Good morning guys,
I just want to bore you with a little experience I had in Mangsee during the Raya Eidil Adha recently. WASSALAM
Mangsee islands: north & south
Municipality: Balabac within the Provincial jurisdiction of Palawan, Philippines.
Coordinates: 07*57’N. 117*01’E
Total area: 0.4 sqkm / 23 hactare
Population: 10,000 +/- 5%
Main occupation: fishing industry & mass production of salted fish
Religion: 99% Muslim
I have always been obsessed about visiting Mangsee. The recent Eidil Adha was the best excuse I got to visit and really explore this atoll island. Mr James Lim was appointed to be the organizing Chairman to raise as many cattle and goats he can possibly secure. The end result was 4 beautiful cows and 10 goats were delivered to Mangsee by boat. Local dignitaries from Kudat were also invited to Mangsee on 2nd Sept. The security chiefs from Lahad DATU were also in the list.
As usual, the leader of the people, Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez, was on the scene from Sept 1st and 2nd. He wasted no time towards ensuring security and comforts as well as the cooking arrangements for the visiting guests. He cannot afford to have the 2012 repeats of cholera outbreak where about 200 lost their lives.
As for me, I also arrived on Sept 1 together with the Governor and I spent much time talking to the people and getting to know them first hand unfiltered and unprovoked. I would like to classify this trip under the 5th pillar of the BIMPEAGA, i.e. The Social Cultural and Education (SCE) towards understanding fellow neighbors and what makes them tick.
The first thing I noticed abruptly was that the day was very long and the night could even be longer! How can this be? It was quite a moment before I found the answer. Without Internet or handphone, we can do one thing at a time and we progress in accordance with our own pace and haste. But with Internet and handphone, we can do 3 – 10 things at any given time and still complain there is not enough time. The given time is the same everywhere; it’s all about our own pace and sense of time. In Mangsee, nobody is in the hurry and time seems to wait for you.
Wherever I walked, the people were all the time smiling as if to make my stay welcomed. It was truly a sincere smile from the bottom of their hearts but never a stewardess smile!
I walked alone and I felt nor fear of any threat against me. I have this strange feeling that many would have liked to invite me into their homes, but I guessed, they have no coffee or tea to spare and boiling the water would take ages to ready. I also noticed not many houses have gas tanks or cookers. All cookings are by firewood and lighting the fire is another work of art.
As I walked the clean narrow sandy streets that led to everywhere near (because the island is so small), there was no coffee shop to be found and or stall to have a drink; because nobody could afford to have coffee outside. The little peso they have is best spent on basic food at home for the rest of the family to share. Coffee and tea is a luxury item they could ill-afford. So roti-Canai or mee goreng is totally non-existent too. But Maggie mee is plentiful and best served at home.
Talking about Maggie MEE, I clearly noticed that 95% of products sold on the shelves, would certainly come from Kudat. I gave a generous 5% for Philippine products because I noticed all the paints sold are of Philippines origin. But they are not selling well because nobody paint their wooden homes. Kudat is the nearest source for supplies and the pricing seems to synchronize with their propensity to pay. Now I realize that our old sleepy Kudat has a hidden secret; they are the biggest suppliers of everything to as far as Balabac and a little beyond to as far as El-Nido and Coron. And we are talking of almost a million population. This far, the hidden secret of Kudat is now in the open. Just like Sandakan, LAHAD DATU and Tawau.
I am glad at this point of writing, Kudat has never been an opportunistic suppliers and they will make the small percentages as long as both sides continue to trade. Kudat shall not risk the opportunity of making more for they have enjoyed this symbiotic relationship with the entire of Palawan since the dawn of civilization. We live and let live.
So I urge to those who have the power to curb this economic trade to think and rethink for the sake of our economies and sharing compassion with our close and needy neighbors for all these are within the ambits of our very own ‘FARDHU KIFAYAH’. Our Quranic teachings hold over-riding rights above our political manoevre and or other consideration.
All the houses are compact and closed to each other. But I can see that their houses and small compound are very clean and there is no foul smell. I can visibly notice that the houses are scantily furnished and sleeping mattresses are on the wooden floor instead of a bed. There is no brick house.
The women folks spent much time on either doing the washing or raking the sandy ground for fallen leaves and or frying fish in preparation for their daily meals. Their daily basic meal will comprise of boiled rice and fried fish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is no steamed fish or chillied fish or any other taste for that matter and above all, there is no vegetable to complement the meal. The only advantage they have is that they are eating daily freshly-catch fish.
