Archive for the ‘Dimasalang’ Category

Two Boat Sinkings, A New Year Ferry Suspension in Bicol, Wave Height and Gale

January 3, 2009


For thousands of Bicol ferry passengers the forlorn walls of the ferry terminals in Tabaco (Albay), Pilar and Matnog (both in Sorsogon) was their New Year’s eve sight. This came about because government authorities, on the advice of the weather bureau, suspended small crafts from sailing citing forecasts of waves of up to four meters high.

This suspension is probably a reaction to the recent sinking of the motor boat MB Mae Jan which plies the Calayan island to Aparri, Cagayan route in which about half of its 100 passengers died. It was said that the weather was fine when the boat left Calayan but it turned bad before the boat reached its destination. The incident highlighted the disregard of PAGASA (the Philippines weather forecasting bureau) advisories which warned of big waves for that day.

Maybe the suspension is only correct. Forecast of wave heights should be the governing factor in ferry trip suspensions rather than wind speeds which is the basis for typhoon forecasts. It is waves that primarily swamp and capsize ships and not the winds per se. People should probably start to understand now that ships can meet sinking incidents even without a typhoon warning (and I am glad PAGASA now uses the term ‘gale’ to describe stormy sea conditions). I hope that government will stress more the importance of heeding wave height forecasts and educate people accordingly.

Sometimes I wonder if we need MB Mae Jan incidents for us to learn these things. But with the new system I hope the lives lost in that incident and in the MB Don Dexter Cathlyn sinking off Dimasalang, Masbate which killed about 40 people would not have been in vain.

This day, this change had a new twist. Ferry trips in Bicol were again suspended but this time the reason for the suspension is the refusal of the ship captains to venture out to sea combined with the barring of sea travel by the the Coast Guard. I hope this development augurs a new era of more pro-active observance of sea safety. I think we have needlessly lost enough lives in sea tragedies over the years because of the bahala na (leaving things to providence) attitude.

However, I hope this will not augur a new era of over-cautious sailing when ships are grounded when a storm is still far away and it so happened only that there is already a typhoon warning. Economic oppurtunies are lost this way. There is no need to automatically suspend ships when it is still shining and wave forecast is still moderate.

For prudence, maybe a finer distinction between small ships is needed. Old sea travellers know that outriggers and motor boats which are wooden are more vulnerable than steel ferries and there are bigger ferries that can handle waves better. The should not all be lumped under the category of ‘small sea craft’.

More passengers will be stranded in the future, for sure. But maybe it will also teach them how to read weather forecasts especially those that are available on the Net which is numerous enough and is up-to-date.

[photo credit: freewebs]

Dimasalang, Masbate: A Place of Sextilingual People

November 5, 2008


Dimasalang, Masbate, a normally laid-back, rustic but usually obscure place is in the headlines lately because of the recent ferry sinking claiming the lives of at least 40 people including many children.  Ironic that quiet, obscure places are suddenly put into national attention not because of some achievement but because of some big tragedy or calamity that visits them.  This is what happened to San Fernando, Romblon which suddenly became world-famous because of the ‘Princess of the Stars’ sinking.  Gaining notoriety their natural characteristics and charms are sometimes just put to the shadows.

Dimasalang is the center of the 3rd congressional district of Masbate which comprises the eastern portion of Masbate island. The sunk ferry, the ‘Don Dexter Cathlyn’  which is actually a wooden motor launch or motor boat is the town’s service to their alternate commercial center which is Bulan, Sorsogon.   It usually leaves Dimasalang at 1pm arriving in Bulan after nearly 4 hours of travel.  It leaves Dimasalang at 8pm the next day.  Like most motor boats in remote inter-island corners, it serves not just  people but also cargo like a truck or bus of the inter-island seas.

In Dimasalang like most towns of the 3rd district of Masbate, it is not unusual for one to ask a question in the Waray tongue and get answered in Bicol or Cebuano or Masbateno.  All four are considered languages in their own right.  The four tongues has a high degree of mutual intelligibility because it all belongs to the Bisayan group of languages.  Given the fact that most Filipinos speak English and Tagalog/Pilipino, many people in this corner of the Philippines are actually sextilingual (speaking six languages).  But for people here that travel to western Masbate, it is probable that they even speak a seventh language, Hiligaynon, the lengua franca of that place.

Maybe, of all places in the Philippines this little corner of Masbate is the greatest melting pot of Philippine languages.  And all because of sea lanes served by quaint, little launches the size of yatchs.  This place aside from its connection to Bicol has connections to the nearby islands.  Go to Cataingan and a daily motor boat is available for Calbayog City, (Western) Samar.  Move over to Placer or Cawayan and several motor boats ply the Cebu route daily.  Go to the town of Milagros and a daily boat to Roxas City, Capiz and Estancia, Iloilo is available.  Go to Mandaon and boats are available for Romblon and Lucena City, Quezon.

The town on the southeasternmost tip, Pio V. Corpus (Limbuhan), which has its own boat service to Cebu, whose lengua franca is Cebuano produced the current medical director of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City, Dr. Julius V. Lecciones, who is a member of UP Ibalon.  Proof that being raised in a remote corner of the Philippines is no hindrance in rising to the top.

Dimasalang might have gained temporary notoriety but for me what a heck of a place!