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Adapt to rising seas, schools move to rafters and swimming cats

Patasan, Philippines – When floods invade her house at night – which always happens, a little higher every year – Pelagia Villarmia wrinkles on her bed and waits.

One day she knows that the water will sneak behind the bamboo slices in her bed. It will continue to rise surprisingly salty, dark and cold.

Sea water covered the walls of Mrs. Filarmia’s house with mildew murals. He bumped into the furniture legs and froze the DVD player with a tray tray. A corroded image of Mrs. Villarmia and her now deceased husband, hung on the wall, from the back when they were young, optimistic and unaware of hunger at sea.

What happens to Ms. Filarmia and her neighbors in Patasan, an island in the Philippines, is a harbinger of what the people of low-lying islands and coastal areas around the world will face as the sea level rises.

In 2013, Patasan was affected by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake. Thousands of aftershocks followed, and local terrain out of sight. Patasan and three adjacent islands collapsed downwards, making it more vulnerable to surrounding waters.

Now climate change, with sea levels rising, appears to hang over a place with no elevation. The highest point on the islands is less than 6.5 feet above sea level.

When the floods are bad, Ms. Villarmia learned to live on cold rice and coffee. She has skillfully grown tied up her valuables so she doesn’t float away.

It is 80, it defines the logic of actuarial tables.

She said: “I will go before the departure of Patasan.” “But Patasan will also disappear.”

Close to every new and full moon, the sea rushes effortlessly through littered beaches, on a unified road that runs along the backbone of Patasan, with a population of 1,400 people, and goes into people’s homes. The island, part of the Tubigon chain in the central Philippines, is flooded for at least a third of the year.

The highest floods are taller than any man here, and they flood the basketball court. They have drowned a painting of marine life in elementary school, adding verisimilitude to the cartoon designs of vulgar sharks and manta rays.

When the tides come, the patasan, full of houses and knives, does not smell clean sea air but rather deep sofas floating on the roof, sunken documents and saturated sewage that flushes human waste into salt water as it washes homes.

Only a few coconut palms have survived in Patasan. The rest was suffocated by sea water.

“People say this is because the Arctic is melting,” said Dennis Sukanto, a local resident whose task is to measure water levels in Patasan every year. “I don’t understand but that’s what they say.”

A year after the 2013 earthquake, the local government proposed moving the islanders to new homes an hour away by boat. Few took the offer.

“They wanted us to go to a high hillside place,” said 66-year-old Rodrigo Cucicol, shaking his head in insult. “We are fishermen. We need fish.”

“We are no longer afraid of water,” said Mr. Kocekul. “This is how we live.”

The unwillingness of people in Patasan to leave their homes – rather than choosing to respond, inch by inch, to a new reality – may hold valuable lessons for the residents of other vulnerable island states. Instead of uprooting an entire population, with enormous shock and cost implications, the most viable solution may be local adaptation.

“The message of climate refugees is more exciting, but the most realistic narrative of the islanders themselves is adaptation, not mass migration,” said Loris Gamero, who has Searched the Tubigon Islands For five years she manages climate and disaster risk assessment efforts at the Manila Observatory, a research institute.

The residents of Patasan have modified. He folded them. They put their homes on blocks of coral stone. They tied their goats in pens on stilts. They have transferred most of the plant life from floodable earth spots to portable pots.

There are other concessions. The Catholic priest in the local church declared that the parishioners no longer had to kneel down to pray when the tide rose.

“We will find a way to do things because this is our home,” said Annie Caskoyo, a member of the local health committee who once worked outside the island but returned to Patasan.

The persistent threat to nature has affected the resilience of Philippine DNA.

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