Sunday, June 24, 2012

THOUGHTS FROM A TAGALOG-SPEAKING BANTOANON


By Epi Fabonan III

At the turn of the millenium, we saw the birth and rise of social media, the new, online means of communication worldwide. We all became part of Friendster’s rise and fall from 2003 to 2009; of Facebook’s growth beginning 2008. Now, Filipinos enjoy a huge presence in the world of social media, with 19 million Facebook users and 2 millions Twitter users respectively, according to a 2010 report.

As a Bantoanon who grew up in Cavite, social media was an opportunity to get to know my roots better. I think I owe it to my ancestors that I get to know the place where they grew up and the way of life they lived which led to my own existence today. Thus, I began writing this blog and networked with prominent Bantoanons in Friendster and Facebook, including Ish Fabicon, Lyndon and Von Fadri, and members of the Fadrilan clan. I also began joining a number of Facebook groups such as the Official Banton FB group, the Asi Studies Centerfor Culture and the Arts (ASCCA) group, Proud Bantoanon FB group, Banton Island Paradise, Istoryahang ASI, and more recently, the Fadri Foundation and 400Years Movement.

That’s a lot of Facebook groups, all bragging and peddling their own version of Banton and the Asi “spirit”. Obviously, all of them spoke in the same language—a dialect that is all too foreign for me despite living in the same house with native speakers. While I did try learning the dialect through my occassional visits to the island and through relatives, practice makes perfect—something I lacked due to my line of work and upbringing. Thus, every time I try to participate in discussions in these groups, I feel left out for I know I am speaking in a language which these people find “intimidating”—Filipino. And when I try to speak in the dialect, I can’t help but feel insecure thinking they might laugh or even scold me for being grammatically or syntatically incorrect. And somehow, these fears of mine are nonetheless confirmed as seen in my lack of following in these groups as compared to other Bantoanon users who spoke in the dialect.

Are Bantoanons really this discriminating? If not, then why do I feel like a mudblood inside Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Am I less Bantoanon just because I did not grew up and spoke the language of the island?

As much as I don’t want to make hasty conclusions, all other observations point to one thing—Bantoanon society is as fragmented as clay jar that’s smashed into hundred bits and pieces. Even before the dawn of the Internet, our people have been divided between lines of blood and lineage through these so-called clans. The island has plenty of these clans, which may have existed even before Governor Claveria even gave them names such as Fadrilan, Festin, Fabicon, Fabregas, Fabella, Faderanga, Ferrera, Fadri, Faigao, Musico, and the likes.

Each of these clans boasts a claim to fame, either by holding government office or vast amounts of wealth. And in the world of social media, these claims to fame are set in a much different playing field—the ability to turn public opinion in their favor. Hence the sudden abundance of Facebook groups and accounts: each offering their own version of Banton and the Asi “spirit”; each trying to prove to everyone that they are the real Bantoanon worth emulating by today’s generation and by generations to come. As if being a Bantoanon can be deduced to posting pictures, crafting T-shirt designs, or setting up a charitable foundation.

But when you think about it, where are these people anyway? Are they in Banton right now? For all I know, these people are part of the Bantoanon diaspora here in Southern Luzon and abroad. Why? Because they can’t even stay and make a living in the island they are “proud” kuno to call home. They may have big, concrete houses in banwa, but their homes are out here in the metros of the Philippines and other countries. Isn’t that embarrassing when (come to think of it) there are Bantoanons who survived without even having stepped foot outside of their beloved rock?

Don’t get me wrong people. I appreciate these efforts to make the island known to the rest of the world and the Bantoanon diaspora. But if you’re going to do it to serve and glorify the name of your clan or yourself, then your acts don’t merit my respect. As a Bantoanon trying to know my roots better, how I wish you could help accept my roots even more by being more inclusive than discriminatory. Speaking in a language that’s as complex as calculus won’t effectively make Tagalog-speaking or English-speaking Bantoanons learn and appreciate their roots. They’ll only go back to Banton to attend obligatory reunions, do photoshoots, and go skinny-dipping in Macat-ang or Tabonan.

Pursuing your own interest of promoting Bantoanon doesn’t help either; it’s just making Bantoanons’ clannish way of thinking more evident. Instead, why don’t we use social media as a tool to consolidate all our actions into just one solid movement? Let’s not be crabs trying to pull each others’ leg. Let us not look at each other in terms of clan, language, or birth, but in terms of genuine love and desire to be Bantoanon in heart, mind, and spirit. In that way, we could all reverse the conditions that forced us to go on an exodus from our island and leave our home in such a poor condition.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

[Biography] The Life and Times of Pating Fadrilan

Epifanio & Julia Fadrilan | Photo by author
They say that we only get to truly know and value a person once s/he is gone.

