Thursday, October 14, 2010
Beggars and boatmen
It’s thirteen pesos to cross to Guimaras from Ortiz Port. There’s been talk for years of building a bridge to the little island off Iloilo City, which would eliminate the need for the bangkas and simultaneously sound the death knell for the pretty island province. Guimaras, already threatened by the ugly wall of resorts thrown up at Alubihod Beach, would become, through ease of access, just another retreat island.
For now, Guimaras is protected by a slim expanse of water, a thin membrane easily breached by someone with political will and capital. But it hasn’t happened yet, and so thrives Ortiz, another of the country’s rustic slummy wharves with one short pier and dozens of ramshackle shanties.
But for all its decrepitude, the port provides a degree of livelihood to the many sailors and vendors accommodating beachgoers and cross-water commuters. A bridge would open up Guimaras, but close down the ticket office and the sari-saris and the eateries.
Ortiz is already at the mercy of the air and water: during rainy season the boats migrate to the nearby port at Parola, from which the stronger winds and currents don’t seriously hinder the boats’ passage.
It’s a fragile existence for the polemen and the panhandling street children and the food-sellers. The crumbling pier has certainly seen better days. One wonders if it will survive to see more.