccentric and Wrongly Impressed Nation!

Those who get the chance of visiting the D’Bone Collector Museum – which can compete one of those found at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. – will be mesmerized to see a 41-foot or 12.4-meter long sperm whale (which has the largest species of toothed whale).  Bones and skeletons of snakes, tarsier, marine turtles, various fish species, different sizes of the mouths of sharks, and birds abound.

Most of the bones and skeletons were collected by Blatchley himself.  Some, however, were donated by individuals and some organizations. “I have been collecting bones and animal stuff since I was young,” he said. “I grew up in Thailand and the Philippines, countries that both have different and interesting animals.”

The book has no chapters so you have to read it like a magazine.  Anecdotes abound.  In fact, you get to know how some of the bones were collected.  “Our 41 foot sperm whale that died of old age, got buried on the beach and was left there for four years before we were informed about it.  It took us 15 hours to dig it up, a dump truck to take it to town and a bus (which we rented) to bring it to Davao.  It took us three years to finish it together.”

The book was written in question and answer form.  The author sent his questions and Darrell answered them “mostly at night time when my sons and wife were already sleeping.”

Darrell D. Blatchley was born in the United States but spent his childhood in Thailand. When he was 15, the family moved to the Philippines, where his parents work helping poverty-stricken and displaced children in Davao City.

Spending more than half of his life in the country and being married to a beautiful Filipina (Mary Gay, with whom he has two sons), he now considers the Philippines as his second home – next to the United States.

In the book, Darrell shares some thoughts about the Philippines, the people, and the culture.  When asked by the author about conservation in the Philippines, Darrell replied: “Many Filipinos are hungry due to poverty and don’t recognize the word ‘conservation’; they would eat almost anything edible just to survive.”

On the difference between Filipinos and Thai, Darrell shared: “The people in Thailand and the Philippines are similar in appearance though some differences, like the temperament of people are different there.  Anger is not allowed to be shown in public.  It is called losing face.”

What is interesting about the book is that it provided some footnotes for international readers to know more about what Darrell had been explaining.  When he told the author about his favorite food, kinilaw, Taburada wrote below: “a salad made from raw fish cubes mixed with vinegar and spices.”

From pages 75-79, Darrell shared some of his secrets in deboning, cleaning, and reattaching bones.  “If the animal is buried, it would take me several hours to dig it up, making sure I have all the bones,” he said.  “After that, I have to clean all the bones and assemble them piece by piece.  For a larger animal, it may take up to months to prepare it before it can be displayed in the museum.”

People may find what Darrell is doing as weird and strange.  “Without what we are doing now, there would be so many strange and amazing animals that will disappear from this planet,” he said.  “We are performing the ultimate recycling.  Dead animals can be used as learning tools.  So that even in death, these animals will continue to wow, amaze and educate both young and old alike.”

In his introduction, Taburada posed a question as to who should be called a hero: “Would it be someone who led and raised a weapon to fight with the oppressors?  Would it be someone who revolutionary wrote from a pen only to perish by firing squad?  Would it be someone who blatantly opposed a political dictator and exposed his system of corruptions, then ending a claimed heroic life through assassination?  Or would it be someone who loved collecting bones and taught the public how to save the world from human destruction?”  ###









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