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.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Yeah, 'John G' thanks! I guess it's different when you often find yourself in the midst of it all. SEE troubles brewing everywhere and watch how people merely LOOK at what transpires through rose-colored glasses, or through dollar-rimmed ones or not at all. Based on electronic 'impulses' of the last few days (a few emails reaching me), there's putting forward of 'strong advocacy work' in the matter of turning Marinduque into a center for excellence in tropical mining and as eco-tourism ground. I could only support these views with the following cultural viewpoint from my side that couldn't be, mustn't be, brushed aside if we are to step forward in the right direction:

It must be stressed that the beginnings of archaeology in the Philippines began right here in our now-troubled island. Prior to 1900, only one important archaeological investigation had been carried out in the country: Alfred Marche’s exploration of Marinduque from April to July 1881. While many other accidental finds have been recorded from time to time, and a few burial caves and sites had been casually explored by European or local scientists, no really systematic work had been done elsewhere prior to that except for the efforts of Marche. After his, the next important work was by Dr. Carl Gunthe in the Central Visayan Islands in 1922.(Beyer)

"An abundant yield of Chinese urns, vases, gold ornaments, skulls and other ornaments of pre-Spanish origin,” was what Marche's finds represented. He brought back to France in 40 crates the artifacts he uncovered. They are now said to be housed at the Musee de l’Homme in France. (Solheim). The finds also included a wooden image of the Marinduque anito called ‘Pastores’ by the natives. (Marche's local adventure was tackled in my 1995 play: 'Moryonan: Ikalawang Yugto' and I still keep a replica of the anito for stage productions).

Ambeth Ocampo, recently-appointed chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), conducted a research a few years back and discovered that part of the Marche loots had found their way into the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He wrote thus:

“Imagine these fragile jarlets traveling from China to the pre-colonial Philippines. Buried in a cave in Marinduque for centuries, they were excavated in the late 19th century, brought to Paris and eventually ended up in a museum bodega outside Washington, D.C. Part of our history lies in museums abroad and it will take sometime to analyze these artifacts to piece together our pre-colonial past”. (The Philippines' pre-colonial history, that is; and it shows what happens if we keep looking the other way!)

Cultural researchers and national artists (and probably even you, yourself, John G), had been naturally drawn to Marinduque for here, there's undeniable certainty that they'd find what inspiration or ‘that something, something’ they were looking for. Alejandro Roces (Literature) discovered the Moryonan (though he must assume responsibility for introducing it wrongly to the outside world as 'Moriones'); Lucresia Kasilag (Music), found the Putong ritual and songs (or Tubong as it is called in Boac) and replaced it with a shorter version that eventually became popular to the defeat of around 80 other unglorified versions that the natives used to sing on the island at any given day; Celso Carunungan intervened to write a script for the Pugutan beheading ritual because to use his own words “it was meaningless”. Arsenio Manuel wrote a detailed account of the 'Marinduque' name’s origin. (He's also a national artist, you know).

There were a few, staunchly pro-Marinduqueno: Cecilio Lopez, acclaimed Father of Philippine Linguistics got thrilled with the Tagalog spoken here, for “such provincial forms of speech have been originally the roots, or among the roots, from which modern national forms have spung” - the Filipino language we speak today in the urban centers. In Marinduque we could find “remnants of the more archaic speech of our forefathers”, he wrote conclusively.

Even the acclaimed British-writer James Hamilton-Paterson discovered this "stunningly beautiful world" of sand and offshore reefs where he learned his Tagalog and came to love the people. Since 1979, he has lived off and on in “enforced solitude” in a makeshift shelter, teaching himself to spear fish for food, then writing about his adventures here the book became one of his biggest best-sellers. (“Playing with Water” has sold more than 4-million copies).

