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Fish story

A couple of weeks ago my brother-in-law asked if I wanted a fixer-upper fish tank project. He had ordered a fish tank from an online store and it was damaged when he got it. The vendor replaced the tank and left the broken one with him since it was already damaged and something that bulky would probably cost too much to ship back.

Although we are not a pet keeping family, there have been requests and debates. During the negotiations, keeping fish had been one of the compromise options but we never really acted on it. This was an opportunity to give fish-keeping a try so when the repairable fish tank offer was made, we decided to give it a go.

I didn’t think the damage would be extensive but when I dropped by to get the tank and heard the jingling of the glass inside the sealed box, there were definitely second thoughts.

When I finally opened the box to check out the extent of the repairs needed, I saw that the tank had suffered serious damage but it still looked repairable. A curved glass corner was broken and a significant crack had emanated from the break. If it could be repaired, the tank would have a big crack running along ¼ of its “front.” This starter-hand-me-down fish tank was going have to be placed outside the house.

I took the broken tank to a glass and aluminum shop and told the guy to give it a go as long as the repair didn’t cost too much. I wasn’t really optimistic but after a day he called back and asked me to take a look. Filipino ingenuity and lots of silicone sealant resurrected the fish tank, and the best part was it cost me only 300 pesos.

It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t leak. The broken curved corner couldn’t be repaired and the hideous crack couldn’t be erased but I figured I could hide it with aquatic plants. It was a P300 20-gallon fish tank, what more can I ask for?

As with most things in my home, this was going to be a DIY project. And after piecemeal research on the internet, I was surprised to discover that fish keeping isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It turns out I have to prepare the tank and condition the water before finally putting in fish.

The other funny thing was decorating the tank. I started with putting rinsed gravel into the tank and nothing else before excitedly then pouring in water, foolishly thinking the aesthetics like landscaping, rocks, plants and decorations could be easily put in after the tank was filled with water.

Anyway, after numerous mistakes that had me going back to the internet and finding that the solution to my particular issues would’ve been much easier had I planned everything beforehand, our fish tank is almost ready to accept residents.

It is not pretty, but it looks decent so far. I don’t know how it will look after the fish have been put in, or if the poor creatures will even survive my little marine biology experiment. But it is all DIY and that is part of the fun if you are into that kind of thing. If everything bombs, then I can always get a professional to do it, even if it will probably cost so much more than the P300 that got me into this hobby.

Anyway, it is my many trials and more errors over the past few weeks of setting up the fish tank that made me realize the importance of vision, preparation and competency.

If I had started my project with a vision of what I wanted instead of a vague idea, I could have made the proper preparations instead of flying by the seat of my pants. I made so many mistakes and often wanted to start over because it all started with a P300 investment that I never really took seriously until everything finally started to come together. By then it was too late to do-over so I just had to stay the course and continuously tweak until the project became acceptable.

I imagine that there are people running for leadership positions in this country that are like me and my fish tank. We dive in without knowing what we want or what we are getting involved in. There is no plan, no vision, no training, and no competency. And because of that, when the project is finally “ready,” we don’t even know if the creatures we put in and are ultimately responsible for will survive or thrive. It could’ve been better had we given it the thought it deserves but “pwede na” is fine.

I don’t know if I’m going to be a good fish keeper. I have only put in a few dwarf shrimp so far and most of them died after too much of my tweaking and messing around the work-in-progress, imperfect world I prepared for them. Hopefully the next batch of creatures will survive and I can just focus on feeding them, changing the water, and cleaning the tank.

As we take a look at the current crop of candidates who want to take charge of our society, let us take a better look at their vision, credentials and competencies because our fish tank that is the Philippines is in a bad way and will need the right leader to run it if it is going to get better. Unlike my fish tank project, this one we are in cannot just be thrown away and restarted by the one in charge of us if something goes terribly wrong.*

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May 2022

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