Pagpupunyagi…kuwento ng buhay ni Elmer Festin

Pagpupunyagi

(Kuwento ng Buhay ni Elmer Festin)

By: Apolinario B Villalobos

Ang landas ng buhay na ating binabagtas

Mahirap tahakin lalo na kung tayo’y nakayapak –

Mga lubak na hindi mapansin ay ating natitisod

Matatalas na batong di maiwasan ay nayayapakan

Pati tinik ng dahong mariang sumusugat sa ating talampakan.

Ang taong hindi handa sa pagtahak nitong landas

Sa ilang hakbang pa lamang niyang magawa –

Kahihinaan na ng loob at pangangatugan na ng mga tuhod

Hindi malayong babalik sa pinanggalingan

Di kaya’y mangingipuspos at sasalampak na lamang sa daan.

May isang taong sa murang gulang ay naglakas-loob

Nagpakatatag at taimtim na nagdasal sa Panginoon

Na harinawa sa paglisan sa sinilangang Bantoon, isla ng Rombon

Patnubayan siya sa kanyang paglayag at tatahaking landas

Bigyan din ng malinaw na pag-iisip at katawang malakas.

Masakit iwanan ang isang bayang tulad ng Bantoon

Islang animo’y tuldok sa mapa ng Romblon

Di man pansinin, siya’y mahalagang itinuring

Ng mga Kastilang dumating noong unang panahon sa ating bansa

Kaya’t sa aklat ng ating kasaysayan siya’y naitala.

Ito ang kuwento ng buhay ni Elmer Festin

Isang taong may ngiting agad mapapansin

Napadpad sa Cebu kung saan siya’y nahikayat

Suungin ng buong tapang, masalimuot na buhay –

Na wala namang pag-atubili at matatag niyang hinarap.

Ilang taon din siyang dito ay nagturo

Naglinang ng dunong ng mga kabataan

Hanggang sa siya ay kawayan ng kapalaran

Na nangako sa kanyang sa dakong katimugan

Siya ay makakatamo ng pinapangarap na kasaganaan.

Dala ay kakaunting pera na sa bulsa ay kakalog-kalog

Pilit winaglit ang pag-aalala at takot sa dibdib na kakabog-kabog

Hindi rin alintana ang mga tuhod na nangangatog

Siya ay naglakas-loob na pumalaot at tumango sa tawag ng kapalaran –

Ipinasa-Diyos na lamang, magiging bunga ng kapangahasan.

Sa Notre Dame, sa Tacurong siya ay napadpad

Paaralang sa bayang ito ay pinagkakapitagan

Limang mga gusali nang panahong iyon ang kanyang nadatnan

Pinangangasiwaan ng mga pari at madre na Oblates of Mary kung tawagin

At katulad ni Elmer, pagtulong sa kapwa ang sinusunod na adhikain.

Nakitaan siya ng kakaibang sigla sa pagturo

Dahil hindi lang sa mga aklat, mga estudyante niya ay natuto

Naibahagi rin niya ang kaunti niyang kaalaman

Pati sa gymnastics na para sa mga estudyante’y bagong larangan

Kaya napasigla niya ang dati’y matamlay na kapaligiran.

Anupa’t si Elmer ay nakilala hindi lang sa loob ng Notre Dame

Dahil ang galing niya sa pagturo, sa iba ay nakatawag pansin

Kaya nang magkaroon ng Polytechnic Institute sa bayang ito

Binuksan nila para sa kanya ang kanilang pinto

Upang makibahagi sa kagalingan ng kanyang pagturo.

Sa bago niyang malawak na kapaligiran at hitik sa iba’t ibang halaman

Lalo pang sumidhi ang kanyang hangad na makahubog ng kabataan

Hindi naman nasayang ang marangal niyang adhikain

Dahil taos-pusong pasasalamat ay kanyang naramdaman at natanggap

Mula sa mga estudyanteng binigyan niya ng pag-asa ang mga hinaharap.

Natupad ang pangarap ni Elmer na maibahagi ang kanyang kaalaman

Napatunayan niya na kakapusan sa pera ay hindi hadlang

Hindi rin nasayang ang kanyang pagpunyagi magmula pa sa kanyang kabataan

Kahi’t sa pagtahak niya sa landas ng buhay siya’y nakayapak lamang

Dahil alam niyang sa dulo nito’y mayroong walang hanggang kapayapaan.

