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Art Underground Manila

When asked to think of powerful seas, one might think of storm surges that crash and destroy sea walls, rogue waves that sink even the hardiest of battleships, or the rare but utterly destructive tsunamis that can wipe out entire villages in the blink of an eye.

But the sea is also capable of a slow and creeping kind of destruction, one that most of us only really appreciate when the damage is done. Climate scientists and environmental activists have been sounding the alarm on global warming and its impact on rising sea levels for decades. Perhaps it is because of a human tendency to bury our heads in the sand, or that most of us live too much inland to notice, but we have done a great job of ignoring the insidious approach of the sea.

But islanders know the truth.

Before the articles and scientific journals explaining the phenomenon of rising sea levels, those who live among the islands have already seen the slow creep of sea, silently claiming the land. When you are surrounded by water and do not have seemingly endless stretches of land to spare, you notice things. Long stretches of beaches slowly disappearing, fertile land now salinated and barren, and communities uprooted and steadily moving inwards until there is no place else to go. The sea is coming, and it is coming for all of us.

Erikson Arcilla was born in the island province of Catanduanes, east of Maqueda Channel in the Bicol region. The first point of landfall of many of the country’s historic storms, Catandunganons know firsthand the awesome power of the sea, and the impact of steadily rising sea levels on the landscape, local industries, and everyday life. Erikson spent much of his childhood going to beaches and sandbars to fish with his father. Now, many of these childhood haunts exist only in memory, forever lost to the sea.

“The Last of Us” is a future inspired by Erikson’s last memory of aging and crumbling sea walls losing the battle to hold back the ever-rising tide. Tall trees atop disintegrating concrete platforms set in the middle of wide expanses of water reflect the delicate balance between land and sea — and the prison we might find ourselves not far into the future.

In a time marked by encroaching sea levels, the imperative to safeguard our remaining arboreal sanctuaries has never been more urgent. As the relentless march of climate change threatens to engulf vast swathes of land under ever-rising tides, our last bastions of greenery stand as poignant symbols of resilience and hope.

For soon, the world will understand this truth that we who dwell inland have long forgotten: the sea is a harsh mistress and she takes no prisoners.

April 16, 2024
April 3, 2024

Erikson Arcilla

The Last of Us

The Last of Us
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