Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Salvaging Sibale

It keeps coming back.

I mean, the ghost of the ship that has been lying on its side in the depths of Sibale Sea for 34 years has returned—with a vengeance—and in the form of a tragedy that threatens to upset the very equilibrium of a peaceful, peaceful place.

From afar, I have been observing the seething exchanges of concerned Sibalenhons in the Sibale Web Forum (yes, Virginia, there is such and if you haven’t visited it, do it now). The exchanges range from the sublime to the sympathetic; to the outrageous to the inane. One has even got the nerve to personally insult the local officials, as if throwing ridicule around will bring back M/V Mactan to where it was a week ago—in the bosom of the sea where it was having a well-deserved rest.

Of course, nothing can be done now, if the wish is to restore M/V Mactan to its original decaying, rusting state. Joey Fradejas’s and Felix Famarin’s photos of the salvaged vessel show it all: M/V Mactan has been cannibalized, after it was rigged with explosives. In the process, Sibale was also salvaged, jarring the Sibalenhon soul, and endangering the Sibalenhon future.

My observations of the exchanges have produced a poem in the Asi, my native language, herein reproduced for the reader to appreciate the depths of what I felt about the violation of the island’s marine environment:

Sibaleng Waya Sibalenhon

Imaw kali it ako ging kakahadlukan:
Nak ka islang palangga ay masalikupan

it estranyong tungang gab-i ka ruyom
it binuhatan—nak waya gi-isipa kung ni-o
ka maisipan.

Miskan bato ay napapayuha
Sa rapyas it bayor nak nagyupa,
sa hapyas it lanang nagsasaya
sa silak it adlaw nak indi iy katugkar
sa dutang palangga.

Imaw kali it delubyong klaro:
Nak nagkikisiw sa pananamgo't tawo--
nak miskan kalag nak nagpapahuway ay pinayupkan—
kabi’y mababanhaw
waya konsiyensya, kung sa bagay!
dahil ka kuwarta'y talagang

Sa kamera yangiy ni Joey
ag ni Felix magrarana
ka dating de kolor nak ragat—
kada muyati habang inggwa pa

it matang Sibalenhong waya
nasusukyat it tentasyon.

Dahil nupay maabot ka panahon
Nak ka Sibale'y waya iy Sibalenhon
dahil ultimo ampas sa pasil, pati tagawtaw
ag libo-o, miskan waya titulo
ay obheto't komersyo
sa mga namumuluyong
de-hudot nak libro.

For over a year thirty-four years ago, Sibalenhons refused to eat fish and other seafood due to an oil spill and the numerous deaths that resulted from the sinking of M/V Mactan. Fish multiplied, because no one caught them. The sinking floated the ship’s varied cargo, most of them the plyboard called lawanit. People salvaged a lot of lawanit from the sunken ship and repaired their houses using the material, but at the end of the day, they cannot eat lawanit, so the hunger for fish became evident. Livelihood, anchored on the bounty and generosity of the sea, terribly perished.

Today, it is M/V Mactan itself and the ghosts of the passengers who drowned with it, that were salvaged. There is also an oil spill because the idiots who did the salvaging rigged the ship with explosives, blowing up without mercy the living marine life around it. If there is such a thing as double-dead, well, the salvaging operation (what a graphic term! what double-meaning!) must have also killed twice the 34-year dead inside the ship. Their ghosts could not have escaped and must have been annihilated.

For sheer idiocy, I give the local officials a grade of excellent. Come on, don’t tell me that you did not foresee the dire implications of blowing up a sunken vessel that marine animals have developed and nurtured as a haven? If you have just consulted a simple dictionary and looked for the meaning of the word explosive, you would have found out that it means destruction. By sheer omission, you have, indeed, allowed Sibale to be salvaged in the criminal meaning of the word.

Test questions to those who allowed this to happen: Will this demon Calixto Enterprises, a bankrupt company in Manila, be able to restore the pristine beauty and order of the coral reefs that they have blown to pieces? What gimmickry will they perform to attract marine life back to the place? The one who can answer correctly will be awarded a guided tour where M/V Mactan had sunk, without protective googgles and oxygen tank.

For the Sibalenhons who were accomplices to, and who abetted, the crime of salvaging M/V Mactan, live with your conscience, if you have one. No one will disturb you, but inner guilt has its own way of exacting just punishment. But for once, please be honest with your own god, whoever and wherever he is. The tragedy which your action or inaction have wrought upon Sibale will someday be in the history books. History, as a judge, is kinder to heroes, but could be harsher to villains than any oil spill.

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