I used to think that it was correct to refer to Laguna de Bay sa Laguna Lake. Not. “Laguna” is the Spanish word for lagoon, pond and lake. So, “Laguna Lake” is, literally, Lake Lake which doesn’t make any sense at all. But the misnomer is not borne out of some superficial mistake. It is borne out of mispronunciation resulting from colonization.
The body of water designated in maps and atlases as Laguna de Bay is pronounced Laguna de bai. Not ba-i but bai, where the vowel “a” has a short sound. It is pronounced the same way as the “a” in lad, lass, mad, ass… Bay is a town in Laguna province. In the olden days, the town of Bay included what today are Calauan and Los Baños. Bay was the first capital of Laguna. When the Spaniards arrived, they named the lake after the town. Hence, it became Laguna de Bay.
After the Spaniards sold the Philippines to the Americans in 1898… Oh, wait! You didn’t know it was a business transaction? All wars are. There was the Spanish-American war, Spain lost and, for a measly $20 million, Spain handed over the Philippines to America along with Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam.
Anyway, so the Americans came, brought their language with them and, in the process, the “bay” in Laguna de Bay acquired the English pronunciation. Like “bay” in Manila Bay and that epitome of the crassness of American culture, Baywatch. With the new pronunciation, people started to think and accept that “Bay” in Laguna de Bay really meant “bay”, a sea inlet, and the real significance of “de Bay” as a town and Laguna’s first capital was almost forgotten, thanks to the inability of the Americans to pronounce a word correctly. Today, the very government agency tasked with the care of Laguna de Bay bears this glaring mistake. Who coined the name Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), I have no idea.
Over the past half-century, Laguna de Bay has been the subject of controversy. While it has always been a source of food for the residents of the surrounding area, the indiscriminate construction of fish pens has led to a situation where the water was no longer sustainable. In short, Laguna de Bay is dying.
There have been many attempts to curb the proliferation of fish pens but, for decades, the attempts had been mostly lip service as many of the huge fish farms are owned by rich people backed by politicians. If you find that unbelievable, consider this news report published on June 26, 2013.
A 28.6-hectare fish pen within the jurisdiction of the Rizal Province was demolished Wednesday as part of the first phase of the plan to rid the Lake of fish pens that have been illegally operating for several years.
The operator of the fish pen located in Binangonan, Rizal has failed to comply with LLDA requirements for over 10 years.
Who can afford to construct fish pens over a 28.6 hectare area? Who can defy the government for 10 years by continuously failing to comply with environmental requirements? Only the rich, with the support of politically powerful people, can do that.