Article Written by Limuel F. Cipriano published in the “Balik-Sibale ’85” Souvenir Program
The Island: It’s Location and Basic Features
The beautiful and lovely island of Sibale is isolated, but strategic. It is a compact piece of teritory situated in the heart of the Philippine Archipelago, northwest off Tablas island. It is located 121Â°55′ latitude and 12Â°43′ longitude. It is bounded on the north by the Mindoro Pass; on the east by Banton Pass; and on the south by Tablas Strait.
The island has a total land area of 2,330 hectares. It’s terrain is generally mountainous and hilly with a very narrow plain along the shore. The island also exhibits a wide range of topography from the coastline, with its flat sandy areas to the rugged and rolling slopes of the hinterland. Sorrounded by water, the iland offers a thriving community of marine life and excellent coral-reef formation making Sibale a rich fishing ground. It has an excellent natural harbor wherein ships and other seagoing vessels can take refuge during stormy weather.
It has only a small number of brooks and streams with little run-off, thus during summer months these usually dry-up. Erosion is a perennial problem due to the continued denudation of mountain tops and forest reserves. This is due to indiscriminate logging and slsh and burn farming (kaingin).
The type of climate prevalent in the island follows a pattern roughly classified as under the fourth type. It is relatively dry during the months of January to April, and wet the rest of the year. Rainfall ranges from a minimum of 12.5 inches in May. The island is located along the typhoon belt and is always visited by tropical typhoons.
The island has only one type of soil, the Zamboanga clay loam, suitable for different agricultural crops. Based on the natural land capability of the island, only 8% of the total land area could be utilized for lowland crops and small area for forest reservations. Itss limited area is almost fully utilized. More than 90% of the total land is planted to coconut and is already multicropped with small patches of banan and vegetable plantations. Some of these areas are also utilized as grazing/pasture land for cattle and goat raising. Areas with a 0-3 slopes are currently utilized as settlement areas.
The people of Sibale is predominantly rural on account of its isolation from the economic activities of the province. But what are they like?
They are God-fearing, adventurous, friendly, hospitable. gregarious, strong-willed and spirited. A legacy from their pioneering fathers who discovered this far-flung island, when it was still uninhabited and unexploited territory in the open seas.
Sibalenhons are of diverse and rare breed of people, Bantoanons, Simarenhons, Mindorenos and Batanguenos among others. More than 5,000 of them. Converging, Interacting, Growing, Sharing.
The local dialect spoken is the “Asi” a combination of Cebuano, Waray and Bicolano. The Sibalenhons speak the same tongue with that of Banton, Simara and Odiongan but with an accent different from those others mentioned. The accent of the spoken language depicts the Sibalenhons aspiring and daring characteristics. There are some Spanish words employed, owing maybe to the long stay in the place thus influencing their way of life and even language.
Roman Catholic, Iglesia ni Cristo and the Seventh Day Adventists are the religious denomination that has gained foothold in Sibale.
The island of Sibale clearly exhibits a typical agricultural economy. Out of the total land area of 2,330 hectares practically 91.5% is covered by coconut plantation. Out of the total employed, 1,066 roughly 84% are engaged in agriculture. Hence, the people’s livelihood is totally dependent on the coconut industry, particularly copra making. While coconut and copra production is the life-blood of the people, this sector is very unstable and vulnerable to masive destruction by typhoons. The people have to engage in other economic activities to avoid financial dislocation.
The economic growth of the municipality is greatly inhibited by the lack of infrastructures, social services, and institutional support. The production sector is limited only to the agricultural sector. However, the production level is very low almost bordering on the subsistence level. Potential industries like cottage industry, fishing and manufacturing have to be tapped to give greater employment opportunities and income for the people.
Throughout the ages, farming has been the traditional occupation to most Sibalenhons. To them, working in the soil is part of their everyday life. Under the punishing heat of the sun, they wage back-breaking labor on the limited land area which is usually mountainous, barren, rugged and rainfed. Out of this endeavor, they were able to raise variety of crops like rice, corn, tobacco, cassava, camote and other rootcrops.
Today, agriculture is facing a bleak prospect of declining productivity. This has something to do with the continued soil erosion and forest denudation. The soil is alsmost exhausted that production level is dismally low. Despite the submarginal production Sibalenhons are left with no choice but to plant and plant.
