(STAR) A POINT OF AWARENESS By Preciosa S. Soliven - Last week, the UNESCO National Committee on Marine Sciences (NCMS) held its annual five-day outreach marine program in Batanes with the theme, "Promoting Marine Sciences in the Northern Frontier for Sustainable Development" to investigate the natural marine environment to enhance productive ecosystem. Batanes, which has been declared a "Protected Landscape and Seascape" under the National Integrated Protected Areas (NIPAS) category, is being nominated as the 6th World Heritage Site of the Philippines.

The marine science team of experts led by NCMS Chair Dr. Rolu Encarnacion (PAG-ASA) and Vice Chair Dr. Virginia Cariño (NRCP) included Dr. Paciente Cordero (NRCP), Ester Zaragoza (PCAMRD), Marivene Santos (National Museum), Edgardo Gonzales (DENR-MGB), Lt. Xerxes Fernandez (Phil Coast Guard), Dr. James Torres (UP Visayas), Dr. Filomen Romero (MSU Tawi-Tawi), Francisco Torres Jr. (Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources), Dr. Apolinario Tating (NCMS Consultant), Vilma Vega (NSRI), Dr. Florentino Hornedo (Social & Human Science Commissioner), Byron Guevara and Freddie Blanco (UNESCO staff) was billeted at the Seaside Resort Hotel. Meantime, DepEd Asec. Vilma Labrador (Education Commissioner) and I, together with UNESCO staff coordinator Helen Balderama and OBMCI Biology teacher Rina Llanto stayed at the guesthouse of Congresswoman Dina Abad.


Tukon! Akala ko tugon, sagot o response

Yun pala ay tugon ng lupa, ukol sa gandang nilikha ng Diyos.

Nasa tuktok ng Basco, isa sa sampung isla ng Batanes

Nagtatagpo dito ang China Sea at Pacific Ocean sa paanan mo.

Batanes pinakadulong hilaga ng Pilipinas.

Tukon sa lilim ka ng Bulkan Iraya.

Walang katapusan ang mga burol na luntian

Hampas ng dagat sa maghapon at gabi

Kasabay ang haplos ng hanging malamig

Dinuduyan kami sa tulog na mahimbing.

Tukon sa tuktok mo ay bahay na bato — pula at asul

Bahay ka ng angkan ni Mang Gorge at Aling Aurora Abad

Ngayon ay tirahan ni Butch, kanilang masipag na anak

At kaniyang maybahay na si Dina

— kapwa bahagi ng Kongreso ng Pilipinas.

Tulad ng kapatid niya na si Pacita Abad

na tinuturing di lang ‘nasyonal’ kundi ‘artist internasyonal’

Ang dating kalihim ng Edukasyon,

si Butch ay may tinatagong galing, arkitekto pala

na bumuo ng Batanes ‘Aeroporto’

pati ang magarang palasyong bato

ng Pacita Abad Fundacion.

Basco and its American

and Spanish heritage landscapes

From the air, the major islands of Batanes — Itbayat, Batan, Sabtang and Vuhus are made up of many clusters of green, bold mountains outlined by white, frothy waves.

To reach the Abad residence on the mountaintop, Cong. Dina Abad’s driver, Jimmy, drove through 7 kms. of cemented winding road between pasture lands dotted with one or two white Brahman cows. Generally, the streets are quite narrow but cemented. The picturesque traditional Batanes stone houses are outside in Mahataw and Ibana.

Batanes Governor Vicente Gato’s capitol building, the venue of the NCMS seminar/workshop is a short walk from the Seaside Resort Hotel, which is beside the government-owned Batanes Resort Hotel. The kapitolyo’s white building was originally a traditional Batanes stone house. A charming rectangular plaza in Spanish-style is in front of it.

We asked to be taken to the souvenir shops and market. Two small houses with no signs were the major outlets of the vayasuvas sunhat and baskets that use nito vines and roots gathered from Mt. Iraya, the highest mountain volcano in the province with a height of 1800 meters. (The last explosion was 400 years ago.) Beside these two tiny stores is the large Ivatan Hotel.

