Supertyphoon Meranti and the Forgotten Islands of Batanes

A thunderstorm in Manila is a headline, a flood in taft is news., a typhoon elsewhere is a national concern, but a supertyphoon in Batanes is gone with the wind issue… Our provincial hymn is always true “forlorn country though they say, orphans of the motherland…” But whether Manila would care or not, whether help will come or none, the stone houses of Batanes and its people molded by fierce weather thru the ages will stand strong and proud… Ivatans will bounce back in a matter of days. We are a nation on our own, we have always been…

After 3 days since the onslaught of the Supertyphoon, there was no initiative from the government,. C130 of the military is waiting for a rainbow, until a private aircraft finally decided to conduct an aerial assessment of the farthest island.

 

 

Ode to the Vanishing Paradise

Batanes

Oh land so dear

God blessed thee so clear

Verdant hills, black and white beaches and clear seas

Above the land, under the sea, are wealth to cherish

Oh God the supreme architect

By the winds He carved the hills and mountains

By the current of the sea, He outlined the shores

For long He kept it hidden, like a precious stone in the treasure chest.

Then by His providence, chose among the tribes a custodian

The Ivatans, so they are the chosen one

They settled there and became one with the land

Small it was then, as it is now, but sustenance was sufficient for the band

Luxury,iyara

Some say-they lack

Some say-we lack

It depends to the person what is indeed worthy

The simple truth is,

We don’t need high rise building-

To see what lies beneath,

We have Iraya and Karaboboan, we can see much from their zenith

No need for super markets

For the land yields enough livestock and fruits

The sea produces enough fish for the day

We need not worry for food is always on the way

They said we are left behind,

A remnant of the old world,

Yet, back then children respect the elders,

God we fear, and above all we value our virtues

Leaving all behind, have we then progressed?

Now, paradigm shifted,

We think what is beautiful is the concrete jungle

Mountains paved or levelled

Trees we wish to replace with towers

And we want to re-draw the coastlines

When the Creator comes back for accounting,

A question worth answering,

Did we kept it in the best way

Or we wasted it away?

Lamentation

From my great grandfather to my very parents, our Ivatan blood is never pure. But this is not a reason to love the island less. In my heart I’ve always considered and love to call my self as a full-blooded ivatan. I grew up very well ingrained in my heart the strong foundation of Ivatan culture.

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When I was younger, stocked in Itbayat, I thought industrialization and commercialization is what Batanes needs. As a young ambitious  man, I thought Itbayat must develop like any other place, like any other city.

But as I came to see development and its costs my point of view changed radically. I learned to appreciate the unique and seemingly slow life in our province. As Dan Seals in his song rightly describe, “Night life and big cities is alright for awhile, Sure makes you feel good when you’re there, But the country’s so pretty it goes on and on for miles, Takes away my troubles and my cares”. We are so blest that we have the luxury of peace and tranquility which in many places in the world is absent. We have been blest to have the opportunity to find relaxation in the nurturing care of mother nature.

Our province is indeed blest with the splendor of nature’s beauty, it is God’s master piece. I don’t think high rise buildings would make it more beautiful. Neither resorts nor bars would make its beaches or hills look better. I cannot help but hate this people who wish to exploit this pristine and sacred land of the Ivatans, and I cannot condone the betrayal of some ivatan for a few pieces of money.

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I do not understand why are they so willing to sell something that is priceless. I do not understand why some would want to take a small lump sum  income by selling away pieces of the island, an amount they can earn in a short period of time if they keep on protecting the land. Some clamor for rapid development, be at par with the cities, be like boracay or the other major tourist spots… why? There will only be one Boracay, you cant imitate it, but why do we clamor to be like Boracay if we can be uniquely and simply be Batanes.

Batanes is where nature and culture are married. It is in this union that gave birth as well to the uniqueness of the Ivatans. This is who we are, this is what we are.

Ivatan behold the beauty of the land God has given us. Let us keep our hospitality but not to the point of selling away the precious land we have. Let us not be the very person to light the torch of the trailblazers. Let us not trade our valuable treasure. Let us not sell our best spot under the sun.

N.B. First picture not mine: see more at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ivatanphotographers/

Peace in the Bashi Region (Philippines-Taiwan territorial conflict)

7 May 2013

Dear President Ma, you deserve admiration for your persistence and firm commitment to seek justice for the unfortunate death of your fisherman. However please likewise observe justice towards Filipino people who has nothing to do with the incident. To let others suffer would be another great injustice. As you compel our government to take full responsibility of the situation, please likewise take action and full responsibility regarding the action of your fishermen who wantonly enters Philippine waters, specifically municipal waters in the northernmost province. Once again please monitor the illegal activities of your fishermen grossly committed in the Northern Province (Batanes, Babuyan Islands) of the Philippines, which is clearly not part of the disputed waters. (1) Everyday, tons of Tuna, Blue Marlins etc. are taken from our Marine areas, (2) they engage in pouching of endangered marine species, like green turtle, shells and clams, (3) They land illegally on the northern Islands and gather endemic species of plants (4) They fish using dynamite, cyanide and fine nets sometimes in our municipal Marine Sanctuaries (5) They also engage in coral fishing, wiping out some pristine coral reefs in the area. (6)They bully local fishermen in the Northern Province, chasing them and threatening to ram their small fishing boats.

The people of the North look into Taiwan with great respect. They also take it as a pride that the people of Lanyu (Taiwan’s province) are their blood relatives, speaking the same language and of the same ancestry. However, anger often sparks when Taiwanese fishermen invade their municipal fishing grounds, their major source of living. For several times our common culture had served as bedrock of our relationship, people to people cooperation (Lanyu-Batanes), may it once again bring us closer together as we find a solution equally beneficial to both Filipinos and Taiwanese, and most especially for the people in the Bashic region.

Peace and stability in the Northern region is possible only if both sides will take responsibility over the actions of its own people. So much politics has put the tension into fragile level. But if only compassion, and respect for each and everyone is put on with primacy, there will be no such conflict as of now.

The current conflict is for politicians and diplomats to solve, however I think it should not put unnecessary suffering to people who has nothing to do with it but are only after for the simple fact that they want to earn decently for their family. Let the long arm of justice reach for those that should be held responsible, but let loose, free and safe those who have no hands on it.

Thank you and I strongly believe that the issue of the overlapping border in the north can be best solve taking into consideration the strong cultural links of the Bashic people, and for sometime softening or even putting aside politics.