Sitangkai island is a jagged Kris-shaped island, a 2nd class municipality in the province of Tawi-Tawi, and it is the southernmost settlement of the Philippines. It is happily being dubbed in the Wikipedia as the "Venice of the Philippines":
"It is called. . . [as such] due to the use of boats as primary transportation, although footbridges connect one house from another" (Wikipedia)
"The major sources of livelihood are fishing and farming, although there is very sparse agricultural land available. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 30,514 people in 7,349 households." (Wikipedia)
Sitangkai is a place of choice of people who want to experience livelihood using the resources of the sea. Many immigrants from Sulu come to Sitangkai, and live in the Pondohan out in the sea, a throwing distance from Sabah, Malaysia.
Pondohan are settlements in the shallow part of the sea in the middle of the ocean. In these settlements, the people established their fishing and seaweed farming communities.
Because the majority of the people in Sitangkai come from the Sulu area, you can easily understand where the people living in each Pondohan came from.
There is a Pondohan called Suwang Pukol Tapul, Suwang Pukul Ubian, Suwang Pukul Luuk, then Siyantuk Talipao, Siyantuk Panamao, and Siyatuk Pasil, etc.
The very last island must be the Pondohan Bungin.
When you take out people in the Pondohan and put it back to Sitangkai, they would not have fit together in the small land area of Sitangkai island. They all have to remain standing.
Why stay in Pondohan?
People love to stay in the Pondohan because of the assurance of Peace and Order.
"Marayaw mag-usaha ha Sitangkai," Mr Alnajer Kalinggalan said. "Wayruun hiluhala."
Mr Alnajer Kalinggalan is a member of the Pondohan Suwang Pukul Tapul.
Mr Kalinggalan's family maintains out in the sea 1500 lines of seaweeds. That is equivalent to 15 hectares of sea space.
The industry had given his family P30,000 regular monthly income from dried seaweeds. Additionally he may get occasional income from buyers of live seaweeds as seedlings.
For more than a decade of his farming in Sitangkai, he is able to put his family to schools. And he is especially proud that he has bought three long guns when he is in Sitangkai.
"Di' kaw pag-addatan sin Kampung mu bang way kaw Sinapang," is the mindset of Mr Kalinggalan why he bought the guns.
Changing of mindsets
But few years ago, he sold all his guns. "Biyugit ku na katan in hinang ku karupangan. Nag-usaha na adja aku."
Why? Because he already felt secure long ago about the Tawi-Tawi's form of leadership, which is now being monopolized by the Sahali clan.
There are no more crimes committed now in Sitangkai, according to Sherma K. Uddin, also a seaweed farmer in Sitangkai.
"Bang awn magkapatay, magtuy asubuhun in kawman bang mayta piyatay. Pag-ingat taga dusa, way na bissarahun," Ms Uddin explained.
It is assumed that people get killed in Sitangkai because of their wrongdoings. They must have done something bad that's why they are killed.
But when the family want to avenge the death of one of their members, especially if the family is from Tapul, chimed in Mr Alnajer Kalinggalan, big problem would come about (because "Di' magparapat in Tau Tapul," he said). There would happen a fierce clan feud.
"In addat sin tau didtu, magturu-turu," said Mr Kalinggalan. They surely will come to an aid immediately when one of their alliance has problems.
When those feuds could not be settled by the Sitangkai mayor, it's when the Governor of Tawi-Tawi tries to intervene. But, he always make sure that both sides has already suffered casualties.
How war is settled in Tawi-Tawi
Mr Kalinggalan said, the first step is for the Governor to find for amicable settlement of both parties. And when both parties do not want that, the Governor will decide to purchase all their farming sites, then send them back home to Sulu or Basilan, wherever their point of origin. That's the second and final step of settling conflict in Tawi-Tawi.
If in case, both parties of the conflict agree to the peace settlement, then the Governor, himself, will shoulder the medical expense of the wounded. And if there should be "blood money" for the dead, he will pay for it.
The governor, according to Mr Kalinggalan, believes that Tawi-Tawi is a place for livelihood, not for war. If you want war, go back to your place and do your vendetta over there.
Stern warning and news of progress
The governor do not want the peace and order in Tawi-Tawi disturbed.
It is no wonder that the Tawi-Tawi had become developed faster than Sulu. According to Abdulpatta H. Isnaji, also a farmer in Sitangkai, the people in Tawi-Tawi is better equipped materially than their Sulu's counterparts.
He said: "In dayahan da ha Sug amura in manga ha politic. Ha Tawi-Tawi, dayahan in katan. Awn katan sasakatan dagat way humalga."
There are many water vehicles in Sitangkai and Tawi-Tawi than land vehicles.
Cebu Pacific has also already put up daily flights in Tawi-Tawi since 2011.
Sunstar has the following news in October 13, 2011:
"THE maiden flight of Cebu Pacific Air (CEB), the country's largest national flag carrier, for the Zamboanga-Tawi-Tawi route will take off early Friday from Zamboanga City.
"The maiden flight will depart from the Zamboanga International Airport (ZIA) at 6:25 a.m. and will arrive in the province of Tawi-Tawi via the Sanga-Sanga Airport in Bongao, the province' capital town, at 7:25 a.m.
"The regular daily flight from Tawi-Tawi is scheduled to depart at 7:55 a.m. and to arrive at 8:55 a.m. at ZIA.
" 'CEB offers the lowest fare between Zamboanga and Tawi-Tawi, its 50th destination. We are very optimistic about our Zamboanga operations, especially that this is our fourth route from this commercial center in Western Mindanao. We can see that the market for Cebu Pacific flights can really be stimulated by our trademark low fares,' said CEB Vice President for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog Thursday."
Philippine Airline, too, is having a daily regular flight to Tawi-Tawi.
The long and circumferential road in Bongao and most of Tawi-Tawi is now finished, too.
There is also mining industry in Tumbagaan island where many people had been given the opportunity for job.
Our wish for Sulu
Indeed, there is fast development going on in Tawi-Tawi. The Sulu Island is breathlessly keeping the pace behind.
As long as our people in Sulu would not change their schema to the positive ones, their collective bad dua' everyday will surely be answered by Allahu Taala.
I always say that my grandmother had told me, and I will have to say it again: "Tumtuma apu' ku, pagkamaya' kaw ha pagbissarahun, pasal in katan bissara Dua'!"
Why can't we wish something good for Sulu. Is it really that hard?
You get what you expect; you get what you believe in. It's the law of life.
The Pygmalion Effect
Let's learn from Pygmalion, a mythology figure, yes, but the "Pygmalion Effect" is now proven effective by Science. It makes individuals perform better when you have good expectation of them.
Pygmalion is a man who fell in love with his statue. He revered the statue like a real person, and presto! The statue was given life and became his wife at the end of the story.
That's the "pygmalion effect." and we can also do it. We should shed the opposite effect which is the "Golem Effect" from our collective schema.
Let us no longer expect for the worse. Instead let us think of everything good for Sulu and its people. We truly need all the great Dua' from each and everyone of us.
Let us love Sulu.