Marinduque Island native reaching out for general awareness that our inhabitants have a lot to share with the outside world culturally and environmentally but we must be supported and helped regain our own battered consciousness. Alternative views & pills offered.

Monday, April 25, 2005

View of Cawit Port from Bahaghari. photo:olquiazon Posted by Hello



My friend Nick went on air via the ABS-CBN Radio Station DZMM Sunday morning (yesterday), to air his complaint over Jenny's midnight program (ref: 'CRAZY IN CAWIT" blog Apr 20). The program expressed concern about the disregard for the passengers' safety in Cawit and would like to be informed about the progress of Nick's formal complaint. During the program, callers were invited to send their reactions. A caller from Coron, Puerto Princesa conveyed a similar complaint against a vessel plying the Puerto Princesa-Batangas route. Nick stressed the irresponsibility of the coast guard officer on duty displaying his 45-caliber pistol - his name was "Sales" for shouting: "dahil lang sa reklamo ng dalawang tao ay maraming napeperwisyo!", never mind if the roro vessel was teeming with passengers who had occupied even the boat's stairs.

A friend from Gasan sent me a text message to inform that it was the same Sales she booked in Gasan sometime back for not allowing a vessel bound for Pinamalayan from Gasan to depart - for the opposite reason! There were only a few passengers onboard, "walang kikitain ang barko", and apparently in cahoots with the boat owner, the same coast guard acted as the owner's spokesperson justifying the cancelled trip thus: "kung ayaw ipabiyahe ng may-ari ay wala tayong magagawa!". My friend said she lost a business contract with somebody in Calapan for her failure to arrive there on that day. All the passengers were sent home - too late to take the longer route via Balanacan-Quezon-Batangas-Mindoro.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


“Inaabala ninyo ang pag-alis ng barko! Hindi kayo dapat sa Marinduque! Talagang ganito dito!”, an elderly woman with short, dyed hair and who looked like one of the witches in Rono’s TV-series “Spirits” blurted out for everyone to hear onboard M/V Grand Star Roro.

That was after my friend Nick complained to the captain of the ship that many people in the air-conditioned room couldn’t find seats. Did they sell ‘first class tickets’ more than capacity? Finding out for himself the situation there - after Nick’s principled pleadings - the captain ordered his crew to check the tickets of the passengers in the aircon room. It turned out that many had ‘passes’ and apparently approved requests for free rides from local politicos.

Came the announcement via the piped in system: “Pinapakiusapan po namin na yung may mga passes at mga sulat ay lumabas muna. Doon po kayo sa economy class, hindi po dito”. No one budged. The pass holders were identifiable, government personnel, friends, maybe even kamag-anaks of politicos, all of them occupying whole blocks of the lounge seats. Then came coast guards together with the Cawit port manager. The piped-in request was repeated over and over again. Everyone just looked into each other's eyes.

A coast guard officer in uniform attempted to make his own daring individual inspection after the crew had done the same thing. “Patingin po ng ticket ninyo. Tama po ba ako o mali?” He had finished inspecting those occupying the first two blocks of seats then in the same breath made a surprising turnaround: “Naaabala na po tayong lahat! Bakit ba kailangan pang magreklamo? Magbigayan na lamang po tayong lahat!”
The witch of a woman had found an ally! She blurted out again to whoever was the ‘culprit’: “Talagang ganito dito sa Marinduque! Kung gusto ninyo magdala kayo ng sarili ninyong yate!” She was one of those who had no ticket. One untouchable?

“Kaya walang nangyayari sa bayan natin!”, my friend Nick, he was under medication for some backpain, said coolly.

“Kahit saang lugar ka magpunta, kahit saang lugar sa Pilipinas talagang ganito!”, the woman replied. I just thought she might be thinking that Marinduque was the whole of her Pilipinas.

Over at the economy class, all the seats had obviously been taken, all floor spaces available by now occupied by passengers standing, sitting, squatting or sleeping after failing to wrestle their way to find a seat – sadly, patient losers in a mad world where the rule of the jungle is still hopelessly clung to. It was extremely overloaded with passengers and no one cried ‘DANGER!’

The ship arrived at 10:30 pm, it was 12:30 am by now, delayed because of the situation, “dahil hindi po tayo makakaalis hangga’t may reklamo!” was the announcement. Only one of the passengers without a ticket was coaxed by a ship officer who turned out to be her relative (maybe his wife), to take to the cockpit. I was asked to take the now empty space. But what would you do with those still standing, I asked. “Umupo ka na lamang muna”. I gave in. Nick was nowhere in sight.

Finally, the captain, the coast guard officer and the port manager told Nick: “Wala na po kaming magagawa!”

