For those of us who have grown accustomed to the finer things in life, a day in an island with limited electricity and water would be a big no no. Perhaps, one would contemplate on staying in such an island only if it’s for the Survivor challenge.
That’s why I admire the people of Molocaboc Island in Sagay City, Negros Occidental. Life is hard but life on this 428-hectare barangay is even harder. It’s like Survivor challenge, only they have to deal with it not in 39 days but their whole lives.
Molocaboc Island is just 15 minutes boat ride from Vito Wharf and is part of the 32,000-hectare Sagay Marine Reserve. This part of the Visayan Sea is teeming with marine life and with the efforts of the stakeholders remained protected from illegal fishing.
Molocaboc is made up of three islands – Molocaboc Daku (120 hectares), Molocaboc Diut (80 hectares) and Matabas (20 hectares). Pumpboats dock at the tip of the 1.5 km cement pathwalk leading to the village. The path walk disappears during high tide and people walking along it appears walking on water.
Another 1.2 km cement pathwalk connects Molocaboc Diut to Molocaboc Daku. Electricity is limited from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. through a generator. There are no fresh water from wells that’s why the people have developed the use of giant jars for collecting rainwater which they use for bathing and cooking. The modes of transportation in the island are motorcycles and tricycles.
The sea is very generous to the people of Molocaboc. Around 85% of the residents make a living from the sea, from fishing to shellcraft making. If it’s seafoods you want, there is seemingly an endless supply, from the usual fish and crabs to the exotic deep sea shells. Residents also gather sea cucumber and seahorse for medicinal purposes which they sell to Chinese traders. Dried sea cucumber is sold for P1,000/kg and dried seahorse fetch a whooping price of P10,000/kg.
The residents practice “sea ranching” which was introduced by Mayor Alfredo Maranon, Jr. It is done by creating a hole or an artificial habitat on tidal flats in the sea using used tires and large stones. Fishermen then lure the fish to their holes and in three to four months are able to harvest about 20 kilos of mature fish. Too bad they just harvested the holes a week before our visit for their fiesta.
The shells which the residents made into fashion accessories and home decors were gathered from “sea mines”. These are dead shells deposited in shallow craters off the shores of the three islets of Molocaboc. They call them sea mines because no matter how many sacks they gather, more bubble shells are deposited in the mines.
Despite the lack of modern facilities in the island, the residents are quite happy and maintains a positive disposition. There seem to be a smiling face that will greet you whenever you meet a local. And they are very hospitable too. We were served with a sumptuous meal from the freshest catch. It was my first time to eat deep sea shells like “budyong”. We ate a feast but we still have take-homes left. And for dessert, we had the sweetest “atis” grown in the island.
When I brought my friends from Iloilo to tour Sagay Marine Reserve, I didn’t know what to expect since it was my first time too. But I know they wouldn’t be disappointed since they love the sea and adventure. What we discovered were what most of us took for granted – to find simple pleasures in our daily lives. To be like children who find happiness in watching the rise and fall of the waves at sea. Like them, the people of Molocaboc remain happy despite their simple lifestyle because they don’t have the complications that modernity brings. They have kept their islands unspoiled and for their sake and our children’s future, let’s help them keep it that way.