Vanishing Island

Parent Category: ROOT Category: Featured Story

Sandbar2.jpg (1 of 1)

Vanishing Island (Number 1 in the list in 5 Must-See Sandbars In PH in 2015 published in is merely the adopted contemporary popular monicker for this stretch of sandbar located at the north-western part of the Samal group of islands at the heart of Davao Gulf. Its official name is Sanipaan Shoal or referred to as Arboles Island in other older maps.

I came across two emerging traditions that may shed light to the naming of this sandbar as "Sanipaan".

Firstly, it was claimed that this Shoal used to be covered with lush "nipa" and other species of mangroves, thus, earning for it the name "Sanipaan". But, through time, due to lack of understanding and appreciation about the importance of this fragile ecosystem, the mangroves were harvested for fuel and other purposes... and eventually was practically banished from the shoal. From what I could remember, as a consequence of this abuse, all that was left in 1998 (when the Island Garden City of Samal became a city) was a sandbar and two juvenile mangrove hills standing. Sadly, what used to be a lush "Sanipaan" was reduced to a stretch of sandbar that emerges only during low tide, but "vanishes" during high tide. Thus, came about the monicker "Vanishing Island".

Secondly, early on in the course of my 16-year stint as City Administrator of the Island Garden City of Samal (IGaCoS), I eventually uncovered a sentimental and sacred indigenous Sama tradition claiming that the word "Sanipaan" was inspired by the Sama word "piagsapaan", which is claimed to mean "where an agreement ("sumpaan" in Tagalog) was forged and sealed with word of honor".

Inspired by the complementation of these two traditions, the local government of IGaCoS made a sentimental resolve in 1999 -- to re-claim what has been "vanishing" by launching the Project SSS (Save the Sanipaan Shoal).

Under the LGU's Project SSS, and in partnership with PBSP and the DENR, we worked on mostly sandy substrate, experimented on various species, and tried on various schemes to bring back the mangroves and revive the Sanipaan ecosystem.

And after more than two years of trials-and-error, we succeeded in establishing the "pagatpats" on some portions of the sandbar. A few years later, when the "pagatpats" have been stabilized, and have accumulated mud and other sediments that eventually developed into variations of substrates, other species of mangroves eventually thrived.

To date, thousands of mangroves of varied species are standing alive and stable on Sanipaan Shoal... and still counting. And their foliage have now become the habitat, breeding and nesting areas for several species of migratory birds.

Our partners from the academic and scientific community have confirmed that the Sanipaan Shoal is one of the richest ecosystems in the Island Garden City of Samal in terms of marine bio-diversity.

But, many things remain to be done for Sanipaan Shoal...

Thus, in re-living the essence of the indigenous truce ("piagsapaan") of our forebears, we call on women and men of goodwill to join us in re-claiming back from "vanishing" the old glory of Sanipaan.


-- jongales