I only watched the first episode of that silly TV show “Survivor” because Richard Hatch was a contestant. He lived not far away from us in Middletown, RI. It was filmed on Tiga Island, off the north west Borneo Coast. He went on to win the show and the million dollar prize. But not paying income tax on his winning landed him in court. Hatch was to find BSing on a TV show is quite different from trying to BS a real judge. Off to jail he went for a new survivor adventure.
We stopped at Tiga Island. In Malay and Indonesian, “tiga” means the number 3. Locally, the island has more recently been referred to as “Survivor Island”. In reality, Tiga Island is not very remote. The large city of Kota Kinabalu is less than 30 miles away and less than 10 miles away are a number of towns all with boats to run tourists out to Tiga for a day trip or a multi overnight stay.
All of Tiga Island is a national park. On the south side is a government operated hotel. A short walk along that south beach takes you to a commercially operated resort. While the “survivors” were dropped off by boat on the north shore to make it appear that this is a remote part of Borneo, 200 production crew stayed at the comfortable resort while additional Malay workers stayed in bungalows at the park facilities. It is about a 15 minute walk from the resort, north on a jungle trail to get to “survivor beach”.
Unless the producers had a special arrangement with the Park Service, it is punishable by heavy fine and jail time to destroy any trees or kill any animals. Hmmm “Survivor, Malay Prison” could be an interesting game….Even one practiced in survival skills might find it difficult to live off the land on Tiga Island. There are no indigenous coconut palms and only one seasonal fruit that grows on trees. Other than some small chameleon lizards, there are a few macaque monkeys and some birds living on land. Food gathering would be extremely difficult. We swam the coastal waters around Tiga; fish life is sparse. On shore there is no fresh surface water. One could possibly dig a well. For water, the production crew dug a pit in the jungle and lined it with plastic then carried in containers of fresh water to fill it. Apparently there was a map that if the Survivors could read it, they would find the water pit. During filming, the island was closed to tourists for 6 months. Police boats kept the curious and deep water fishermen out of filming view. After the filming of Survivor, a British filming crew showed up to do their Survivor series.
That was all just a hokey game show. The frightening thing, in an area on the east coast of Borneo and especially in the southern Philippines, just to the north of Borneo, a real life and death “survivor” takes place every day. There is no BS and the play is ruthless.
The attack we are familiar with came near 11:30 on the evening of 22 Sept 2015, two Canadian cruisers, a Philippina, and the best marina manager in the world, who is originally from Norway, were herded up the floating dock ramp as they were taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group (now formally members of IS) at the Holiday Ocean View Marina, on Samal Island near Davao City, the second largest city in the Philippines. All four are now being held for millions of dollars of ransom in the remote jungles of “Oriental province, a hotbed of Maoist and Islamic rebels.”
We had spent months tied to a dock at Holiday Ocean View Marina. It was always thought to be a very safe place. There is a young pistol toting guard at the head of the road leading into the marina and another armed guard near the docks. Other than keeping out a late night local crook, we never could really see much use for the guards. But then came the overwhelming force of bad guys toting weapons flooding onto the dock where Brick House was once tied…we had departed nearly a year before. Our American dock mate, and his Japanese wife, bravely fought off the bad guys but wound up at the local hospital to sew their head wounds together. Other friends defied the bad guys and were aided by their two wildly barking dogs so the bandits did not come onto their boat. The thieves were in a rush and took people they conveniently grabbed out of their bunks. This is a link to a report and security video of the abduction: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/canadians-abducted-philippines-1.3237997 . Although we have friends who are still at that marina, we have changed our mind and will not be returning to explore that area of the Philippines.
On the northern end of Borneo while Brick House was hauled out of the water in the city of Kudat, we met a women who just a year previous was released as a hostage in the south west Philippines. At the time we promised not to mention her name on the internet as once a paid ransom secures your release (nobody knows if one was actually paid), but if so, you become that much more valuable as a second time recycled hostage. The bad guys will troll the internet looking for people to capture or recapture. Kudat is only 70 miles to the south of the Philippines. Our Friend has long departed the area on her sailboat so now we can safely speak about her ordeal. But her74 year old cruising partner is still in Germany, much much older and very traumatized.
She and her cruising husband, both Germans, were quietly anchored in a bay south of Puerto Princessa in the southern Philippines, when one evening they were overwhelmed by a boat load of men wearing T-shirts with “Police” emblazoned across the chest. They were held for 6 months before the German government paid a 5 million dollar ransom. The bad guys traveled 300 miles to snag their captives then returned to their stronghold of Jolo Island in the south west Philippines. A German publisher has orchestrated a ghost writer to put Our friend’s account into a book, to be published this year. http://www.dw.com/en/german-hostages-freed-in-the-philippines/a-18002313
There is a B grade movie you can watch on iflix or maybe Netflix, called “Captive”. According to our new German friend, it is a very accurate representation. Our Friend commented that our captured Ocean View Marina friends in the Philippines are most likely experiencing the same thing she and her husband experienced, and the same thing that this movie depicts.
We are often asked about pirates. So far nothing has been stolen from our boat although we know others who have had big losses. So now we know people who have been hostages and people who still are. Hauling out in Kudat, Malaysia, on the north coast of Borneo, put us within striking distance of the bad guys from the south west Philippines. But in the harbor at Kudat is a military and Coast Guard outpost. The patrol boats go out often, at all hours of the day, so we felt somewhat safe there. Still, we felt much safer once Brick House had put a distance on and retraced our steps down the coast.
So now Brick House is in good sailing shape to continue on to Peninsular Malaysia then Thailand. But now I have a medical snag of needing a root canal. That will hold us up for several more weeks in the city of Kota Kinabalu. But since MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) endoscopies and other medical work cost about 1/3 as much as in the U.S. we will take the opportunity to treat our health as good as we treat Brick House before pressing on to areas where the natives come to us looking for medical supplies and treatment.