ISLAND OF CASIAN
Taytay -- Quite effervescent ride with too many shaking, splashing sea waters on my face whilst under the scorching heat of the Sun, I managed to grab my camera to catch the view of the boat’s direction.
Islands left and right, passing through as to a gate from the movie Lord of the Ring, the cliffs and small cave on a rock, resembles a sight in Coron or El Nido, in the real or surreal cinematic taste.
We are heading northeast of Taytay Bay to the beautiful island called Casian.
It has a peak of 615 feet above sea level. The shoreline has not changed much after my last visit twenty years ago.
The colorful bancas of different sizes tightly anchored and tied at the local dock yard, or on trees and poles break the monotony of a slow but peaceful life of the local people of the island.
Domingo De la Pena has dropped the anchor, the engine was off. An hour and a half journey has ended. In front of us is the destination: the place and its stories. The back of the Church faces the sea and a huge Balete tree looms the left wing of God’s temple.
Casian island lies 11*01”03.83 N 119*44”15.69 E in the area of Taytay the first Class town of Palawan.
It has a population of about more than 5,000 people including those residing in the neighboring islands and barrios of Sabang, Debangan, Denit, Binatican, Silanga, Calabugtong and Depla. Casian is the new home of the three Augustinian Recollects of the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno since its acceptance as a mission territory in 2009 under the new Provincial Fr. Regino Bancaya, OAR.
Immediately after the election of the new Bishop of the Vicariate of Taytay Bp. Edgardo Junich, DD, he invited the Recollects to volunteer in the remote island with a growing Catholic faithful.
The preparation of both ocular and formal visit enabled the Church authorities and missionaries to discuss the handover of the mission to the recollects in a couple of years.
Fr. Efren Anez, OAR, Fr. Casimiro Sangwon Lee, OAR and Bro. Agustin Culaton, OAR who belong to the Order of Augustinian Recollects who responded to the Church call for missionaries in this island.
The origin of the name Casian, is away from the common yet hilarious connotations like “kasuyan” (cashew plantation) or “cashyan” (that’s cash).
According to Mr. Perpetuo Valdez and his wife, a resident of the island, when Casian was discovered in 1896 by Mariano Villagracia, Sr., the Tagbanuas the first inhabitants of the place who did not understand any single Spanish word were asked where were they going, answered by saying: “ka-siey-yan” (the place of siey –a local plant); a type of green grass with rounded stem that grows in lagoons found in lakes or lagoons of Casian. The island has three separate lagoons of about two to three hectares wide where the “siey” plant grows.
Perpetuo Valdez narrates: “Mariano Villagracia, Sr –a Governador Sillo based in Taytay used to visit Taytay by banca powered by oars called “gayong in Cuyuno dialect; the boat is driven by twenty five men from Cuyo island to Taytay.
He had several stop over; from Cuyo to Lubid island, to Debangan and Casian before proceeding to Taytay. During his frequent trips to Taytay, he then discovered several places in the area. And one was this island of Casian. When they disembarked in this place there were indigenous inhabitants called the Tagbanuas.”
Valdez retold that Casian was forested island with mostly Ipil and Bogo trees. One of those huge trees is still standing though already cropped up by Balete tree at this time just beside the Church.
This new mission place of the Recoletos is a newly established parish of San Isidro Labrador erected in 2009 by Bishop Edgardo Juanich, DD of the Vicariate of Taytay.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE MISSION IN CASIAN
Known for its fishing ground, red timber and agricultural products, Casian has already declined in its bounty and natural riches due to the heartless illegal fishing administered by a few local traders and residents of the island. It has affected greatly the small scale fisher folks who mostly depend on fishing as their livelihood.
The good number of Catholics who do not come regularly to Mass is yet another challenge. The sick call and other apostolate in celebrating the sacraments from island to island pose a one of a kind witnessing to religious calling. Changing seasons, rains and sometimes storm and huge waves are parts and parcel of the missionaries’ occupational hazards every single day.
CASIAN HAS A NEW PARISH PRIEST!
In May 2018, Fr. Dionision Selma, OAR Prior Provincial of St. Ezekiel Moreno Province assigned Fr. Louie Gabinete, OAR to the community of Casian as their new Parish Priest and Prior of the mission in Casian.
He was a former missionary to Sierra Leone West Africa for almost six interrupted years. He is now officially the new Prior and together with him are Fr. Cris Gaspar,OAR and Fr. Charlie Orobia, OAR as members of the mission in the island of Casian.
The missionaries do not have much. They don’t have electricity during the day. No fridge to store their food; no powered boat to ride on, no computer to encode their Chronicles, or letters, minimal telephone network, no printer whatsoever.
However they are rich in many ways. They enjoy much of the beauty of nature, Sun rise and Sun set, the changing tides, white beaches, the view of the forest, fresh fish, squids, lobster, clams, the perfect vantage point during full Moon, so much of the quiet and sometimes roaring waves at night, the sweet-smelling cool breeze, and lovely smiles emanating from tan faces of local inhabitants who are young and old and always teeming with hope. Casian is a hidden Garden of Eden.
A paradise to be protected, it is!