Cobrador Island takes shot at tourism

Cobrador Island takes shot at tourism
Tucked away in the island village of Cobrador in Romblon province is Tinagong Dagat, a pool of saltwater surrounded by rocks.

How Cobrador Island in Romblon province got its name wasn't clear, but the villagers wouldn't mind the question often asked of them. "No, there is no jueteng here," they would answer.

Although it sounds the same as kubrador, the Filipino term for a bet collector, gambling, in fact, is one of the activities prohibited on the island.

Other so-called "fun" activities, such as drinking and playing loud music, are allowed only until 10pm while minors are allowed to stay outdoors only until 7pm as part of measures to maintain peace and order in the community.

"I was just like eight (years old) when people started calling the island Cobrador, but its old name was Naguso," said Cobrador village chief, Raul Mortel, 47. Naguso is Romblomanon word for corals.

Cobrador, with a population of 983, is a little-known island village of the town of Romblon. From mainland Romblon, traveling by a motorboat takes 25 to 45 minutes, depending on how calm or rough the sea is.

But indeed, this 300-hectare island, surrounded by glass-clear waters, is home to an array of corals and marine resources. On one side, in Sitio Cabugaan, is a stretch of white sand beaches, and on the other, walls of rock formations.

Cobrador also remains the primary source of black marble slabs, a popular product of the province.

Today, the island is far from what it used to be.

Environment protection

"Before, our beaches were dirty; you'd step on human faeces when you walked around," Mortel said in Filipino.

But since 2007, when Mortel was elected village chief, environmental protection has become the village officials' agenda.

Now, garbage segregation and recycling are enforced and the majority of the households have their own toilets.

Cyanide fishing is banned and the village keeps a hectare of marine sanctuary.

"It was hard at first to introduce regulations, like the curfews, but people eventually understood its purpose," Mortel said.

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