Archive for the ‘Tabaco’ Category

Buhi-Malinao road ushers in more commerce for Bicol

February 27, 2009

Linking communication is the most obvious benefit of having a road between towns and villages. Alternative routes of trade and commerce are made easy. These are expected in the recent completion of the 35 kilometer road (about half of 66 kilometer highway) which connects the 2nd and 4th districts of Camarines Sur to that of 1st district of Albay.

Leading to the port area of Tabaco, Albay, the highway makes it easier to reach Catanduanes Island in Bicol. Travel from Manila will be shorter than before.

The new road starts from Hanawan Ocampo, Camarines Sur onwards to Barangay Burokbusoc and Sagrada in Buhi, Camarines Sur, reaching up to Malinao, Albay. It is heralded as an accomplishment by LV Castaneda of the Department of Public Highways, (DPH.)

But Buhinon Jesus Valenciano (in a letter to Bicol Mail’s editor,) writes to question the integrity of the road. He fears that the “all-weather road” in some sections need cementing or asphalting. He says, without good maintenance, this road can easily fall into disrepair. —-Bicol Mail (02/19/09; 02/26/09) (Photo Credit: http://www.freewebs.com/infocenterbuhi/) =0=

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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]

The Central Bicol Dialect Or The Northern Coastal Bicol

November 18, 2008



In the recent past, people often wondered why Bicol Naga is very similar to Bicol Legazpi. It is because passing through the national highway (Maharlika Highway) a lot of different dialects divide Naga and Legazpi. Going east, Rinconada will be the first different dialect encountered (starting in Pili and up to the western part of Polangui) and then Western Miraya (after Matacon, Libon). After that comes Bicol Oasnon (starting Oas, of course) and then Eastern Miraya (starting in Guinobatan until Daraga) before finally reaching Legazpi City.

After a period of wonderment comes the puzzlement. Some even said that the church and its rites and books has something to do with this “standardization”. I give no credence to that. Otherwise we would have learned Latin, the official language of the church.

But I think the path to being misled begins with the assumption that the Naga-Legazpi highway that we know of now has been in existence since time immemorial, when it is not. An old civil engineer explained to me 30 years ago that this highway was only built in the 1920’s. He said that before the arrival of heavy earth-moving equipments it is simply impossible to fill all the ricefields that lay between towns. He also added that the old roads passed through the hills like the old road from Camalig to Guinobatan is the Tagaytay (Camalig) road.

If one analyzes Bicol Tabaco it is readily apparent that it is also very similar to the “standard” Bicol. And going farther northwest it is also apparent that the Bicol of the Partido area and Caramoan Peninsula is also very similar to the “standard” Bicol. And, of course, Bicol Daet is also very similar to the “standard” Bicol. Actually, except for some sub-dialectical variations, it is obvious that all of this belong to just one dialect.

This whole stretch that belongs to just one Bicol dialect (but with sub-dialectical variations) actually starts from the old town of Bacon, Sorsogon and proceeds northwest up to Mambulao [J. Panganiban], Camarines Norte except the Larap area. It is the reason why it is sometimes called the Northern Coastal Bicol. But more recently it is more often called as the Central Bicol dialect. Up to 2/3 of Bicolanos speak this dialect but in international texts it is not called as “Standard” Bicol.

The southwestern town of San Andres [the old Calolbon] which is very near Caramoan Peninsula also speak this dialect and so do a vast inland area west of Naga City and up to portions of the “railroad towns” of Camarines Sur. The old outlet to the sea of Nueva Caceres [Naga] to the south, Pasacao, also speaks this dialect. And so do the whole San Miguel Bay area.

In the olden days, even before the Spaniards came, the way of getting around or trading was by sailing (in fact the word layag or paglayag is the same in many parts of the Philippines). These northern Bicol seas are normally placid during the southwest monsoon (habagat) because it is shielded by the Bicol land mass. In fact the old pilgrimage custom to the visita of Joroan is connected with this. Sailboats as far as Northern Samar used to visit that shrine in the earlier days.

Sub-dialectical variations can be explained by recognizing geographical divisions in the fishing areas. Albay Gulf is a separate fishing area and that is why Bicol Legazpi predominates this area and to the barangay of Sawanga of the old Bacon which has a sea connection to Rapu-rapu.

The narrows of Cagraray island separate the fishing grounds of Tabaco Bay from Albay Gulf. Here Bicol Tabaconon predominates.

The promontory and rough terrain ahead of Joroan divides tha fishing grounds of Lagonoy Gulf from Tabaco Bay area. Here the mountain chain Mt. Iriga-Mt. Masaraga-Mt. Malinao extends up to the sea. Areas like this hold few inhabitants, hence, little fishing. Actually in the olden times Agta tribes dominated this area. Like in Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon, the physical and fishing boundary between sub-dialects are connected to the presence of an indigenous tribe.

In Lagonoy Gulf, the Partido sub-dialect predominates.

The old trade route go round the Caramoan Peninsula. It does not go overland from Goa to Tinambac due to the rough terrain and the control of the mountains by the Cimarrones. If trade and communication is carried overland it passes the southern foot of Mt. Isarog (the Carolina route) and this is usually the case when the northeast monsoon (amihan) is blowing. When amihan is in full swing the northern waters of Bicol are rough.

Inhibitants of the tip of Caramoan Peninsula are related to the inhabitants of the southwest portion of Catanduanes. They make regular sea crossings even in the olden days.

The San Miguel Bay area which is horseshoe-shaped and which extends from Pambujan to Siruma and sealed at the entrance by the Caningo island is another separate fishing ground. Here, the Naga sub-dialect predominates.