Recent studies conducted by cultural anthropologists Patricia Nicholson on the negative effects of politics on ‘Moryonan’, and by Catherine Coumans on the struggle of poor Calancan Bay fisherfolks against mine waste disposal on their fishing grounds accounted for the systematic advance of cultural and political degradation on the island.

Then we have to be reminded of days when fighting for and dying for Marinduque was considered glorious and not anachronistic. The Marinduqueno’s struggle for independence from Spanish rule saw the first declaration of freedom from Spain by Martin Lardizabal a month before the Kawit declaration was made; the fierce resistance against the American rule in the 1900s where local revolutionaries led by Maximo Abad underscored the first major battle won by Filipinos at Pulang Lupa; the united resistance against the Japanese during World War II which dramatically exploded on the feast day of its Patroness – all attest to the strong sense of cultural identity and striving for peace and freedom that our Marinduqueno forefathers held, don't you think?

Martial rule and the negative side of local politics, greed and selfishness, complacency and the Marcopper mining disasters of 1993 and 1996 have impacted on our lives and on our environment, wreaking untold misery and endless manipulation, so certainly dividing our people now even under further threat of a new armed conflict.

All of these are adversely affecting that which we hold most dear to us, threatening to get them buried beneath tonnes and more tonnes of toxic waste as our country's singular and toxic legacy to Marinduque, what could be our only tool left for salvation: Our cultural significance to the Filipino nation!

“Heart of the Philippines” we love to say of Marinduque. Makes sense, doesn't it? Yet the will to change, the vow to assert ourselves as a people can only come first from the very Heart. The Marinduqueno’s Heart.

Got to do it, 'John G'!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


We turned to Catherine Coumans, Ph.D., of MiningWatch Canada (who has, since 1968 documented the activities of Marcopper in Marinduque and remains at the forefront of the fight for justice for the Calancan victims and on rehabilitation issues), to further enlighten us on yesterday's question about turning the island of Marinduque into a center for excellence on tropical mine rehabilitation. We are reproducing her response in full:

Dear Eli,

Thanks for introducing me to my first ever blog. Seriously, I have never
been on a blog site before. Please forgive me writing back in a plain

Ever since the USGS first visit to Marinduque, when I accompanied the team, and somehow the dream was hatched of turning Marinduque into a center for excellence in tropical mine rehabilitation I have been hooked on that.

It is perfect in so many ways: uses the mine site (with its easy access by
air) and fixes it up again for habitation of experts and students. Focuses
expertise on the rehabilitation of the various ecosystems (sea, rivers,
soil), employs Marinduquenos, and assures NO MORE MINING!

The real problem is that beyond lipservice, neither governments nor the
industry really care very much about rehabilitation. After all, it costs
money and so cuts into profits for the industry and revenues for
governments. Short sighted, unethical, inhuman even, but a sad truth.

My idea was to go after the WB on this one.


Catherine Coumans, Ph.D.
Research Coordinator
MiningWatch Canada
225 City Center Ave, Suite 508
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1R 6K7
Tel: 613-569-3439
Fax: 613-569-5138

Monday, May 16, 2005


From an e-mailer we got the following question:

“Do you think there is a chance that Marinduque will be fully rehabilitated? Why not just convert it into a tourist spot--like Buttchart gardens of Victoria, Canada or Phuket (the former tin mine site that was converted into a man-made lake surrounded by the big hotels--Sheraton, Dusit, etc.)?”

What comes closest to this idea was perhaps the suggestion made by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in 2001 to develop in Marinduque “a center of educational excellence in the southwest Pacific for understanding, assessing, predicting, and cleaning up the environmental impacts of mining in tropical areas… The center could not only provide education and employment opportunities for local residents, but also attract a large number of students, teachers, and others to the island”.

Marinduque Rep. Edmundo Reyes, Jr., in a well-publicized press statement made during a visit to Canada in January 2002 declared, “ It would be a place where governments and researchers can contribute to the rehabilitation of our devastated eco-systems while increasing their knowledge of mining related environmental impacts and remediation.”

