Visiting an islet-A A +A
Saturday, November 2, 2013
MOCABOC is a tiny piece of land off the coast of Tubigon, Bohol. Measuring less than a hectare (according to its former barangay captain, Rogelio Ybanez Sr.), the islet is home to 179 families crammed in 168 tenements, mostly made of light materials and none standing more than two storeys high.
That proved to be a blessing when the earth shook mightily on October 15. A number of houses leaned dangerously and at least one crumbled completely but not one occupant got seriously hurt.
When the earthquake struck, they all ran to the beach, the residents told us when we visited them last Tuesday. Smoke billowed from the ground and the sea momentarily receded by at least two meters, they swore.
Why the beach? Because it was the only open space wide enough to shield them from any falling debris. The houses in Mocaboc are located so close to each other that everyone is within whistling distance and the narrow pathways that separate them all lead to the beach.
The pearly white beach is the first sight that greets the eye of the visitor to Mocaboc. As you draw closer, you’ll see small bancas lining the shore as if waiting for the seas to clear and the fish to come back.
The sea has turned murky since the earthquake, some residents moaned. Maybe, there’s a crack somewhere in its bottom, one of them said, scaring off the fish. “We have had no catch for weeks already. We will have to tell our children to quit school.”
Life wasn’t so bad in Mocaboc until the earth trembled. The residents, a mix of Boholanos and Cebuanos, mostly from Talisay, thrived on fishing because they had no choice. (I counted less than ten coconut trees standing in the islet).
Because the sea was generous with its bounty, the people managed even with little government presence. No senator or cabinet member has ever set foot in the islet, the elder Ybanez (his son, Rogelio Jr. is the incumbent village chair) revealed. The highest public official that has visited them has been the congressman and the governor but not the incumbent ones. They must be very busy, Rogelio Sr. was almost apologetic. Mocaboc has only 292 registered voters. It figures.
The village’s seat of government, the barangay hall, is adjacent to a small clearing, measuring less than 100 square meters but cemented, in the center of the main cluster of houses in the islet. A nurse sometimes arrives from Tubigon and attends to health concerns of the residents in the barangay hall. Emergencies and more serious cases have to be brought to the town, which is a thirty-minute ride by pumpboat.
Adjacent to the barangay hall is the chapel where the priest, who, like the nurse, also comes from Tubigon, ministers to the spiritual needs of the residents every now and then.
The islet has no water system but the rains have so far not failed them for extended periods. Nature has been kind. Until one early Tuesday morning last month when the earthquake struck, driving the fish away.
But the pearly white beaches that provided sanctuary to the residents during that time of extreme peril have been spared and remain untouched.
And to the Mocabocanon, for as long as the sand glistens, hope will continue to reside in his heart.
The sea will soon clear and the fish will be back, they promised. “And then we will send our children back to school.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 03, 2013.