Before he died, I tried to get to know more about my grandfather, Epifanio F. Fadrilan Sr. Not just because he was my grandfather and namesake, but because I admire the way he raised such a big and successful family -- a feat which I would like to emulate and draw inspiration from. Researching the stuff which led to this post is a difficult task since my sources are scattered across Southern Luzon and abroad, but it’s a pretty comprehensive biography of our family patriarch, so here it is:

Born in Banton (then Jones), Romblon on January 23, 1927, Epifanio Sr was the only child of Rufino Fadrilan and Julia Flores, and the eldest grandson of Cornelio Fadrilan and Tomasa Fetalino. His father had died before he was born, and thus, was raised only by his mother. He took his early studies at Jones Elementary School (now Banton Elementary School). There was no public high school in Banton yet at that time, so his parents sent him to his uncles at Nicanor Padilla Street in Manila to study at Victorino Mapa High School. His high school studies were cut short when World War II broke out and destroyed much of the city.

He continued his high school studies after the war and took up additional courses in typing and stenography, skills which he used to work for the US forces in Manila. After finishing high school, he was assigned to work for the US forces in Olongapo City, but refused to accept due to the distance and unfamiliarity of the place. It was at this time that he met Filipino-Chinese businessman Zoilo Uy who offered him a job as hand help at his store in Odiongan, Romblon. Accepting the proposal, he relocated back to his home province. After sometime of working for Uy, he decided to pursue a better paying job as a clerk for Dean Filomeno Guerra at Romblon College (now Romblon State University). While working, he began pursuing a short course that would enable him to become an elementary teacher (Elementary Teacher Course).

In 1952, after acquiring his certification as an elementary teacher, Epifanio (known affectionately to his friends as Pating), returned to his hometown Banton and was accepted as a teacher at the Banton Elementary School. It was during this time that he met the beautiful, 18-year old, 2nd year student at Banton High School, Julia Fetalcorin. Immediately smitten by the tall, mestiza Julia, he courted her by sending fresh food at her house, which included ibis (anchovies) and sihi (sea snails) inside coconut shells. He also did chores for Julia’s father and even serenaded her once. Wooed by the small, yet dashing Pating, the two got married in 1955. The couple made a home at the land he inherited from his father along Generoso Fonte Street (beside the house of Visitacion “Vising” Fonte-Musico) in Barangay Poblacion. In a span of 17 years, the couple had 8 children: Bayani (b. 1956), Cynthia (b. 1958), Dante (b. 1961 died during his teens), Epifanio Jr. (called Jun/Boy, b. 1963), Adonis (b. 1965), Josephine (b. 1970) and the twins, Nicholas and Gloria (b. 1973, Gloria died after birth).

While raising his family, Pating continued to be a trailblazer at his work at the Banton Elementary School. Each summer, he would take up a semester of Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at the National Teachers College in Manila which enabled him to become a regular faculty at BES. His wife Julie followed his footsteps at NTC, eventually taking up the same course in Elementary Education which she finished in 1969. The following year, Pating was transferred to nearby Simira Island to become teacher at Gobon Elementary School. Julie would follow her to Simira soon after, leaving the children to the care of Dionisia Fadriquela, Julie’s mother. The couple returned to Banton two years later, with Pating becoming head teacher at Nasunogan Elementary School. He facilitated the transfer of this school from the hills to the lowlands to make it more accessible to the village folk. After Nasunogan, he was assigned teacher-in-charge at the newly-created Tungonan Barangay High School (now Tungonan National High School). It was through his experience as teacher-in-charge that Pating realized he needed to pursue additional studies in order to be promoted principal and be able to provide more for his now large family.

In 1982, Pating took a sabbatical leave from teaching to pursue graduate studies in Non-Formal Education under a scholarship grant by the Philippine Normal College in Manila. He completed the course in a year and half. After his graduation, he was immediately appointed back to Simara to become assistant principal at the Mabini Barangay High School (now Mabini National High School). He fulfilled his duties in Simara until 1986, when the Division Superintendent for the Province of Romblon appointed him Division Supervisor in Non-Formal Education for the whole province. As Division Supervisor, he oversaw the organization of non-formal classes in various livelihood and trades, including agriculture, dressmaking, food processing, and cosmetology. These courses enabled young people in the province to acquire skills which became potential sources of livelihood for them. Pating Fadrilan performed such duty to his province until his retirement in 1991.

