Hidden from the sprawling life of urban Cebu is Kinatarcan island – a four-hour ride from Cebu City plus a 20-minute boat ride from Daanbantayan wharf. It is home to a population of approximately nine thousand who rely mainly on fishing for their livelihood. It is located along Tanon Strait in the municipality of Sta.Fe, Bantayan Island. Its beaches are immaculate with fine sand that can rival those of famed Boracay. The waters are crystal clear and appear blue and green from afar – perfect for beach lovers and swimmers. Indeed, the island hosts great potential for tourism.
However underneath its beauty lie numerous travails borne out of violent forces of nature. The island was almost wiped out when typhoon Yolanda crossed its path. Ninety-five percent of the island’s infrastructures were leveled by strong winds and a storm surge. But despite the circumstances, there was not a single human casualty. Thanks to the local officials’ initiatives, the residents were able to seek shelter in higher grounds or in caves before the storm hit.
After the devastation, the Augustinian group led by Fr. Tito Soquino took charge in the rehabilitation of the island. The Augustinians have helped the residents get back to the way things were by utilizing an integrative and holistic approach. This approach addresses all aspects of the rehabilitation process. Moreover, it utilizes sustainable and earth-friendly initiatives. For one, it gave birth to the Balay-Bao or Turtlehouse Shelter Model – a disaster-resilient house designed to withstand strong typhoons, patterned from our indigenous bahay kubo (nipa hut). It was built for those residents who lost their houses and could not afford to build a new one.
The island has also begun benefiting from solar energy through the help of some non-government organizations. It was in May this year when Light Up Cebu (LUCE) was given the chance to contribute. Father Soquino’s headquarters in the island is now powered by a solar panel.
LUCE team also installed solar-powered lights in an old chapel so it could be converted into a study center. School children no longer have to worry about studying at night anymore. They now possess a higher chance at finishing school.
The solar panel is symbolic of hope for a brighter future. LUCE’s mantra has always been empowering individuals toward strengthening the nation. With empowered residents, Kinatarcan Island can be self-sufficient and self-reliant. Island communities need not to be reliant on the main island’s resources. They just need to be given the opportunities and resources to progress on their own. (By: Prof. Mydah F. Kabingue, JCI-Cebu member/LUCE coordinator)