This recommendation that came out in the first study, however, was apparently glossed over by the USGS at the conclusion of its second study (that cost the Philippine government P 20-million), in 2004.

The Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) faulted the USGS final study for not making a conclusive analysis and recommendation as “majority of the study's findings and suggestions are appended with requirements for further analyses, monitoring and studies”. Instead of being a definitive and positive intervention, extended and more comprehensive studies are proposed by the USGS, said the CEC.

But then again, in 2001 the USGS said funding for such a center of excellence as mentioned “could be pursued through the mining industry, world monetary institutions, environmental groups, and a variety of other sources.”

The earlier USGS report said such a center, “if established on the island, could oversee and coordinate assessment and remediation activities (underscoring mine). At the same time, it could provide hands-on learning and training opportunities in both technical and research fields about mining-environmental issues. Expertise learned on Marinduque could then be transferred to other places in southwest Pacific and southeast Asia where similar large-scale mining-environmental problems are occurring.”

CEC said that Marinduquenos are now lead into the “burden of finding solutions over their dreadful circumstances”. Isn’t it time for local environmental groups, in partnership with the mining industry and monetary institutions to now come up with studied proposals based on these new and glossed over recommendations?

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Made an unscheduled visit to Marinduque on the last day of April after receiving a text message that ‘Bahaghari had been intruded by strangers’ and that my friends and neighbors were concerned for my mother who now lives alone (marginalized me have to find some work elsewhere outside the island to ensure rice in the plastic ‘bayong’ for her). Going there, my thoughts were about how in the early 90’s she and I slept at night in our newly-built beach house with doors and windows open to always let the breeze in. Marinduque was a place so peaceful, so peaceful almost to the point of lethargy.

I remember one time, arriving from Manila early in the morning I took a jeepney that would take me to Amoingon, loading several boxes of goods. Later in the day, I realized that one box full of grocery items was missing. Before sundown, I traced the jeepney that was ready for the garage – in Buenavista, about 20 kilometers away. The box was still inside the vehicle, with not a single item missing. The driver said they’d made several round-trips already; no one apparently took interest in the ‘abandoned’ box that even he did not notice. Time has obviously changed now.

What could it be this time? There’s nothing that could be of value in Bahaghari. Art? Documents? It was almost embarrassing to find out what happened. My old mother, apparently, forgot to close the kitchen window (a must in recent years), where from outside it was easy to take anything from the dining table beside that window. She did not pay so much attention to the incident, but had related it to someone in the neighborhood, who had told somebody, who again told someone, who again told someone. In fact the episode was three weeks old, and she had earlier told me about it! Oh, well, I am used to that, but one forgets how people love to talk, nga pala! LINK

Nevertheless it was always good to come home. I had an opportunity to follow up the requested certificate from the Coast Guard. Result? The Cawit Coast Guard as claimed by the officer-in-charge was instructed by the Lucena HQ not to issue any certificate on the complaint lodged by my friend, Nick, but to try to persuade Nick not to pursue the case anymore. “Mabait naman siya dahil maganda namang kausap si Nick”, he said. Exasperated me, very politely responded that there was even stronger reason now for Nick to pursue the case since they did not want to cooperate.

“Kailan baga ang balik mo sa Maynila?”, he asked.
“Mamaya”, I answered.
“Dumaan ka dito mamaya. Abigyan na laang kita ng ‘passes’ sa barko. Hindi ka naman nila kilala doon”, he then said and I, amused, was left wondering what the last statement really meant.

As of today the matter has been brought by Nick to the halls of Congress - instead of sulking or going to the hills (mamundok!). “May magagawa pa, remember?”

There are congressional committees there, you see, who could put forward matters of special concern to the appropriate departments in the executive branch for prompt action. Sometimes, failure by such departments to act accordingly could result in anything – from so-so media censure to more serious budget cuts. We’ll see!
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