Les merveilles de Surigao … The Philippines.

Ce n’est pas le premier post que j’écris sur Surigao ou sur la Cloud 9 de Siargao. Mais aujourd’hui ce sont les élections de ce prochain mois de mai qui me font revenir sur cette province encore mal connue, même des surfers. 

Une petite poignée d’entre eux, bien que connaissant parfaitement l’endroit, se refusent toujours à en faire trop la publicité. Ceci afin que la foule ne vienne pas déranger leur petit paradis.

The village was still asleep when the group of candidates arrived by boat in Nonoc Island, one of this city’s barangays, around 7 a.m. one day in the first week of April.

Only a handful of people were waiting at the port of Nonoc, dubbed the “Nickel Capital” of the country in the early 70s and 80s.

Inside the barangay hall, the team’s hawker spoke into a microphone blaring at full volume. He asked Nonoc residents to come and listen to the program they had prepared.

When enough people were gathered, candidates were each given four minutes to speak, with the team’s mayoral candidate acting as their emcee. There were no intermission numbers, and before long, the team was done and hopping off to the next barangay.

This is how local candidates, the city’s opposition ticket, conducted their campaign to reach 21 of the 54 barangays of Surigao City, which is called “City of Island Adventures.”

Those 21 are island barangays, and the candidates have to set sail for each of those areas if they wanted approval from the estimated 11,000 voters living in those barangays.
For an entire week, from April 3 to 10, the opposition team gathered at the Surigao Boulevard Port as early as 5:30 a.m. for what they called their “beach campaign.”

Along with several supporters, they would leave the port at past 6 a.m. on board several motorboats decorated with tarpaulins and painted with the candidates’ names.

The team’s standardbearer is lawyer Alfonso S. Casurra former Surigao City mayor who is running for the same post under the local coalition party Kosug (Koalisyon nan mga Oposisyon nan Surigao or the Coalition of Oppositions in Surigao).

Kosug members during a night march (Vanessa L. Almeda)

“Twenty-one are island barangays that we will have to go and visit before we could start campaigning in the mainland,” Casurra said.

On April 3, the team kicked off its island sortie in Barangays San Jose, Manjagaw and Cagutsan, and ended exactly a week later on April 10 in barangays Tanawan and Catadman, said Edgar Canda, a candidate for councilor.

In some of these villages, houses are made of stilts and are surrounded by mangroves, or sometimes just the view of the endless blue sea.

Casurra said the island-sortie is quite “risky and expensive.”  The city’s island barangay’s are situated just a little over an hour away from the mainland but the uncertainty of travelling by boat is something that has to be considered as the weather could change in an instant.

Casurra said they spend P5,000 a day to rent a boat. “That’s aside from the fuel, plus there’s food and the people (who act as runners or volunteers).”

A smaller boat carries the advanced party composed of the candidates’ supporters, as well election paraphernalia like the sound system, pamphlets, tarpaulins and streamers.
“That’s why we had to make sure that we can finish early so we lessen our expense,” Casurra pointed out.

On the average, the group tries to cover as many as four barangays during the whole day island-hop which could last until 10 o’clock in the evening.

Majority of the candidates bring with them their own packed lunch and snacks, which are placed in food warmers and wrapped in used plastic wrappers.

“There are times we really go home late and food is scarce. It will be too bothersome for residents if we have to ask them for food,” he said.

Some village residents are pleased they could attract the candidates’ attention. In Barangay San Pedro, Manang Nena (not her real name) told VERA Files they’re happy that former mayor Casurra’s group visited them. (The administration candidates are still concentrating in the mainland barangays, organizers said.)

“Look, our houses don’t have their roofing since the typhoon hit us (typhoon Pablo). Some of our houses are already destroyed we can’t even repair it,” the old woman said.
A structure of what was supposed to be a stage for the barangay’s gym constructed during Casurra’s term was left unfinished.

Barangays San Pedro and Cantiasay and some parts of Nonoc Island are just three of the barangays in the city which still have no electricity.

The team’s own power generator was put to use. In other barangays, some local government units friendly to the opposition group assisted them in their needs, Canda said.

“It’s more fun in Surigao actually,” Vanessa Pecho, the youngest candidate at 23, vying for the city council post, said.


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