(Si Mr. Festin ang nagbigay ng pagkakataon sa may-akda upang mahasa niya ang kanyang kakayahan sa pagsulat. Hinirang siya ni Mr. Festin bilang patnugot (editor) ng “The Green Ember”, pahayagan ng high school department ng Notre of Tacurong, kahi’t siya ay nasa unang taon pa lamang. Ang tiwala at dagdag- kaalaman sa pagsulat na ibinigay sa kanya ni Mr. Festin ang naging kasangkapan niya sa pagharap sa mga pagsubok ng larangang ito. Kulang ang mga kataga ng tula upang maipadama ng may-akda ang taos-pusong pasasalamat sa taong unang nagbigay ng tiwala sa kakayahan niya sa pagsulat.)

Surigao del Norte: Where Mindanao Begins

Surigao del Norte: Where Mindanao Begins

By Apolinario Villalobos

Despite the division of Surigao into two political units, namely, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, many Filipinos still mention just “Surigao” when they mean the northern half. This also happens when they refer to its capital, Surigao City. Whereas, for the southern half, “Butuan City” is always specified if they refer to the capital, just as when the province, Surigao del Sur is mentioned. Understandably, the Filipinos just cannot easily wean themselves from this habit because, the Surigao del Norte today, is what the whole Surigao was, even before the arrival of the Spaniards.

Before the splinter of Surigao into two provinces, it was a vast region that encompassed two-thirds of the whole Mindanao, covering a land area of 13,000 square miles. Within its original territory were both Agusan del Norte and Sur, some areas of Davao Oriental, Baganga, Mati, Caraga, and both the current northern and southern Surigao. Surigao del Norte is the link of Mindanao to the Bicol peninsula where Luzon begins.

Located at the edge of the Philippine Deep, the province is also teetering along the rim of the Asian continental shelf. These particular waters have been known as very treacherous even during the calm season characterized by the absence of typhoons. Magellan used this Pacific corridor as his entrepoint, particularly, Homonhon, when he explored the islands in 1521. After entering Surigao Strait, he proceeded to Leyte and Cebu where he met his fate in the hands of Lapu-lapu during the significant Battle of Mactan.

The chronicles of Pigafetta contained “Calagan” as his reference to Surigao which eventually did not refer only to the nape of the archipelago but also the islands dotting the Pacific coastline of Mindanao. The “territory” has been described by Fr. Francisco Colin in 1663, as one “beginning at Cape San Agustine, extending fifty leagues to the point of Surigao, and continuing along the west coast for fifteen leagues down the river Butuan which is its border area.” The fleet of

Local historians aver that the name Surigao may have been derived from the word “surgir” which means “swift current”. Another version of the story is its having been named after “Solibao”, a village chieftain who helped Visayan fishermen who were caught by storm and drifted to the said village at the mouth of Surigao River. Chief Solibao accommodated the fishermen in his abode. When the fishermen had recovered from their misfortune, they went home but later some of them returned to the village of Solibao to settle down with their families.

When the Spaniards came, and dropped anchor not far from the village during the 15th century, they asked the first native they met for the name of the place, instead they were told the name of their chieftain, Solibao. The Spanish chronicler mistook it as the name of the place and even misspelled what he heard and eventually wrote “surigao” in his log. From then on, the recorded name was made as reference to the northeasternmost tip of Mindanao. Today, the Surigaonons or Surigueῆos love to refer to their province as one “where Mindanao begins”.

The name was changed to Caraga which was derived from the word “calagan” or land of the braves or land of the fierce people. In a book published by Italian adventurer Giovanni Franceso Gemelli Careri, another adventurer, Francesco Combes was given the credit for the name. Combes supposedly derived the word “caraga” from a Visayan term, “kalag” which means soul or spirit, while “an” refers to the people, hence, “kalagan” or place of strong-spirited people.

Currently, Caraga as a region, carries the numerical reference as Region XIII by virtue of Republic Act. No. 7901 dated February 25, 1995, making it the youngest region of the country.

For travel writers, Surigao is a province or city of island adventures, fittingly attributed due to the interesting spots that practically dot the entire of 245.34 square kilometers area. Historically, its port is the oldest in Mindanao, having been built by the Spaniards in 1655.

What I will never forget was when I took a pumbpoat from Surigao city to Nonoc, Siargao, Bucas Grande, and Dinagat islands during the early 80’s. I saw the “line” created by opposing currents and when I was told that we were on top of the Philippine Deep, I was thrilled. I also saw the tops of “bakhawan” trees swaying to the currents miles away from shore, which showed the extent of the mangrove.

Nonoc Island was known for its gold, iron, manganese, silica, cobalt, copper, chromite and nickel. Long before the Marinduque was cited for its copper, Nonoc Island has already been practically stripped for its own copper and nickel deposits, that from a distance, its bare rust-hued soil can be perceived.

