Lem conducting "photo ID" studies in southern Tañon Strait, identifying individual dolphins through scars, shape, and unusual pigments in dorsal fins. Photo courtesy of the UPD-IESM Marine Mammal Research and Stranding Laboratory

Marine mammals—such as whales, dolphins, dugongs—are descended from ancestors that lived entirely on land. Fleeing from terrestrial competition, they turned to the waters and the vast resources of its depths. The Philippines is rife with marine mammals, a fact confirmed by stranding incidences—more than 800 recorded since 2005—exceeding the normal numbers in the region.

This giant which lived inside long crusty tubes under the sea had eluded scientists for a very long time, earning the title of “Loch Ness Monster of mollusks” in a New Yorker scientific feature. Little was known of the shipworm with the scientific name Kuphus polythalamia. All modern-day scientists had were the empty skeletal pipes turning up in different parts of the world, and pre-War specimens that had turned into mush.

So what’s a tall 26-year-old bachelor doing in the scenic but remote municipality of San Isidro, Bohol, a town of rice fields, banana and coconut groves, 32 kilometers away from Tagbilaran City?
Adrian Sampang is no stranger to the town’s 9,800 people, being the only doctor-to-the-barrio (DTTB) assigned in the community for the past eight months.