The Camarines Norte seas up to the Calagua islands is another separate fishing ground. Bicol Daet dominates the eastern Camarines Norte town.

The area west of Naga City that speaks Bicol Naga is dominated by the lower portion of the Bicol River Basin (the portion nearer the sea). The meandering rivers here that irrigates the vast rice plains is also the old transportion route and this is connected up to the mouth of San Miguel Bay near Cabusao. The landing area near the Naga public market is a remnant of this artery.

This is the historical reason why Bicol Naga and Bicol Legazpi is very similar. As do the other dialects in the northern coast of Bicol.

A Sorry Maritime Safety Record Indeed In The Philippines

November 9, 2008




Few question that currently Sulpicio Lines holds the most notoriety among local shipping companies. But as I have pointed out in a previous article [“The Blame Game and Other Musing”, 7/13/08] the combined WG&A is not too far behind Sulpicio, going by actual statistics.

Maybe due to the sheer number of incidents, a few of these gets left out. Or we may not be too meticulous in keeping records (the Maritime Industry Authority [MARINA] doesn’t even have its ship database in order). Or far-flung incidents sometimes does not catch the attention of the national media (except when casualties are simply too many).

Few would remember that in May 1980, the Sulpicio ship MV Dona Paulina struck bottom. The same thing happened to Don Victoriano I in April 1982. Both ships were declared total losses. These two incidents happened before the infamous Dona Paz and Dona Marilyn accidents in 1987 and 1988 (see Totie Mesia’s article, “RP’s Maritime Disasters: A Harvest of Shame and Blame”, 11/08/08). Aside from these, Sulpicio Lines’ ships were also involved in minor incidents like grounding, collision, ship fire and engine breakdowns that did not involve loss of life or the total loss of the ship.

Maybe to break its string of “bad luck” (the local euphemism for loser’s fate), Sulpicio Lines changed the name of their ships into Princesses. For a while it probably broke Sulpicio’s jinx but on December 1997, it lost MV Philippine Princess (a former flagship) to fire and subsequent sinking followed by the sinking of the MV Princess of the Orient (another former flagship) in September 1998. Finally, “bad luck” caught up with a reigning flagship, the MV Princess of the Stars, which capsized recently.

In the same period, some other obscure incidents happened to ships not connected to Sulpicio. In the early ’90s the following ships were lost:

1. MV Emerald which capsized according to MARINA records.

2. MV Ruby I of Alexis Shipping: a RO-RO that sunk just off the port of Calapan due to a holed bottom.

3. A SuperCat (a catamaran) of Aboitiz was lost due to another holed bottom between Mindoro and Batangas.

4 . MV Manila City of William Lines: a Manila-Cebu ship that caught fire while under drydock in Cebu City and was totally lost.

From the mid-’90s and 2000, the following ships were lost to fire:

1. MV Viva Antipolo 7 which caught fire in 1995 according to MARINA records. This ship was totally lost.

2. MV Gretchen which caught fire in 1996 according to MARINA records.

3. MV Kalibo Star of Maypalad Shipping which caught fire in 1997.

4. MV SuperFerry 7 of WG&A: caught fire on March 1997 just after unloading passengers in North Harbor, Manila and was lost.

5. MV Rosalia II of Lapu-lapu Shipping: a Cebu-Cataingan ferry that caught fire a few kilometers before Cataingan port, on August 1999. Three passengers were killed.

6. MV SuperFerry 6 of WG&A: caught fire on October 2000 just off Batangas and was lost. Its nearness to major sea lanes and ports assured the survival of all the passengers.

In this decade, the following steel ferries of minor shipping lines met major accidents. The details of these incidents are not complete:

1. MV Penafrancia which caught fire according to MARINA records.

2. MV Ruperto Jr. of Tamula Shipping: a Camiguin ferry which caught fire.

3. A Super Shuttle Ferry ship of Asian Marine Transport capsized.

4. MV Joy-Ruby of Atienza Shipping: sunk just off the port of Coron, Palawan.

5. MV Pulauan Ferry of George&Peter Lines: a Siquijor ferry that sunk off Cebu City.

Additionally, the following major incidents happened in the last 6 years:

1. MV Princess Camille of Shipshape Shipping: took in water while unloading passengers in Odiongan, Romblon and capsized.

2. MB Mae-Ann 5 of Lobrigo Shipping: overwhelmed by waves off Masbate City on May 12, 2005 while Typhoon Caloy was blowing. 27 people died.

3. MV Princess of the World of Sulpicio Lines: caught fire off Zamboanga del Norte coast on July 2005 and was totally burned.

4. MV Dona Ramona of Basilan Shipping: a bomb exploded while docked in Lamitan, Basilan, on August 8, 2005. Three died.

5. MV Butuan Bay of Gothong Shipping: its engine exploded just after leaving Cebu City on May 16, 2007. Three crewmen died.

6. MV Blue Water Princess of Blue Water Princess Shipping: bad weather and strong waves caused it to capsized off Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon on July 12, 2007 where 12 persons died.

7. MV Northern Samar of Bicolandia Shipping capsized in the height of a typhoon while docked in Tabaco port. Big waves moved the ship against a rock and the bottom was holed.

Additionally, an explosion and a fire happened on August 2002 while MV Tacloban Princess of Sulpicio Lines was drydocked. Two people were killed.

These 22 major incidents are separate from those mentioned in Totie Mesia’s article [“RP’s Maritime Disasters: A Harvest of Blame and Shame”, 11/08/08]. Proving that marine safety is indeed poor in this country.