TWO PRETTY PASSENGERS finally reached their destination aboard M/V Fuederez Arca, one halcyon summer- an eon ago. Believed to be city students taking their break, the girls asked to be ferried not ashore the scarcely populated beach line of Northwestern Bacuit, but to a rocky atoll with practically no man-made shelter at all- KABIGSING.

Tale or truth, questions of unbelief could immediately crop up on one’s stirred imaginations as to what form of human beings were the two pretty ladies; and what would they do at the uninhabited islets. Or what really was there at Kabigsing?

Yes, that maybe was almost an eon ago if one would, at the equilibrium of change, set the balance and see how time flew away so fast. And the tale that was almost curbed to be passed on, if at all, to the new generation, established a rather more outstretched barrier that defined Kabigsing’s folkloric past versus its forgotten now.

Physically, Kabigsing portrays a kind of perfect innocence and naivetté until the same was defiled by the onslaught of migration and development. She used to recline upon the emerald green waters undisturbed by ruthless human intervention as in the case of cyanide fishing that kills not only the butterfly fishes but directly poses extinction to a natural habitat; She used to sleep with her serene environment unadorned by the artificial glow of evening light; unharmed by the hasty excavations and drillings effected by industrialization. Likened to a shy daughter of the towering limestone cliff at the background, she owns to herself a string of simple yet touching memories long before Bacuit became EL Nido, and long before El Nido came to be known as a world class tourist destination.

Now, what was left of Kabigsing after half a century ago? Wasn’t it raveged by time and utilization? Or was it just forgotten in lieu of better developed islands, islets and beaches- with all their imposition and lucrative promises?

Half a century ago, the well exposed atoll of Kabigsing at low tide served as homage to clannish picnics or rendezvous of sort, venue for outdoor get-together parties, or shelter to fishers trapped in a storm, or just a common place for everyone to unwind while sitting along the sandy perimeter of kabigsing, or waiting till the sun goes down.

Surrounding her pristine majesty are a diversified species of marine life converging to share the colorful biotech community; freer to expose more of themselves at the tidal reef when the receding water is at its lowest level; or allow themselves to be gathered by the shell-fishing folks for one native dinner course.

Remember the cerragras(ranga-ranga) sprawled in reef crevices; the rock crabs (saguyawan), the reef crabs (dawat), and the clamps of various sizes plus cone shells on different colors? Have you watched the sea urchins (tirik, apungan, tayong) hiding from beneath the thicket of sargassums (kulapo); the shrimp fish (mamba) on holes; the various sea cucumber (balat, batunan, bitot); or the cluster of seaweeds (lato, paket-paket, agar- agar) and the sea grasses (baryaw- baryaw) where siganids (samaral) or both the pelagic and demersal species share that extensive cohabitation with sessile genera? Or have you gone down to the northern slope in an old way of frog dive? That was a nesting ground for a species of squid (baybayanin) and the lobsters (banagan).

Kabigsing crags flourished with forest tress that formed the karst greenery, complemented by the coastal flora below. The hillock composed of limestone and sand was a paradise to the birds of the air such as the wild doves (balud), the hornbill, and the reef egret; and sanctuary to the creepers of the land. It was alleged that a phyton as big as an adult male thigh and about five meters long was spotted in the area, one time when a group set a bonfire to pass the night away. Tale or truth combined isn’t at all magnetic that even boys would tempted to trail the rocky circular coast; throw a line with which catch half breaks (baritos) or pull the seine for the mullets (gusaw) or slipmouths (sapsap).

At the foreground, some viewing distance from Kabigsing, there was an old port where young boys dive and splash freely and gaily. From the base of the port off to the point that paves the seaway to the Southern Coast, only three houses were built almost equally distant, almost dormantly peaceful. From the base, Kabigsing’s beautiful perspective reflects in the clearest bay water in May. Cool indeed!

Now the port may have been rehabilitated to facilitate loading and unloading of freights, but it cannot be denied that with the presence of the three storey building constructed for the Philippine Ports Authority; the widened port area, and a few more commercial structures, the panorama has been literally obliterated. Beyond the tidal reef across toward the majestic limestone cliff where houses cluster like rolling down from great towering steep wall, the idyll was diminished to the melodramatic artpiece in passé.

Yes, there were two pretty unfamiliar ladies who may still be living at Kabigsing’s other plane, beyond the visibility line of humans; and there was also a boy who was aware of all these – and in the passing of time, the boy who has already grown white hair and wrinkles; and a less steadier feet to tread upon sands and rock of Kabigsing, yet, still nurturing the old passion for natural beauty of his hometown – El Nido…  …at least, lonesome Kabigsing remains to be – KABIGSING!  [Sir Bong Sabenacio, LGU]