“Are you with me?”, Nick came to me and asked. I knew what was on his mind – to pursue “na may magagawa”. We took all our bags, couldn’t bear the prospect of seeing people standing for three hours aboard a vessel now divided between hostility and pursuit of what was right. On second thought, the shipping company boasted of an ‘award’ posted somewhere onboard for ‘outstanding service’. We left the ship, wading our way slowly, carefully through warm bodies that have occupied all available space.

When morning came Nick filed his complaint with the Coast Guard. Per legal advise he asked the coast guard to issue a certificate on the complaint. All they had to do was to quote verbatim the complaint as it appeared on their blotter. Answer: “hihingi muna kami ng permiso mula sa headquarters namin sa Lucena”. Ah, maybe in that sense, this is the Philippines? (Nick is patient, it has taken close to a month now, the coast guard official can not yet say with finality when the requested simple document will be issued, as of today the Cawit coast guard will have to 'again' confer with Lucena!)

I could almost see Nick's eyebrows twisting if he hears the 60s song by Vicki Carr: "If it takes forever, I will wait for you!"

The port of Balanacan was opened to other commercial passenger liners in 1995. This paved the way for improved sea transport facilities plying the Balanacan-Dalahican-Balanacan route and goodbye to the dirty, poor transport vessels and rude officers and crews from Viva Shipping Lines that has monopolized the local shipping trade for many decades. With roros (roll-on and roll-off vessels) that enabled motor vehicles to travel to and from Marinduque, and air-conditioned fastcrafts that significantly reduced travel time between the two ports from four hours to anywhere from 1 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours - depending on which of the two types of vessels one chose for his/her travel - travel to and from Marinduque has become convenient and the fares have become more competitive. The port of Buyabod, and later the port of Cawit were also opened to passenger vessels, further improving sea transport service in the island-province.

Certain myths, however, have perennially been heard and overheard in Marinduque every time the Lenten season approaches and need some re-thinking:

Myth No. 1: The influx of tourists and visitors to Marinduque during the Holy Week is so heavy that scheduled trips are no longer observed to enable the shipping lines to accommodate all passengers.

Myth No. 2: Travelers should just be ready to board vessels overloaded with passengers as maritime regulations against overloading do not apply during the said season.

I have come to realize how these two myths are perpetuated by certain quarters because making people believe in it meant money, money, money for some and certain benefits for some.

Last year my friend Nick of Manila also came to visit the island for the Lenten holidays. Worried about getting caught in the long queue of passengers trying to get tickets then, I accompanied him to the port of Cawit at 6:00 pm to get one for the 11:00 pm schedule. It was hopeless. The port was already lined up with cars, trucks and already filled with people apparently ready to accept the fate that awaited them. Try Balanacan, I suggested. He got to Balanacan about 40 minutes later, then called up to say there was hardly any vehicle in that port, and hardly any passengers. Less than an hour later he called up again to report that the vessel was slightly delayed as it waited for possibly more cars that could be taken in. But he emphasized there was no overcrowding, no overloading.

Last Easter Sunday, at 6:00 pm we again went to buy tickets for the two of us at Cawit Port. There was only M/V Grand Star Roro plying the route that day. Everybody who asked about schedules got the same answer from the ticket officer: “wala nang schedule, basta pag napuno, alis kaagad”. Obviously no schedule is posted anywhere near the ticket office. We purchased two air-conditioned room tickets, but not before I got answers to the following questions:

“What time did the vessel depart from Cawit this morning?” Answer: “ 7:30 am”
“What time did it arrive from Dalahican?” Answer: “2:30 pm”
“What time did it leave again?” Answer: “3:30 pm”

It was not hard to surmise that the vessel still left every one hour after arrival like it did regularly, and based on the above answers it was expected to arrive in Dalahican at 6:30 pm, depart an hour later and arrive Cawit at 10:30 pm.

By 9:00 pm there were already many people and passenger cars but no one queuing up. No one attempted to put any order, that when the vessel anchored at 10:30 pm, it was like a free-for-all, everyone running, jostling, scampering for seats! The aircon room that had two sliding glass doors on opposite sides was not manned to even check what tickets people were holding on to. Not a single crew was around to give any semblance of order. Basta bahala na kayo sa buhay ninyo!

Ain’t this another case of an old script being fed to the masang Marinduqueno that the latter never seemed to have questioned or given it some thought, until it has become their reality never to be changed because “walang magagawa?”

For the politicians, ‘sayang kasi’ yung electoral value ng free passes at ‘pakiusap’ sa barko? For others, ‘sayang ang pang-kape, pang-inom’ kaya bakit babaguhin? And because of these perks and benefits that the leaders and guardians of the community are on the take the shipping lines exploit these to the maximum to make a grand killing? Si Marinduqueno naman, feeling kawawa and walang magagawa, so patay-mali na lang sa isang tabi… staring blankly for three hours at the mine-tailings polluted Tablas Strait!
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