Monday, November 24, 2008

Mantigue Island -- now an I-Witness documentary

Last June, Nikki and I were able to visit Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin along with some friends. One of the highlights of our trip was a half-day visit to Mantigue Island, a small but amazing island a quarter of an hour away on motorboat. Our camiguin tour guide Kuya Roger Saturos was born and grew up in the island, as did most of the other residents. They were the ones who took care of the island. At the time of our visit, they were facing a big problem, because the local government wanted to relocate them into the mountainside and restore Mantigue back to its natural state (uninhabited) for day tourists to enjoy.

Kuya Roger and his family alone cannot counter the mandates of the government. It even came to a point that the Mantigue Elementary School (which was established through the sole effort of Kuya Roger) did not receive support from the government. The only thing they could do is share their story to the visitors of their Island with the hope that their story will be publicized. By making the story public, they might attract help from some organizations or even law firms that can help them defend their case.

We did what we can only do – help publicize the story. Nikki was able to send an email to GMA-7 journalist Howie Severino. To our delight, Howie and his team spent time looking into the story and he told Nikki yesterday that they will be airing the Mantigue Story tonight on I-Witness. ^_^

Hope you guys can watch and share this with other friends. This is the least that we can do to help. Also, if any of you plans to go to Camiguin and visit Mantigue Island personally, I highly recommend that you get Kuya Roger’s service as personal tour guide. He charges a reasonable price, and I assure you that he will take care of everything that you need while in Camiguin, and make sure that your trip is as enjoyable and worthwhile as it can be. =)

Kuya Roger Saturos contact details:
Email: roger.mantigue@yahoo.com
Mobile: 0920 230 6407

Mantigue Island at a glance

If you’re interested, here’s the detailed correspondence of Nikki and Howie:

On Wed, Oct 22, 2008 at 1:56 AM, Nikki Erwin C. Ramirez wrote:
Good day, Sir Howie!

My friends and I had a vacation this past June in CDO and Camiguin. Part of our Camiguin tour was to see Mantigue, a very small island a quarter of an hour away on motorboat. Our tour guide, Kuya Roger Rogelio) Saturos, was born and grew up in that island, as did most of the other residents. He told us their story.

used to be uninhabited. According to Kuya Roger, his grandparents were among the first settlers of the island. The first settlers made a living out of fishing. Up to Kuya Roger's generation, life in the island was very primitive. There was no infrastructure for basic utilities at all. The children had to go to Camiguin for their schooling. To go to the main island meant a hand-paddled boat ride that took 2 hours, one-way. There was no source of fresh water in the island, so they also had to ferry water from Camiguin as well, everyday.

They eventually got a power generator but, until the time of our visit, they still went back and forth for fresh water, luckily, on motorboats.

Another big improvement was the addition of an elementary school. Kuya Roger was the lone teacher for Grades 1 to 6. When we went there, he said that they currently had 17 students for all grade levels.

The problem was: the Camiguin local government wanted to evacuate Mantigue Island.

Kuya Roger says that the local government's reason was that they wanted to restore Mantigue Island back to its condition when it was uninhabited, in order to make it a premier tourist destination, which could boost the island province's income. They were told that the arrival of people in the island scared away lots of wildlife. They also brought in with them their garbage, which needed proper disposal. The local government promised to handle their relocation to a vacant mountain-side area.

Kuya Roger says that he understood the ecological reasons. However, he said that relocating hundreds of people off the island was not a simple matter. One of his primary reasons was the issue of their livelihood. They were raised and have grown up as fisherfolk, and they would not know how to survive in the mountains.

He asked us for help in trying to spread information about their issues. He said that they had no one to go to and ask for help in lobbying on their behalf, since the primary local government officials belonged to one political family.

I regret having put this off for too long. I did a little research on the Internet about this matter, starting with a simple Google search: http://www.google.com.ph/search?q=mantigue+island+relocation&btnG=Search&hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&sa=2

Here is the top search result, an article which gives a much more detailed and impartial view of the issue: http://www.bulatlat.com/2008/09/mantigue-island-residents-charged-illegal-occupancy

Here's a blog of Eco Tourism students from Camiguin that contain several interviews with residents: http://cpscecotours.blogspot.com/

These next two are identical articles in government websites: http://www.pia.gov.ph/?m=12&sec=reader&rp=7&fi=p080425.htm&no=69&date=04/25/2008 [UPDATE: now I regret putting this off more -- I just checked: some of these links are dead!]


Here's one, after a lot more searching/surfing, that was written by another tourist. She's Filipina and her blog's protected, but I was able to get a cached copy of her entry:

[UPDATE: this was a wonderful blog entry! I regret not making a backup! Here's the original URL: http://acornerofmymind.wordpress.com/2008/05/11/helpless-in-paradise/ -- maybe you can contact the author and still be able to access the post.. I feel really, really sorry about this..]