Other than Nonoc which is the largest island of the province, the other islands that number to more than two dozen compose two-fifths of the city’s land area. Hinatuan Passage serves as the demarcation line between these islands and the mainland. Prominent among these islands are Hanigad, Sibale, Bayaganan and Awasan which are fringed with mangroves dominated by nipa palm.

Hilly, best describes Surigao. Emanating from the valleys, Surigao River, also known among locals as Kinabutan River, meanders through the city and pours out into the fertile delta comprised of mangrove swamps which lately, a significant portion of which has been overtaken by the massive urban development. The outflow is the confluence of the three major bodies of water: Pacific Ocean, Surigao Strait, and Mindanao Sea.

The history of Surigao is splashed with rich commercial intercourse of the natives with foreign traders dominated by Chinese, Indians, aside from those that come from the southernmost part of Mindanao. The natives of the province who are securely-entrenched in the hinterlands are called “Mamanwa”.

The current location of Surigao is what was known then, as Bilang-Bilang which was also the site of the original port used by fishermen and traders, later renamed to Banahao which eventually became an integral part of the expanded Caraga. Siargao which was known then, as Caolo, served as a the provincial capital until it was razed to the ground, causing the transfer of the political and trade center to its present location, to be named later as Surigao.

Interestingly, there are two villages in the province named after William Howard Taft and George Washington when the Americans took over from the Spanish. During the period, Surigao experienced rapid transformation to become a premier province of Mindanao. New roads were constructed, connecting the towns, with the construction of the port capping the Americans’ magnificent effort.

During the WWII, the commercial landmarks were practically demolished, the Surigao Strait having been used as the arena for showdowns between the Allied Forces and the Japanese Imperial Navy. More than fifty Japanese warships were sank by American bomber planes and as the war ended, not a single ship flying the Japanes was seen along the coast of the province.

Surigao is people by various migrants from the different parts of the country, among them, being the Bisaya from Cebu and Panay Island, the Waray from the nearby Leyte and Samar, as well as, the Tagalog from Luzon. It became a city in August 31, 1970, by virtue of Republic Act No. 6134, with Pedro Espina as the first city mayor. Surigaonon is the dialect spoken by the locals. Although, there are sprinklings of Visayan words, Surigaonon is distinct, in itself.

Strolling around the city, a visitor of Surigao will already be occupied with what it can offer such as the Surigaonon Heritage Center cum Rock and Mineral Museum that houses ancient burial jars, Chinese porcelain and other archaeological finds from Pahantungan at Placer. Being a mineral-rich province, a significant collection can also be viewed at the museum. At the city’s heart is the Luneta Park initially built during the Spanish regime, fronting the equally historic cathedral. It is suggested that the city market be visited, too, for the province’s marine products and local delicacies that can be partaken at unassuming food stalls.

Located at Hikdop Island, Buenavista Cave, with its three entrances can be found. A knee-deep pool leads to the main chamber with its “King’s throne”. The cave also features interesting formations of stalagmites and stalactites, other caves worth visiting are Mapawa and Silob.

To complete an exhilarating exploration of the province, suggested for inclusion in the itinerary are the Zaragoza Rock formations in an area known as an ancient burial ground, with the rocks resembling giant vases with pockets of trees on their crests; the whirlpools of Bitaugan, the formation of which are heralded by explosions as the ebb tide is occurring. The whirlpools are called “pahibongan”, which eventually vanish after the seemingly inaudible explosions; Raza Island with its quick interplay of high and low tides; the Day-asan floating village dominated by a dense mangrove forest; the Manjagao mangrove forest, a marine and bird sanctuary; the San Pedro Cantiasay footbridge connecting Nonoc and Sibale islands; the Sukailang waterfalls with a height of fifty feet; and to cap the explorations is of course, a respite at any of the province’s beaches, foremost of which are the Mabua, Ipil, Basul, Berok, Panomboyon, and Sagisi.

Just like the rest of Philippine provinces, cities and towns, Surigao also has its own festivals, such as Charter Day celebration from August 25 to 31, highlighted by a grand parade and beauty pageant. The Bonok-Bonok Maradjao Karadjao Festival celebrated every 9th of September, features the culture of the Mamanwa tribe, and the city’s patron saint, San Nicolas.

Aside from being linked to Luzon via the Pan-Philippine highway that starts from Laoag City in the north down to the central cities of Mindanao, Surigao is also accessed through its airport that serves direct flights from Manila and Cebu. For the adventurous, however, buses can be taken from Manila, affording an opportunity of glimpses of Bicol and Leyte.