Vegetables are not grown because they cannot withstand the hot sandy soil which could be more towards acidic. Any vegetable bought from Kudat is always consumed daily because the majority do not have refrigerator. Above all, they do not even have power-source to activate the fridge. Without any power, there can be no TV to watch and this will readily explain the presence of many children that almost took 50% of the entire population.
I have suggested to the resting fishermen I talked to, to go to Pulau Bangi and collect dark soil to make their own vegetable yard. Looking at their facial lines, I don’t think my suggestion is a good suggestion to them. For so long, they have been existing without vegetables, and it’s likely that they will remain this way. No matter what, any fresh vegetable they can get is most welcomed.
Much problem will emerge in 10 years from now when these children will mature into adulthood and will provoke new kinds of social problems. The manuals on family planning and kits are non existence and their preference has always been on having kids rather than on having to spend the pesos on pills; even though the pill is hardly 100 peso a month. This will simply show how very poor they are. My visit today will be a mild warning for more social ills in the coming futures. The amorous teenagers are also something to think about because if I am not mistaken, it goes with an assumed understanding that the Philippines seems to have more unwed mothers. I stand to be corrected on this assumption.
And being Muslims, this could to a certain degree, restrict the chances of being an unwed mother because I also noticed that the 6 mosques are very well patronized by the young and the old. This is definitely going to be a plus point. But I still wonder for how long can they withstand the outside influence.
This island is getting too small to house the entire population. Presently, we have 10,000 population on 23 hactares and which will work out at 174 people per acre. By natural census, more will tend to migrate towards the Palawan mainland or otherwise to Sabah. In fact Sabah would be wise to absorb them as migrant workers and with proper documentation, it could be a win-win solution for both sides.
Again, the Mangseen are just too poor to even own a passport especially the cost of going to the Mainland Palawan to obtain one. There is great possibility that other arrangements can be made to give them their FILIPINO ID and passport. Otherwise a certain traveling documents would suffice because we are giving them opportunities to earn elsewhere and they themselves can become an OFW with monthly remittance to home base.
Talking about remittances, there is no bank, no post office, no pawn shops to render the much needed assistance on savings and handling remittances. I just can’t imagine what would happen if their houses were on fire.
Sometimes in 2012 as I have been told, there was an outbreak of cholera and about 200 locals had lost their lives. There is an old dilapidated hospital building which I gather has no beds, no nurses or doctors and no medicines or medical apparatus. After 5 minutes of my walking through, I saw a family fervently fanning a lying girl hardly 4 or 5 years. Her eyes were weak. Both hands and legs were not moving and everybody surrounding her look sad and weepy. I cannot stand to observe this scene any longer and I fervently prayed in my heart for God to take care of this little girl. How I wished there is a clinic I could send this little girl.
I hope the Sabah Pharmaceutical Association can do something about dispatching a year’s supplies of medical provisions and positioning a medical practitioner once a month to help uplift the medical remedy if any.
The success of BIMPEAGA is all about integration and how to overcome mental and psychological attitude towards each other. There has been much thought about suspicion and other mental disorientation and it now becomes our joint responsibilities to narrow these negative ill-feelings so that we can become an amalgamation of one great nation. Not all fishermen are terrorists. Our Naval surveillance will do humanity a great service if they are never harassed. They can ill-afford to buy their own freedom and imprisoning those careless border -crossers means killing their entire families for they can bear no justification to feed on their own.
Yet Mangsee can offer home stay program to those who are not fanatics on luxury living, for their houses are clean. When you visit Mangsee, please bring much vegetable and share your tinned food with the rest of the families. This opportunity is very ideal for those who just want to get away from the maddening crowds and helter-skelter of telephone calls, face books and WhatsApps. Do not be surprised that you will feel reprieved and relieved after 3 days of living under basic circumstances.
For those moneyed people, you can be the first to try and build a 4-6 rooms chalet facilities and see what happen over the years. The Bathing is by digging wells and where the hoisted water is so cool yet reviving. To be honest, I simply took a half-hour slow bathing just to enjoy the coiling water running slowly through my aching bodies.
The water is so soothing and not comparable to the cool yet freezing water elsewhere.
If I have my way, I would want to build an ice-making factory with cold-room and chiller facilities where payment can be made through exchange of the days catch: lobster, grouper, sunoh, giant squids, sea cucumber and abalones. Eventually, when stocks are being built up, the empty fishing trawlers with iced compartments can collect them for subsequent deliveries to Kota Kinabalu or elsewhere.
Datuk Roselan J Mohamed
BIMPEAGA Business Council..