Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sibulan River: A Film Review on Princess Mononoke and Madagascar 2

this is what's left of Sibulan River in 2011 during the rainy season.

The year was 2010

First you read this…
If you are in Davao City and if you love river adventure, well, you are not that far away from this exciting wet and wild outdoor adventure. Whitewater tubing is already in the Davao region and it gives you more than the river escapade you crave for. The Sibulan River in Darong, Sta. Cruz Davao del Sur is known for whitewater tubing and has been a favorite destination by water sports enthusiasts, local and foreign tourists through the years. Often visited during summer, the place surely makes people wet and wild. Even frequent Davao City tourists come and take a plunge in Sibulan since it is very close to Davao’s southern boundary.*

But even before the destination could establish a name this happens…
Sibulan hydroelectric power plant is a new 42.5MW run-of-the-river project located in Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur. It was officially inaugurated in September 2010. Estimated to have a cost of $130m, the project is 100% owned by Aboitiz Power.
Sibulan is billed as a Greenfield project and is capable of producing 212 million KWh a year. It aims to displace the fossil-fuel fired generation with clean and renewable energy in Mindanao region where the demand for power is critical.**

Then I go there in 2011 and see this…
This is one of the two plants that harness the power of The Sibulan River

The Sibulan version of the loch ness monster. This pipe line delivers the power of Sibulan River downstream. In the process, the pipe creates a whistling hissing sound as it were to mock the locals that the river is so near yet inaccessible.

And my point is…
This real life story of the Sibulan River has made the animated films Princess Mononoke and Madagascar (Escape 2 Africa) more relevant to me. When I first saw Mononoke, its message seemed to me as nothing but a tacky cliché to protect the environment. Madagascar, on the other hand, did just a bit better by flavoring the overused message with a little bit of comedy.

Both films revolve around the dichotomy between environmentalism and progress.

We have been made to believe that what we learn in school are good things. Schools portray the idea of progress as something not just inevitable but also necessary. This is the reason why the word, PROGRESS, as well as its handmaid, TECHNOLOGY, sounds beautiful to us. It is the same reason why I was inclined to take the side of the antagonist in the film Princess Mononoke. Why should we stop progress just for the sake of the superstitious kodamas and Shishi-gami. In the same line of reasoning many of us would commend Nana, the old woman in Madagascar 2, for championing progress and survival skills in the stagnant lives of the confused travellers. She was the only one who was able to use technology to ensure the tourists’ survival. When she figured out a way to dam the river and build a primitive civilization among the stranded New Yorkers, the watering hole below dried up and made life in the Serengeti very difficult. Yes, some animals starved and died one by one, but hey, we’re talking about the lives of humans trapped in the jungle! But how about we turn things around one second? Yes the tourists are starving and dying of thirst, but hey, we’re talking about the lives of the animals that originally live in the area being invaded by the travelling tourists. Quite a predicament, isn’t it?! I guess we'll just have to appeal to the idea that we are living in a Darwinian world—an idea that, once again, our schools have inculcated in us as a fact of life, as a universal law that only the fittest shall survive!

But you know what? There’s one thing that our schools seem to volunteer not to teach. And this is the fact that we are humans. We have the ability to judge, and the gift of free will. With the ability to judge between right and wrong or between good and bad, we can volunteer to either be the protector or the conqueror of the land. We could be ultra-selfish or go beyond addressing just our own needs and learn to foster the helpless plants and animals, which are passively falling prey to invasive human activity.  With good judgment we no longer ask the question ‘Why should we preserve the river for white water tubing when it can be utilized to power a city?!’ because we already know that the answer is as simple as ‘We want to preserve the river because we want it to be a river.’ If this were taught in school, we would see not only the glory behind the word conquest but also the violence.  And we might be able to stop and realize that progress is not the only key to eudaemonia (the good life). We can also achieve eudaemonia by living a simple life and coexisting with other animals and preserving the environment.

Fast forward to 2014 you read this…
Hedcor Sibulan, Inc. goes all-out in supporting its host communities’ advancement as it awards a total of P10.9 million accrued community share for the year 2013 to Davao del Sur.

The three-year old 42.5MW Sibulan hydropower plants in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur since its launch last 2010 had been a partner of choice to the communities. And this year the company posted an increase of 18% on community shares compared to 2012.
The local governments of Davao del Sur province and Sta. Cruz town received P3.4 million each. Barangay Sibulan and Barangay Darong received their shares including their annual general fund amounting to P1.4 million and over P700,000, respectively.
The indigenous people’s community of Bagobo-Tagabawa also got their shares with a total of P2.3 million.
“Since the coming of Hedcor in our place, we’ve experienced a lot of progress,” said Davao del Sur Provincial Governor Claude Bautista. ***

And this stretches my point further…
By now you should already know why the two environmentalism-themed movies used women as antagonists. 

