Monday, February 2, 2009

Itbayat 2: Taming the Isolation

How the Ivatans try to tame their islands has really fascinated me. I know Filipinos are by nature creative and resourceful, utilizing limited resources very efficiently. One of my traveling friends, in awe and wonder, once described to me how fisher folks in Capiz cleverly but dangerously raise tons of wreck metal from the bottom of the ocean using the simple oxygen compressor tank. Stories like this make traveling all worth it, when you see people triumph over their circumstances and limitations and realize how petty and worthless your own troubles are compared to theirs.

Nowhere in the Philippines have I seen resources as scarce as in Itbayat, where the rough oceans isolate the people from the usual conveniences of the modern age. I was really amused by how they move cargo from down below the port to the flat area above where they can be hauled by the trucks to the barrios. I hope that by sharing these stories amd pictures in my blog, I can give credit to these great people. I am really awed and amazed, definitely.

So here’s the docking tataya in Chinapoliran Port. The men unload the cargo, consisting mostly of construction materials such as sand (Itbayat has no sand, remember?), commodities such as rice, flour, groceries, and of course, gin. Take note of the wooden crate-like structure on the far right. That’s the trolley. Note the man wearing orange over-alls. He’s the trolley driver.

So the men fill this cart with the cargo from the boat. With a wave of his hand, the man in the orange over-alls now riding the trolley, is pulled up with the cargo. Smart, huh?

They unload the cargo from the boat at the landing up above, then load the trolley with the cargo for loading to the boat. Nice system. Sturdy trolley, strong men, wave of a hand, then the cycle goes on: trolley goes down, gets cargo from ship, man in orange waves his hand, trolley goes up with cargo, men fill the trolley with cargo for loading, man in orange waves his hand again, trolley goes down. Very simple.

Must be a complicated pulley mechanism they're using here, huh? I was very much surprised when the force bearing the weight of the trolley plus cargo is...

...That truck up above the cliffs!!! No radio, no high tech signaling mechanisms. The wave of the hand from the man in orange tells the driver of that far away truck to move forward, or to move back, and trolley either goes up or down. A bit too simple and too dangerous, but fascinating isn’t it?
They say that some time in 2008, a representative of the Pope from Rome visited Itbayat. The townsfolk fashioned that trolley into a fancy carriage that would bring the church guy up. Same system, but the guy in orange was dressed up as fit for the visitor from Rome (I imagine a Spanish bullfighting costume, cape and all). The papal nuncio survived the ride. If he knew it was that truck pulling him, he’d have died of a heart attack. I would.
By the way, that truck is the same truck that makes rounds across town. Since the winds are very unpredictable, the town has devised a system of informing the folks if there’s a trip or not. If the winds are suitable and a boat is coming, the church rings the bell thrice after the 6AM prayer. Clang! Clang! Clang!
The townspeople then prepare whatever they would want delivered to Basco: letters, food stuff, farm produce, livestock, etc., place them on the road in front of their homes, and this truck picks them up. This truck picked me up too, along with the 3 pigs, several chickens, and sacks of farm produce. Good thing I didn’t have to take that trolley ride down.
A sociologist once said that culture is the system of a people’s recognition of their needs, and their activities by which they strive to satisfy those needs. This is culture in its purest, most awe-inspiring form. There’s the harsh environment, the hardy and creative people, the enduring assistance and guidance of the church, all working together to create something like this – something that a mere outsider like me can only gape at and be awed about.
I wasn’t surprised the papal nuncio survived the trolley ride. I believe God, who created such beautiful place, people and culture, was in that ride too. And He was probably smiling.
That’s me, while waiting for the truck to pick me up and bring me to the tataya that would take me back to Basco. Whining about getting stranded but happy just the same. I was indeed blessed to be given this chance to experience even just a facet of the great beauty of it all.


g_saturn said...

Yep, you're not a travel blogger. You're better.=) Reading this blog made me feel like I was in Batanes too.

Walking on Water said...

thanks glads! that's what i'm trying to do.=)
once you're ok enough to travel and rough it up a bit, dito kayo mag next honeymoon.=)