Sibale has an irregular coastline and with rich fishing grounds. Strategically located, its sorrounding water is the spawning area for tunas and other pelagic species. Unfortunately, there are no commercial fishermen in the island. Fishing is done only for family consumption. As a result, most Sibalenhons are deprived of the much needed protein requirement.
The common type of fishing gears being used are the net and tackle, and hook and line. It is ironic that Sibalenhons experience shortage of fish supply when the sorrounding water is teeming with variety of fish and other marine life.
Commerce and Industry:
Sibale is link to, and dependent on, Pinamalayan (Oriental Mindoro) and Lucena City for the exchange of goods. Copra, cattle, poultry and other farm products are brought to this trading centers in exchange for essential goods (rice, cooking oil, clothes, etc.).
Being an island municipality with a very limited land area, Sibale is faced with the problem of how to provide for its future generation.
Like any other developing municipality, it is beset by the problems of low income level. This is exemplified by the generally low quality of life present in the municipality. There exists the substandard housing facilities, high mortality and morbidity rates, lack of educational facilities. Comparative analysis of the municipalit’s land-labor productivity with provincial standard showed that level of production in the municipality is below par. This is attributed to the fact that only coconut and small scale livestock production served as the main income source of the people. This situation is further aggravated because of its isolation from the general activities within the province. The slow growth of the social and economic sectors of the municipality is the consequence of the slow delivery of essential social and economic assistance.
Although there are enough dwelling units in the island, it is mostly made of light and indigenous materials such as bamboo, cogon and nipa. Only a few can manage to construct housing units of concrete materials.
The existing problem in housing lies in the inadequacy of essential facilities like potable water supply, power and sanitary facilities. Presently, only 30% has tap water for their water supply. Majority of the people rely on the use of pitcher pumps and artesian wells for their water supply. Concerning sanitation, 45% of the household have water sealed-toilet facilities, 35% use the open pit and the other 18% have none at all.
Educational facilities are just enough for the academic training of the students. But the present situation calls for more manpower and skills training. The absence of vocational skills training program would hamper the growth of non-agro industries. Vocational training is a prerequisite to ensure the steady supply of skilled labor into the new industries. The upliftment of the general condition of the island depend much on the academic and vocational training of the youth.
At present, there are two high schools, the Sibale Academy and the Concepcion National High School, five complete elementary and two primary schools distributed among the barangays.
Sibale has no facilities giving its youth college education. Students usually go to Mindoro and Manila to pursue their education. Due to financial incapability, only a small number of high school graduates can afford to pursue a college education.
Present areas being utilized as recreation and open space are adequate. At present there are nine basketball courts, a town plaza and a number of playgrounds and picnic areas for recreation.
Provincial roads in the municipality totalled 10,424 kilometers, and municipal and barangay roads totalled 19.6 kilometers. There are only three barangays in the municipality that are linked together by the provincial road, Bachawan, San Pedro and San Vicente.
Motorized land transportation vehicle in the island is practically non-existent. Majority of the population go about their daily routine on foot. A small number use bicycle and horses as their mode of transportation.
The water transport system between Sibale and the rest of the province is very irregular. Although there are regular trips to and from Pinamalayan every day, there exist no regular trips between Sibale and Romblon or mainland Tablas. This results in slow delivery of essential services, such as technical assistance and the much needed medical and other social services of the government.
Sibale is a fifth class municipality composed of nine barangays namely; Poblacion, San Vicente, Dalajican, Masadya Masudsud, Bachawan, Sampong, Calabasahan and San Pedro. Poblacion is the seat of municpal government and center of economic and political activity.
Supporting the Office of the Mayor for the development of the barangays is the Barangay Brigade Program. Upon them rest the dynamic tadk of making Sibale progressive and developed. This program is a joint undertaking of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and the Ministry of Human Settlement ehose primary objective is the maintenance of peace and order and the delivery of social services within the framework of volunteerism. Composing the program are four brigades: Disaster, Tanod, Volunteer and Women’s Auxilliary Brigade. Working hand in hand with the local government of the municipality are the respective representatives of the National Agencies.