We couldn’t find any market except three tiny sari-sari stores that were selling Batanes fish bagoong, red small Tagalog onions and garlic, dried flying fish, as well as large, sweet potato and gabi. Since the people known as Ivatans only plant and raise animals for personal subsistence there doesn’t seem to be enough produce raised on commercial level that could feed the increasing number of tourists that will surely come when it is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most goods are brought in by cargo ship from Ilocos.

With only a population of about 17,000 (less than the 22,000 of my husband, Max’s town of Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur), Jimmy was greeting everyone by name and they readily returned the greeting with a big smile. Jimmy said, "Don’t be surprised if we know each other by name, after all we are so few."

Schoolhouses represent American landscape. There are seven elementary schools and high schools using the multi-grade system. The population per school is between 35 to 150 students only. Most of these have Gabaldon architecture — remnants of American commonwealth day which used the Filipino architect’s name — usually a one-storey design. Traditional stone house architecture helps people survive cyclones PAG-ASA Weather Service Chief Dr. Rolu Encarnacion described how PAG-ASA observe, collect, assess and process atmospheric changes with 24-hour weather service stations. The traditional stone house architecture of Batanes helps the people survive the cyclone season, which is from June to September when wind velocity can reach 150 km/hour during typhoons.

From October to March, the northeast monsoon or Amihan is prevalent with a wind velocity of 25-40 km/hr. However, during late March to May, the southwest monsoon or Habagat brings only 2-7 km/hr winds. Only then can Asian Spirit fly people here, now only on Mondays and Fridays.

Dr. Rolu stressed that the Philippines experiences an average of 20 tropical cyclones, which include tropical depressions, tropical storms and typhoons. Although most do not think of its benefits, this is the source of 50 percent supply of ground water and they flush pollutants, as well.

A rich source of valuable seaweeds remains untapped

In 1964, Dr. Paciente Cordero, Director of the National Research Council of the Philippine-DOST (NRCP-DOST) as a Mambusho scholar of Japan worked with six Japanese botanists using Kagashima Naru ship on the marine algae study of Batanes. His master’s and doctor’s research were based on early studies of seaweeds such as the 1907 R.C. McGregor collection of seaweeds, the Quisumbing and Manuel Ramos botanist collections, the Taylor marine algae and Professor H.S. Bartlett’s research in Sulu. His team worked at nine collection stations in Basco plus nine sub-stations in Mahalaw, Ibana, and Cuyutan. Of the 185 varieties, the two new ones were discovered and named after him.

A rich source of valuable seaweeds remains untapped, like the Ilocano gamet, Japanese nori, the carrageen gelatin and the fertilizers. This can be marketed to local Japanese restaurants and can be exported as well as be used directly as fertilizers.

The Ivatans of Batanes comes from Austronesian root of migration

Batanes is peopled by the Ivatan tribe. Batan is derived from Batanic linguistic, cultural sphere of the Vasayic region. It is part of the Austronesian migration during the Neolithic Era of the Bashic people’s southward route from Indochina to Malay Peninsula passing Taiwan and crossing to the Batanes islands. Started 6,000 years ago, the migration resulted in the prehistoric settlement of Batanes dated 3,700 years back. The Ivatan language is similar to that of the small Orchid Island of Taiwan.

According to Mines & Geosciences Bureau OIC Edgardo Gonzales, the islands resulted from the tectonic plates collision of South China and the Philippines six million years ago during the volcanism period.

The four cultural landscapes of Batanes named in the serial nomination to UNESCO are Sabtang, Batan, Vuhus and the Itbayat islands. Specific areas within are designated Core Heritage and Buffer Zones.

(Next week: Part 2)

(For more information or reaction, please e-mail at exec@obmontessori.edu.ph or pssoliven@yahoo.com)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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