Fleeing Sabah in a roofless boat
TAWI-TAWI, Philippines - The Philippine Navy and the Coast Guard have been helping move Filipino evacuees who are able to sail from various parts of Sabah to Taganak in Tawi-Tawi.
The Coast Guard's BRP Edsa Dos has been regularly bringing them to capital town Bongao.
But there are those who find their own way, renting small boats to sail from Sabah to Tawi-Tawi. Many of them do not go through the "processing" of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) anymore. They are not part of the statistics regularly released.
Carmela Fonbuena filed this report.
It has become an every day sight. Filipinos who settled in Sabah arrive here in Tawi-Tawi because of fears the crackdown on Filipinos will worsen.
Based in Sabah for 23 years now, Filipino Mulshidin Ismael and his family arrive in Bongao. They carry with them everything - clothes, television, DVD player, even livestock.
Armalyn Sayhan and her family were in the same boat. Originally from Siasi, Sulu, she's not sure what life awaits them there. But she's just happy they're safe now.
The travel from Kunak - a village near lahad datu - to Bongao took two days in this small boat without a roof.
They had to stop over some islands to hide from Philippine authorities for fear that they might be arrested.
"Baka Abu Sayyaf kayo. Problema 'yan," said boat owner Jalil Jaladil.
They were lucky to even get transportation. They met boat owner Jalil Jaladil. He sailed to Sabah to get his regular supply of gasoline, but he was told by Malaysian authorities he could not do that anymore.
Coming home without his supply, he agreed to make space for 26 adults and some children for 100 ringgit per head.
Government data show more than 3,000 have fled Sabah. But out of the 26 who arrived in the small boat, only 10 are here processed by social workers.
"Basta taga-dito diretso na sila sa bahay nila. Yung mga hindi taga-dito. yung ang mahabol namin," said social worker Sofia Mohammad.
It's probably too early to see the full impact of the Sabah standoff on communities here. But the stories of Armalyn and other like her show the need for government action.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler Tawi-Tawi. - Rappler.com