Bridging Biaro (in englischer Sprache)

"The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand." ~ Carl Sagan


A remote island visit: 21-24 October 2016 After months of planning, studying and surveying, and even rescheduling, I had a chance to go to Biaro island, an island in the North Sulawesi sea and part of the Sitaro regency. It is located off the northern extremity of Sulawesi Island, North Sulawesi Province, Indonesia. Biaro is not a resort island. It's a small island of 6km wide and 8k population. It has limited electricity from 6pm to 2am in the morning, no bank (no ATM), no hotel and no police precinct.

This is about how we could see and map the differences found in this island as compared to the outer-world. Therefore it's about equality, to adjust and make inclusion to the people if they ever hindered from general knowledge the outer world may have. This is my personal experience.

An island visit in the remote part of eastern Indonesia

I happened to have a chance to go to Biaro island, an island in the Northern Sulawesi sea. Biaro island is a part of the Sitaro regency. Sitaro Islands Regency is located off the northern extremity of Sulawesi Island, North Sulawesi Province, Indonesia. Sitaro is short of "Siau-Tagulandang-Biaro". The names of the major islands. Biaro is perhaps a not too wellknown island to speak about. But this is a real island, a pretty remote island that can be appreciated for its pristine condition. It is a very rare chance for me to be able to visit such a remote island, which is about 60 miles (91km) away from the coastal of North Sulawesi.

I lived there, eaten their food, stayed with them for four nights from a 7-dayj ourney. My visit is basically related to food security, health issues, education, social life, energy conservation and how to sustain living at this remote island.

To reach the island I need to fly to Manado first since I am based in Surabaya which is about 1655 km away. Then take a boat ride to the island from Manado which is about three hours. There are ferry boats which are faster and fisherman boats which are slower.

This is about how to make a friendly approach to the people of the island which I didn't know before or don't have enough information of whom to meet in the island and whatever would happen to me when I got there.

The village that I stayed has 3000 population, the largest of five villages in the island. Electricity only available in the evening from 6pm to 2am, only one telecom provider, no bank (ATM), no hotels, no restos (not even a small one) and no police precinct. Fish are almost free to get and taken from the boat unfrozen. So the fish are really fresh from the sea and just taken few hours before. There are also chicken grown in the island and pigs. We eat typical fried bananas "goroho", cassavas like snacks. I believe some of those were brought from Manado. Basic vegetables like onions and garlics are scarcely found in the island.
And the island produce coconuts, nutmegs, cloves, and fisheries. Being in an island is so different than living in the city. Beaches are close by and reachable at a walking distance. The people in the island are assumed aware of the fear of climate change such as rising sea level and prolonged drought season at times. They say this year is better than last year  when they had five months of drought. I didn't experience any shortage of clean water during my visit.

Biaro is definitely not a resort island. It's not a tourist island. Very remote with limited access from Manado, Sulawesi (the mainland) than any other islands in the regency. The island of Biaro is the smallest from three major islands in the Sitaro regency. Money is less circulated since there is no ATM or any bank operating in the island and people could easily spent the cash they might have. In term of surviving I believe they have enough resources to sustain living. They have edible plants and enough protein such as fish, chicken, pigs and dogs. But not about health and education benefits that they might need to accomplish more. Two elementary schools avail in the village I stayed and one junior highschool. There is  a vocational school elsewhere and they need to go to another island to pursue for a senior highschool.
I went to the elementary school nearby. It's quite a commotion when I was in the school. This elementary school has only 46 students from grade 1 to 6. Later on, in one afternoon I went to a junior highschool close-by and brought some books for them. They have a regular reading program for 15 minutes before entering the class.

This is a festive island Isuppose when parties are held related to church services, funerals and weddings.
I believe that most people have concerns over climate crises and ecological matters over small islands such as Vanuatuor Tuvalu that had been showcased in a documentary. But this is a real island in Indonesia, a pretty remote island and can be appreciated for its pristine condition.

On technological capacity

They have solar powered lamps that will lit-up in the evening and put in major spots in the villages. I don't see wind powered blades to generate more electricity for public use. I am not sure which one is cheaper, the windmills or the solarpanels. LED lamps could be an alternative usage for lesser energy to power than other type of lamps. I can see telecom towers being used only by one telecom provider , none other so it has no competitive advantage for creating a better business climate. This telecom provider is a monopoly dominance for communication and internet data in the island. I am not sure it's a loss for a telecom provider to market in the island with 8k population. I haven't got a chance to visit the PLN (public electricutility company) unit since it's quite far to reach from my place and can only be visited using a small boat for about one to two-hour ride. Maybe in my next visit. I didn't recall any voltage instability during my visit. I don't really have much chance to check the installation.

On food security

The people in the island can sustain from the reserve they have with abundant fish at reach. However they should improve themselves, to capacitate on how to produce more results from the resources they already have such as coconut trees, nutmeg plants, cloves. The coconut husks are practically left behind and the nutmeg fruits are only taken for the  seeds. In other part of Indonesia, the nutmeg fruits are processed as delicacy. Vegetables like tomatoes, cassavas, sweet potatoes and more varieties aren't easily found and should be grown on the island as they love to eat greens. I think it's a blessing when they could actually sustain themselves without outside help.

There are seaweeds at the beaches but I am not sure if those were consumed or cultivated.

On health issue

I don't see any health officer during my visit, there is one person actually who resides in the village. They say one medical doctor from Lamanggo (the capital village) will visit this village regularly once a month. They have less health programs than oher regions have. No clinic or pharmacy than a local drug store that provides everyday's need.

Conclusion note

It had been an exhilarating experience for me to go to a such small island. Biaro is not a resort island, so this transcript is not an invitation related to travel-leisure activities. I would suggest that modernization should be put to a minimum to preserve the ecological environment and without much disturbing the current condition which I think it's better left as is.

I made this transcript hoping that people can take benefits from this visit and would like to learn more about this island and in comparison to their own knowledge and maritime expertise on some other islands.

Further I wish to get some response with regard to capacity building, of what we can learn from this particular island. To have more information on what we can do with the resources they may already have. How to bring more knowledge such as how to produce more from coconut trees, how to cultivate cloves and nutmegs and so on.

Comparison with other regions to bring equality so that they could process in an efficient and productive way. What methods are best in the process of energy conservation and to maximize use of the inner resources without additional or with minimum help from the outside since it would costly to bring goods to the island. All these to sustain living in the island by its own or with a minimum help.

I hope this transcript can bridge and connect the people from Biaro to the outer-world and they can have more chances to get enough information to build back their homes for a better future.

April 2020