A political career welcomed Pating upon his return and retirement in Banton. He joined the Liberal Party and ran for Municipal Mayor in 1992 and Vice Mayor in 1995. While he lost in both attempts, Pating remained an active member of the Bantoanon community and grandfather to his grandchildren. He also saw the marriage of two of his youngest children, Josephine in 1996 and Nicholas in 2002. However, old age and sickness took a toll on Pating’s health. He succumbed to recurring asthma beginning in 1998, a disease he would battle with up to his death.

On June 3, 2007, while staying at the residence of his eldest son, Bayani, in Lipa, Batangas, the 80-year old Epifanio Fadrilan Sr. had a severe asthma attack (which led to a cardiac arrest) after hearing mass at the city cathedral with his wife Julia. He died while being rushed to the hospital. His wake in Lipa City and burial in Banton, Romblon was attended by his extended family, members of the Fadrilan clan, his former co-workers, and prominent members of Bantoanon society. He is survived by his wife, 6 children, and 15 grandchildren.

My grandfather died at the same time I began my teaching career. I felt it was good timing, as if he died passing his name and his duty as teacher to me. I want to remember him and the life he endured the best way possible (even suggesting that the Banton Elementary School library be named after him). But I guess no pedestal or edifice would suffice to describe how he served his family and hometown. So here I am writing this blog post for the future generations of Bantoanons to see and telling them that the best life to live is a life consecrated towards a purpose higher than man itself.

Pating Fadrilan: Noble Father, Celebrated Teacher, a Proud Bantoanon!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

[Possibilities @ Banton] Tambak Beach


Perhaps all Bantoanon could agree that aside from the people, Banton's irresistable charms lies in its natural beauty. And by natural beauty, we mean its beaches, crystal clear waters, enchanting caves, mystical coves and breath-taking views. Hence, we believe that our island has a lot of tourist potential if given the ample attention and resources for development.

One of the places in Banton which captivated me a lot is Tambak Beach in Barangay Banice. The first and only time I've been to this side of the island was in 2010. This quaint, solitary beach is located in a cove surrounded by tall rocky hills on three sides. It is accessible from Barangay Poblacion by motorcycle through the newly-built concrete road.


Upon reaching the cove, me and my companion had a difficult time going down the beach. We didn't immediately see the concrete steps leading to the beach front and instead went through some thick foliage a few meters from where the steps are located until we reached the sands. I saw that there are two huts in the area for picnickers, and a small, non-working toilet in a landing near the concrete steps. 

We were at awe because the place was entirely deserted, except for the occasional motorcycles that pass by the road. The soft, powdery sand and its clear waters, whose colors shifted between turquoise and blue green (depending on the depth of the water) added to our amazement. We placed our things inside one of the hits and quickly hit the beach. As soon as my feet hit water, I could them sinking in the sand underneath. I reminded me of the mudpack beaches of Palau, featured in one of the Survivor series in the US. After an hour of wading in its cool waters, we headed back for shore for lunch. We wanted to take a rinse in toilet but were disappointed by the fact that its water tank contained no water.


After lunch, my companion and I made sand castles and drew figures with sticks. I noticed that there were some items which littered the beach, such as an old, torn life jacket, several packs of plastic junk food wrappers, a few shoes and rubber slippers missing its pair, and in some parts of the beach there were signs of a recent bonfire in two or three places. This saddened me and my companion a bit because if the beach had been cleaner, more people would've visited this place. While the isolation of this beach does make regular maintenance a challenge, it's no alibi for allowing such piece of paradise go to waste.

Tambak Beach is teeming with tourism potential as a beach resort which offers Scuba diving, snorkeling and other water activities. Given that our local government can attract local or foreign investors to the island, this may be a reality in a few years time. In fact, our neighboring Sibale Island is already ahead of us in terms of foreign investment. A Korean businessman has established the first dive resort in the municipality: the Maestro de Campo Dive Resort. If finding investors is given additional fervor, then we might have our own Amanpulo or Bellaroca in Banton Island in the near future, which will bring not only employment and revenue to the island, but also cement its new reputation as a tourist destination closer to the capital Manila.