SURIGAO DEL NORTE, CARAGA, PHILIPPINES – August 1, 2022, welcoming the first day of Heroes Month commemoration in the country, in a small island Barangay situated in the middle of the ocean between Siargao island and Dinagat island provinces, the fisherfolks and people of Halian Island community painted fishing boats to express what it means to be an everyday hero and to persistently thrive amidst gradual recovery seven months since super typhoon Odette’s impact and continuing daily adversities.
Initiated by art, media, and creative practitioners Karr Cotamora, Rish Degaños, Ralph Eya, Tonio Flores, local community organizer and leader Richmond Seladores, together with fisherfolks Ariel Cebo, Kent Navales, Robert Lanipa, and the active citizenry of Halian, the community-driven and artist-led event intended to contribute in the upliftment of the collective human spirit and people’s heroism as the driving force in the continuous transformation of communities and the country, putting foremost the hardwork and power of the people and laborers – the true daily heroes who bring everyday food to our tables.
“These people are our heroes of food security. Silang mga tao yung mga nasa bangka at nakapinta sa mga mismong bangka. Dahil ang tao ay ang komunidad, at ang komunidad ay ang mga tao. Ganito sa Halian. At yung mga salitang isinulat at ipininta namin na makikita sa bawat mga bangka, heto yung simpleng naglalarawan kung sino ba kami bilang mga tao at paano namumuhay dito.” Seladores said.
“Tulad nung ahon, mga tao at salitang nagbibigay pag-asa pagkatapos ng sakuna.” He emphasized.
As for fisherfolk Wowie Batican, the illustrations and words are simply their statement of daily truths as people. He stated “Yung mga ipinintang mga tao at salita ay kung ano kami dito. Mahalaga yung mga salitang yun dahil yun ang nagagamit sa pagbabago nating mga tao. At experience namin yun.”
He explained “Simbolo ito ng pagiging atin eh. Simbolo ng pagkahiusa (pagkakaisa) nating mga tao na nakikita sa simpleng pag-aahon ng bangka, kung may bangka ka, tutulong ka rin sa bangka ng iba.”
Robert Lanipa further described the experience saying “Tinuod lagi (totoo palagi) dito. Tunay ang mga tao dito. Tulad ngayon, kaharap ko kayo, totoo ito. Tulad nung pagpinta sa mga bangka, may mga drinawing kaming tao, isda, pawikan, atbp., alam naming tunay yun para sa mga mangingisda at yung mga bangka ay para rin naman talaga sa aming mga mangingisda.”
“At siyempre, nagpipinta tayo kasi masaya. Para maipakitang tunay na nagkakaisa” He concluded.
As part of ongoing recovery, aside from the existing support for the basic needs like food, shelter, health, education, etc., the community, through their own means, are still constructing new fishing boats which replaces the boats they used to have that was all destroyed by the super typhoon. These fishing boats allow the community to continue and sustain their fishing occupation as their main source of livelihood.
“Labor, transport of building supplies, resources, overall expenses of the boat construction, then the actual fishing labor that comes after that. May market distribution pa, tapos meron pang inflation ngayon. At pag nakarating na sa hapag yan, kakainin na lang ng iba. While this project honors what it means to be a survivor and to be an everyday living hero without any fancy ritual and celebration, we need to recognize that this kind of hope exists because of acts of collectivity and tenacity of the people, and not just empty speeches. If the practice of inclusion and unity is true, why are we still left fending for ourselves? Paano ba nangyayari ang tunay na unity kung may iniiwan, naiiwan, at maiiwan pa rin? Eya said.
“There is much more work that still needs to be done in rebuilding a more just and more humane world. And we need to activate the role of art and creativity as an essential ingredient to that. We need to encounter art everyday just as much as how we encounter our fellow people, our kapwa tao. When we create art, we continue to be reminded of who we really are. Especially now, to practice creativity every day is to also practice our everyday human right to cultural participation and representation.” He ended.
According to the team, Halian Island survived the onslaught of typhoon Odette with zero casualties and is now slowly becoming a potential model of a Small Island Economy on Post-Disaster Recovery through various initiatives of local leaders, community organizers, and its own citizens and network. The team behind the project hopes to pursue this commitment with the community and other climate-vulnerable coastal areas via the IsanDaang Isla creative community spaces program – an integrative and replicable process that involves sustainable farming for food security and creative placemaking through active civic participation, attempting environmental regeneration and promoting a culture of change for the people, from the people, and by the people.
The HALIAN HEROES Project is made possible with We are Common, the local residents of Brgy, Halian, FarmLab, and the generous support of different cultural leaders abroad and Davies Paints Philippines.
CONTACT Karr Cotamora +639176300238