My war with rats

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

When I saw the viral video of a rat inside NAIA Terminal 3, all I could think of was killing it! While Filipinos were aghast and once again whipping their backs about fleas and rats at the NAIA, I was imagining all the ways I would deal with the rodents and pests if they had come my way. Actually, they have and for many of them, it did not end well.

But before anything, let’s deal with the rat at the terminal. It was ONE rat in a huge facility surrounded by open fields, lots of drainage, vehicles of all kinds and aircraft with cargo from different parts of the country and the world. The rat could have been a “stowaway” on some delivery van, may have come out of a plane or got scooped up while pilfering some box or container full of goodies. Yes, he may have also wandered in from one of the many garbage piles from any of the surrounding cities, particularly Pasay.

The question is: how often do we Filipinos encounter rats coming out of sewers, the bushes, the garbage bins, sidewalks or street corners? Do you remember that furry, fat, gray rat that was casually walking near the canal with territorial confidence? What did you do about it? Most people are actually shocked, look around for a stone to hurl at the rat or they simply steer clear of the rat for fear of getting bitten, getting rabies or leptospirosis.

Ironically, while the DOH makes a serious effort to remind the public about the dangers of leptospirosis from rats during the rainy season as well as rabies from stray dogs, the DILG and the DOH have not declared an all-out war on rodents and stray dogs. Logic dictates that you deal with the source or the cause, not just the disease.

I have not heard any Metro Manila LGU declaring war on rats. Through the years, towns in Central Luzon would declare war on field rats that eat up palay. I remember some towns in Nueva Ecija would even offer a bounty for every rat caught.

In Metro Manila, the typical thinking about controlling rats is to control their food sources by collecting garbage which, coincidentally, is a money maker for those who win local government contracts as well as their patrons on the inside. Garbage is not the only food choice of rats. They are as much vegetarian and omnivorous and actually feast on electrical wirings and other stuff.

Many car collectors have had to place sheet metal as shields around their cars just to prevent rats from chewing up the electricals. The last time it happened to me, my fuel gauge stopped working and I had to spend around P12,000 to replace the burned out wiring and equipment that short circuited. In buildings and old homes, bare wire is a common target of rats, and it can cause fires or power outages that take forever to find and fix.

Rats are highly intelligent, can figure out poisons, smell the scent or blood of one of them who got dispatched violently in a trap or some other manner. This is why certain methods only work a couple of times and eventually don’t score. In my younger days before the Philippine National Police clamped down on air guns, the preferred method of killing rats was shooting them with pellet guns.

It was effective, cheap and had an element of fun or challenge. Mind you, back then, we underwent training from the adults on handling BB guns and air guns. Some people have resorted to using sling shots and ball bearings, but bearings or marbles tend to ricochet on hard surfaces if you miss.

As already stated, I have an ongoing war against rats and I believe that the national government, every LGU, company, village and household should do likewise. If you have a house in an agriculture or farm community, rats come with the territory or invade the territory. But now they probably breed more and faster in cities than in farms.

Why? Because in farming communities they are an enemy. We hunt them or trap them every day. In cities, we view them as a nuisance and recently, an embarrassment. The sooner we realize they are a health threat, a fire and safety threat as well as highly destructive animals costing the country millions of pesos, the sooner we can go to war. Every household that has ever seen a rat lurking in their vicinity should invest a few hundred pesos on those steel box traps that last forever or report it to their barangay.

We’ve learned in the farm that the most effective bait is roasted coconut meat or niyog. Others say dried fish does the trick or anything that has a strong food scent that you can wrap in a piece of plastic screen or loose cloth. Once you catch the enemy, the cleanest way of terminating the rat is drowning it in a bucket of water.  Trust me, it’s a lot better than stabbing the rat. The bucket also prevents leaving any scent or blood in the trap.

There is no easy way of exterminating rats and vermin. Using poison blinds the rats, causes internal hemorrhaging and on occasion the rat does not make it out of its hiding area and stinks up the place.

Before you get squeamish on me, just look up YouTube stories of what rats have done to babies in poor areas, or what they could do to an aircraft full of people. We’re talking human lives here.

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