Kuya Roger agreed to have a video-recorded interview and I posted it in YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=roger%20saturos&search_type=search_videos&search_sort=relevance

Kuya Roger Saturos, Camiguin Tour Guide (with English subs)

You can find a lot of recommendations for Kuya Roger's services as tour guide: http://www.google.com.ph/search?q=roger+saturos&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

Here are our groups' pictures in Mantigue:

CDO-Camiguin - Mantigue Island (don't mind our vanity shots =p) http://picasaweb.google.com/necramirez/CDOCamiguinMantigueIsland

I don't expect you to take the time to explore this issue right away (though I'd be glad if you did), and I would appreciate it if you would forward this to fellow journalists who might be able to bring this issue some light.

Thank you very much,
Nikki Erwin Ramirez
P.S. I sent this to you, since yours was the first name I thought of when thinking of journalists who would be able to help, and yours was the only email address I could find.

--Howie’s response—

On Sun, Nov 23, 2008 at 10:18 AM, Howie Severino wrote:

Hi Nikki,
You may be pleased to know we are airing our episode on Mantigue Island this Monday. Thank you for the suggestion!

An I-Witness documentary (GMA7)
Airing Monday midnight: November 24, 2008, after Saksi
(Delayed by a day or two on Pinoy TV overseas: click here for schedules: http://www.gmapinoytv.com/program_guide - we're prime time overseas!)

For three generations, a close-knit clan of fisherfolk have claimed the tiny, white-fringed islet of Mantigue in Camiguin province as their home -- a prized piece of real estate in the tourism economy.

Now the government wants it back and return the island to its natural state for day visitors to enjoy.

The effort of local officials to relocate the residents, including amass arrest of the entire island population, has bitterly divided the community. Eerily evoking the group dynamics of the popular TV program Survivor, but with much higher stakes, family members threaten and back-stab each other over the wrenching decision to leave or fight for a slice of paradise.

At the center of the conflict is the tormented Romulo, who has finally decided to accept the government's resettlement offer and urge his neighbors to do the same. The rest of the clan, including his cousins and siblings, accuse him of treachery and try to discredit him.

Howie Severino and his team camp out on the islet and explore its hidden natural treasures, even scuba diving at night to accompany spear fishermen hunting precious food fish. They also see how the intensifying planetary choices between people and nature play out in a very small space.

Director: Jazel Kristen Villamarin
Executive Producer: Noi Cuanang
Writer/host: Howie Severino
Videographer: Egay Navarro
Underwater Videographer: Ding Cabreira
Dive master: Fra Quimpo

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Nikki and I watched this concert last night. A few weeks ago, I was already thinking if we'll just cancel this since we don't have enough money for the tickets. My salary has been on-hold since September and at the time that we were planning to buy tickets, my money (and Nikki's money which he has been lending to me for weeks :P) is just enough for our combined usual expenses and allowance. But we really want to watch the concert... and so I came up with the plan... our ten-peso coin savings was the answer! Haha!

I have just started my second set of 10-peso coin savings (we used the first set to buy Lea Salonga's Cinderella tickets). I was a little worried that the contents of the piggy bank will not be enough for what we need... but after counting the coins... VOILA! It is 300-peso more than the amount we need! Fantastic! Within the week, I had the coin collection exchanged for bills and we headed to Manila Genesis' office to pick-up the tickets that Nikki reserved. Manila Genesis have the best and cheapest seats for this concert so we opted to get tickets directly from them instead of TicketNet (but the trade-off is we need to pay in cash).

It was all worth it. I must say that the concert is worth emptying any piggy bank! It was a visual feast for everyone given all the guest artists and celebrity audiences in the concert. Guests artists were: Philippine All Star, Rivermaya, Sugarfree, Jericho Rosales, Karylle, Rachel Ann Go, Laarni Lozada (PDA winner), Maneuvers (of course!), Paolo Valenciano, Gab Valenciano, Kiana Valenciano and Martin Nievera. Celebrity audiences to name a few were: Sharon Cuneta, Kiko Pangilinan, KC Concepcion, Regine Velasquez, Ogie Alcasid, German Moreno, Tessa Prieto, Tim Yap, Iza Calzado, Phoemela Beranda and Randy Santiago.

It was really a blast! But more than the visual feast, I would say that it was like a spiritual feeding program for us. The concert was worth it, not because of all the famous faces who were there, but because of the message and inspiration that it has imparted to us. We were really blessed. Gary was out of voice during the concert, he was really paos, but he said that he knows that God will see him through and that we will all see a miracle. I can say, we did see a miracle. We did witness God working at large at the Big Dome, touching everyone's life and uplifting everyone's spirit, through the songs, through the melody, through the dances, even through the adlibs and the effects.

After almost 4 hours of what I can call a worship concert, we went home, spirits uplifted and hearts touched. It was such a night of blessing, and I know that it was the Lord who made a way for us to watch this concert. God wanted us to be blessed. =)