Rediscover the Philippines Through Scuba Diving

Rediscover the Philippines

Through Scuba Diving

By Apolinario Villalobos

The Philippine archipelago that comprises more than seven thousand islands and islets, is something to behold from air – islands fringed with white beaches, rolling hills, mountains capped with green, with some hills and valleys showing patches of green and brown , strewn between the Pacific Ocean and China Sea. During the 80’s, the joint effort of the national government and the private sector comprised of Philippine Airlines, scuba diving outfits and travel agencies, resulted to the creation of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, with the Special Committee for the Development and Promotion of Underwater Diving Tourism as its action arm. From the end of Philippine Airlines, the representative was its Tours and Promotions Division, with its personnel, Edgar Buensuceso, Julio Luz and Thelma Villaseῆor. That was the outlook of dive tourism when the industry was yet, kicking high.

Today, with or without joint effort between the government and private sector, the country deserves to be re-discovered because of the vast paradise that covers its ocean floor. With some 34,000 square kilometers of coral reef, the Philippines could well be dubbed as the scuba diver’s haven. From the northern islands down to the atolls of the south, what the country brags virtually make it the ultimate destination for this aquatic sport. The geography of the country may make one’s movement seemed hampered. But who cares if at the end of a grueling cruise or a combined air and land travel a submarine paradise beckons?

If one may start with the northern islands, there’s Fuga to try. It is a part of the northernmost province – Batanes. Then going down to Pangasinan, there’s Santiago Island off Bolinao. On the eastern cost of northern Luzon are Polilio Islands of Quezon Province. All these are accessible via land transport, except for Fuga, going to which would need a chartered plane.

South of Manila are dive sites which are accessible via Batangas City. The veritable subaquatic gardens of Nasugbu, Balayan Bay, Verde Island, Anilao coast, and Sigayan Bay, practically fringe the coast of Batangas province.

Mindoro, an island of two provinces south of Batangas, also has colorfully-alive marine parks to offer. These areas are those around Lubang Islands, Apo Reef and Semirara, all on the western side of Mindoro. On the eastern side are the equally colorful coral beds of Puerto Galera and Buyallo.

Marinduque, the “Moriones Island”, has Tres Reyes and Mompog to offer. The island province is accessible by air and combined land and water transport, either through Lucena City or Gasan.

The surrounding waters of Visayas region are replete with motley colonies of corals inhabited by pelagic fishes. Romblon, for instance, has Dos Hermanas and Cresta de Gallo; Antique and Aklan with their Batbatan and Boracay. Cresta de Gallo and Sicogon Islands of Iloilo, also have memorable dive experience to offer, and there’s yet, Nagas Island to complete this old province’s list of dive spots.

A marine sanctuary, Sumilon Island, is easily reached from Dumaguete City, although, it is geographically part of Cebu. The sanctuary is being maintained by the Silliman University. Another island which is frequented by divers in this part of the country is Apo which is also just a short distance from Dumaguete.

Cebu, the country’s seat of Christianity prides in its dive sites that attract hordes of divers throughout the year, except for Capitancillo, an islet which is at its best from April to October. From Mactan Island in the north to Pescador Island in the southwest and the Danajon Banks, there seemed to be not just enough time for exploration. A popular snorkeling and diving destination among shoestring-budget tourists in this island is Moalboal which is noted for its laid back atmosphere.

From Cebu, Bohol is just a few hours on a ferry. This Chocolate Hills-famed island-province has added two of its islets, Cabilao and Panglao to the already long list of destinations which divers have been frequenting. Both are resplendent with colorful marine life throughout the year. Aside from the ferries from Cebu, the island-province is also accessible from Manila on regular daily flights.

The diagonally-lying island of Palawan is gifted by Nature with atolls and islets, some of which are not yet thoroughly explored. These are the Calamianes Island, Cuyo Islands, Cagayan Islands, Green Island Bay, Bacuit Bay, Ulugan Bay, Honda Bay, Balabac Island, Taytay Bay, and Tubbataha Reef. Down south in Mindanao, divers will delight in Davao’s Talikud Island, Zamboanga’s Sta. Cruz Island and the island sanctuary of Camiguin.

Most of the dive sites in the Philippines are yet in their unspoiled stage, thanks to their almost impossible accessibility. The rest, however, are frequently visited, so that concerned local governments have already started to impose strict regulations.

Interested parties are advised to make advance arrangement with dive shops if they intend to visit islands and reefs so that necessary coordination and clearances can be made with concerned government agencies. Dive packages are also offered by some tour agencies. Some resorts, however, such as those in Anilao (Batangas), Boracay, and Puerto Galera, offer on- the- spot arrangements. Seaside hotels Cebu can assist visitors with their dive requirements.

With tourism as among the last resort revenue earning industries of the Philippines, much effort is exerted by both the national government through the Department of Tourism and the different concerned private sectors in regulating it along the line of ecology.