It was a cold December 5 morning, with the waves rushing to the shore, when the municipality of Lingig faced a new day from Typhoon Pablo’s harsh winds. Lingig is the last municipality of Surigao del Sur. It is also the last town of Surigao del Sur before the next town of Boston, Davao Oriental. Somewhere far from shattered homes, fallen lines, and broken trees left by Pablo, the fishing community of Lingig discovered at mid-sea something that looks like a section of a deserted island. In fact, from where the people stood at Purok 3B, Cab-ilan Poblacion, the floating stretch of land looked more like a ghost ship.
It took an old fishing boat and a large dose of courage for two fishermen to discover what the strange, new island really was.
“Susihon da lang nato daw unan ngidto kay para masayudan (Let’s go check whatever that is.),” said the younger of the fishermen, pulling the boat with him, his paddle on his side.
“Amu agaw total guba dasa yang kanato mga bay (Let’s! After all, our homes have already been broken by the typhoon. What is there to lose now?),” replied the much older of the duo.
As the pair rowed across the calm seas, the rest of the community who gathered by the shore could not help but argue among themselves.
“Guba ngiyan na barko (It is an abandoned ship.),” said one to his mates.
“Basin haw isla ngiyan (Maybe it’s an island.),”said another.
“O basin haw barko gikan sa lain na lugar tapos yada ngani kanato tungod ng dagko na bawod (Or it’s a ship from nearby place carried out by the big waves),” replied the other.
Their arguments took awhile until the fishermen who ventured to the sea returned.
“Isla ngidto na yapuno ng korals (It’s an island made of corals!),” Ondo, the younger of the two, exclaimed with disbelief. “Kadto kamu para makakita kamu (Go there so that you’ll see it.),” he urged everyone to also go see what they have seen.
The news of the emergence of the mystical island spread throughout Lingig and the neighboring municipalities. While national television networks and the delivery of relief goods focused much on the devastated parts of Boston, Cateel, and Baganga, the people of Lingig had to fend themselves from people who were more interested with the new tourist sight. Tourists were intent on bringing back with them sacks of corals from the island.
It was only after several sacks of corals have been quarried from the mystical island that the attention was shifted in Lingig. More tourists came just to step on, and examine the island, or to swim on its surrounding cold seas. They have made light of the effects of Pablo, and have instead taken pleasure from the coral island that Pablo brought with it.
The mini island was named after the super typhoon, so it was called Pablo Island. Lingiganons do not want to call it Bopha since Bopha was a foreign name. As if to give tribute to the damages brought by the typhoon, naming the Pablo is a way for the people to reclaim what was left of their lives after the calamity. And to remember a time of their lives when losing everything is really to gain back one’s self.
Then again, Pablo Island has made some of the residents of Lingig fight with each other because they think they can willfully claim the ownership of the island.
“Ako yang tag iya ng Pablo kay ako yaka una pag tagduk ng flag ngadto (I’m the owner of the island because I’m the first one to put a flag there),” said a fisherman who is known in the community to unlawfully claim things he fancies.
But the will of the majority is to leave Pablo unclaimed by anyone. Not even the man who has his flag firmly placed on the island. Any of the residents, though, could build his payag. But again, their payag is only made to be rented out to those who wish to visit the island.
The popularity of Pablo brings with it different stories and interpretations for its emergence. Some people believe it was an island of the mermaids because the shapes of the corrals which fill the whole island take various forms and sizes. In fact, most of those who quarried the corrals commented on their decorative qualities. Another story which tries to explain Pablo is the belief that it was the dwelling place of a mystical creature which is a half human and half snake.
For most of the Lingiganons, these stories are simply figments of man’s imagination. Accounts vary from creativity to outrageousness to bald-faced lies. For them, Pablo is the result of the large waves which to have carried these tons of corals and formed a new island. Even as one digs deep into the surface, only more corals can be seen on the island.
Three years has passed since Pablo, and today, it still remains among the Lingiganons. The island is still in existence, but it is more noticeable during low tide. This island speaks true to what a Lingiganon is: someone who has hurdled through the storm and the big waves which had washed down almost the entire community.
And the flag? The flag on Pablo will be a constant reminder that any Lingiganon will rise up to any challenge, be it storm or wave, and still reclaim their life from devastation.
Maria Diane D. Consuegra, Saimonah Judy Mae P. Acosta, Cheemnnee Lou A. Adaptar and Marra R. Martizano are Teacher Education students of Saint Vincent De Paul Diocesan College, Mangagoy, Bislig City.