Lady Eboshi of Princess Mononoke is a charismatic leader who treats those under her with dignity and respect. Her efforts to help the powerless are evident throughout the movie. She houses the sick lepers and tasks them with jobs of great importance. She frees brothel girls and gives them jobs.
Lady Eboshi with the head of the forest god and the falling kodamas.
Nana, is a fierce old lady that seems to be resistant to physical injury. In Escape 2 Africa, she showed leadership skills by pacifying the confused tourists and getting them to cooperate in building a civilization in the wilderness.

Nana giving a motivational speech to the stranded tourists...encouraging them to build a dam.

Both Nana and Lady Eboshi exhibit, tenderness and care towards other people. Their appearances also represent meekness and mildness. This is the reason why it is very difficult for us to hate their characters. 

And corporations that create a negative impact on the environment are aware of this weakness of the society. So they use corporate social responsibility to show their meek feminine side hoping that the society will be engrossed in the good figures and beautiful stories of progress peddled by the press, and eventually not notice the darker side of things. With the figures above, why would you hate Hedcor? What most people fail to notice, though, is that those are just figures. No one knows how accurate they are or who actually received those figures, because as it is, the society loves happy endings. Why should we investigate further when we already have a happy ending?! And that’s how our schools and the press are being used by big corporations. In the long run, after this rapport-building phase is through for Aboitiz, people will just talk about the Sibulan hydroelectric plant as a common household name. And nothing will be mentioned about how the local villagers were talked into accepting the money too big for them to refuse and too little for Hedcor to squander in order to surrender their pieces of land to give way to the loch ness monster that has trapped and hidden the power of the mighty Sibulan river. And in that time those villagers, bad as they are at handling money, will just realize that nothing has changed in their lives except that they have lost their land forever to Hedcor. And they will no longer question the agenda of Hedcor because by then, their consciousness will have been molded by the press and the LGU to take for granted that the hydroelectric plant is helping Mindanao. And just like that, the reduction of the once mighty Sibulan River to some sorry excuse for a stream will be forgiven, forgotten and accepted.

This is neither a cause nor a movement! This is just a sad real life story.

And just like Madagascar, this story has a sequel. And it is now happening at the foot of Mt Lanaya in Cebu.
concealed in the forests of Mt Lanaya, this mining facility is almost completed

dirt roads cut through the foothills of Mt Lanaya to give way to truckloads of heavy equipment for the construction of the mining facility
* link 1
** link 2
*** link 3


  1. so ano suggestion mo para maibsan ang power crisis sa mindanao. i kow that is not enough power pero thats a significant progress.its a clean power and not.using coal.kung wala.kang suggestion.then isulat mo blog mo sa bato para.di ka.gumagamit ng kuryente

    1. I cannot answer your question straightforwardly because it is beside the point. My suggestion, instead, is for you to read the post again. The gist of the message is to tell a reader to rid himself of emotions when reading a story. This way he'll be more vigilant and indifferent to flowery words. And this will keep the reader from getting brainwashed or trapped in the agenda of the story-teller. Furthermore, it is also important to rid yourself of emotions when reading posts like this, especially if you are on one side of the dichotomy. For instance, I gather you could be one of the officials of Hedcor or the government or maybe some of your relatives are. If you don't free your mind and your heart, reading this post will just hurt you...extremely hurt you. And this pain will prompt you to write empty and extraneous syllogisms such as 'isulat mo blog mo sa bato para di ka gumamit ng kuryente'. The post was not meant to solve any problem or crisis. It was intended to expose the other side of the inform the naive masses about how to more critically read press releases.
      Once again, free your mind and heart because by now I think your head is bursting with heat (literally)...which just proves my previous point, if you don't read this with an open mind and heart, you will get hurt...extremely hurt!

      But just for the heck of it, I'll answer your question. What is my suggestion to mitigate the power crisis of Mindanao?
      If there truly is a power crisis, my suggestion would be Sibulan hydroeletctric plant! Surprised?! Yes, because you were asking the wrong leading question. The more relevant question would probably be HOW? And I think you and I share the same sentiment as to how to carry out the project. We don't know specifically how to do it but for sure it should be fair and square to the people affected, and free from whitewash and corruption. If you take away their water, give them back some water not a tricycle showcase. If you tell the press to tell the whole country that Sibulan received PhP700,000 make sure that the town did receive that amount and not just the mayor!

  2. A sad chapter to a river. Wasted by avarice, á good PR coup d etat and naiveness. Mt. Lanaya is different. It does not give up without a fight and it is in Cebu!

    1. And I have already told a friend that I am not against the mining facility in Lanaya as much as I am with the Sibulan hydroelectric plant because the impact is not as large as that of Sibulan where a mighty river is made to disappear and the locals are deprived of water.

  3. Hi, po. may I ask if saan po yang hydroplant na yan, is it Hydro A or B? At saan po naa particular na nakalagay. Thanks po :)


YOU deserve a holiday!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...