Despite man’s efforts to alter his environment with steel and stone, nature still finds a way to inject life in the most unlikely places.
The Philsports Complex, or PSC, building in Pasig City is one great example of this.
Before finally settling on the name PSC complex, it underwent a couple name changes.
When it was first built, it was called the University of Life. Later on, it was renamed the Ultra Sports Complex, or just Ultra.
Ultra became one of two major venues for concerts and where the Philippine Basketball Association, or PBA, would play their conference games. It was because of these games that the name Ultra was forever etched in the minds of Filipinos.
Having started out as a showcase, the University of Life had state of the art facilities at the time. The most striking was the huge external track oval that was covered in cork.
In addition to an amphitheater, a gym, and even a meditation area, it had an Olympic-sized swimming pool, complete with a multi-level diving platform.
Used Pool Water
Maintaining an Olympic-sized pool means its water needs to be changed regularly. And as it is replaced, the used water is sent to the sewage system on the streets beside it.
Not all of that the water flows underground, though. A bit of it runs down the sidewalk of the highly inclined Saint Martin Street.
This surface water then finds its way to the trees growing out of holes set in the sidewalk, helping to irrigate them.
Due to a collapsed wall from a typhoon years ago, two holes near the corner of Saint Martin Street don’t have trees. Water is caught here and to result in two small, shallow pools.
On this particular Sunday, I decided to jog over to the PSC Complex for a swim and a shower.
As I bounced past the corner of Stain Martin Street, I caught a sudden movement at the corner of my eye.
Being curious and tired from hours of jogging and take a look.
As I got closer to the two holes, I was surprised to find tadpoles happily swimming in them. They were quite numerous and could probably fill up a large drinking glass.
As I stepped closer, they naturally panicked. But given the small world they lived in, only went as far as the opposite end of the three-foot wide hole.
Having triggered the kid in me, I wanted to see what these tadpoles did in their tiny world. So I stood still and they eventually went back to eating the mold scattered about in their little pool.
I couldn’t help thinking how fascinating it was to see tadpoles in the middle of the city, making me wonder how they got there in the first place.
I mean, frogs must have hopped all the way there from someplace. They would have braved the cars and trucks, stray dogs and cats, and even adults and children, just to lay their eggs.
And while there was water in the holes, there was never a single mosquito or other flying insect to be found in the area.
But the biggest surprise of all was the tiny crab by the edge of the hole!
Now I can accept finding tadpoles in the middle of the city, but a crab? It just blew me away.
I thought how lucky, I was to have my camera with me. So I fished it out of my fanny pack and prepared to take pictures.
But as I framed my shot, I realized that it would not zoom in close enough. This forced me to move closer and scare the crab into hiding.
It took five minutes of standing away before the crab came out again. Unfortunately, whenever my shadow appeared on the water, he’d rush right back under.
The same was for the other hole. The crab there would also dart under the lip of the hole whenever a portion of my shadow hit the water.
After playing hide-and-seek for over an hour, it was about four in the afternoon and I was tired, parched, and sunburned.
As you can imagine, I was extremely frustrated at having discovered crabs in the middle of the city and not being able to take their pictures.
But having wasted so much of my day, I didn’t want to go home empty handed. So I decided to sit by the PSC Complex wall and wait to get the money shot.
In order to catch water coming down from the PSC Complex, water troughs water were built at the base of the walls.
Looking like a second wall that is a foot high, they guide the water into the sewage system at the corner of Saint Martin Street.
As I walked over, another movement caught my eye. This time it was bigger, darker, and faster. And to top it all off, it was on dry land.
I instinctively stopped as my eyes focused on the source of the movement. I was worried it was a snake or something.
Then I saw it.
There on top of a folded cardboard box was a black Skink with a yellow stripe on its side. It was beautiful.
It stayed on the box for a split second before darting away like a snake on steroids.
The Skink was approximately as along as an average arm from nose to tail and boy was fast. I didn’t even have time to twitch a finger before it disappeared.
Talk about another missed opportunity!
On the offshoot chance that he’d still be there, I slowly walked over to see if I could catch a picture of him. And when I saw another movement, I jammed my finger down the shutter button.
It was definitely him as I caught sight of his long tail disappearing underneath the cardboard.
Sadly, all I got was a series blurred pictures.
Disappointed with absolutely nothing to show for at this point, I decided to take a seat as I pondered my next move.
When I turned around, I caught site of another crab as it slowly crawled sideways down the trough.
This time, I was ready and fired off several shots to get it.
Based on the pictures, you may think that the crab itself is unremarkable. But like I said, finding it so far from a river or beach is amazing just by itself.
I took as many pictures as I could before it disappeared underneath the cardboard box; the same one the Skink crawled under.
Too bad they were both hiding. It would have been nice to take their pictures had they bumped into each other.
Would the Skink eat the crab? Or would the crab nip the Skink with its pincer? Would a long, drawn out battle ensue? The kid in me was going through all the possibilities at breakneck speed.
Alas, they all stayed out of sight for the rest of my stay.
Time to Head Home
After another hour of waiting, it was time to call it a day. And I started to head on home, sans my swim and shower.
But even if I smelled of burned skin, I did end up with a wonderful experience.
As a kid, I have always marveled at Mother Nature. And as an adult, it was nice to remember that feeling today.
The thing is, despite man’s altering, and even destroying, his environment, Mother Nature still manages to push back and put life in the most unexpected places.