I wake up as usual with the intriguing mix of cock singing, repeated from one side of the village to the other, and of the full-fledged music that accompanies the work of the yard alongside our bungalows, where they build the rocker boats typical of these lands and of these seas. Usually, this joyful symphony is joined by the barking of the dogs and the festive play of the children, but there is no real standard. Dogs and cocks can start their concert even at three o’ clock in the morning, or keep silent until the first lights. Sabang always surprises the traveler, both for the dazzling beauty of the places and for the way you are waken up in the morning.

I open the curtain, the sun is already high, I take my watch and check the time: it is 6.30 a.m. I get up looking for the phone to see if there are any news from our Filipino friends based in Cabayugan, some miles further south, along the road leading to Puerto Princesa. The power outlet is near the bathroom, but it is not there. How strange, I’m sure I put it on charge last night; you have to take advantage of the nights hours when the generator is working, during the day there is no current. I look for it on the small table next to the bed, amid the chaos of the speleo material. Nothing.

Since the room is little illuminated and my eyes do not shine in visual acuity, I start to have scurrilous thoughts while my research becomes more worried. I look for the waist pack with the documents that I always keep alongside the bed, but it also seems to have disappeared. I look under the bed, the case of the photo camera is empty…I look for my shorts, I do not find them either. Eventually I see them on Leo’s bed beside the phone case.

I’m alone in the bungalow, Leo yesterday climbed to the upper areas of the Mount St. Paul, looking for potential high entrances to the underground system of the Puerto Princesa Undergroudn River. Here in Sabang we have never locked our doors, there has never been a theft for so many years.

But I have to accept evidence: someone last night came into my room while I was sleeping, either from the door or the window, closed only by a mosquito net, to avoid overheating.

I rush to the reception, and denunciate what happened. After a few minutes Giorgio arrives, with the same news; but he is luckier, they have left him his passport...

Here in Sabang we are only five; besides the St. Paul group, we have a team at the Tagusan Fossil Cave, engaged in a photogrammetric survey and especially in the biological sampling and in the study of the large bat colonies living in the nearby Layag Cave. Three of us are working in the gallery of the 150 years. So the rooms are almost empty, we try to verify if something is missing in the other bungalows, but obviously it is not easy without our mates.

The police arrives from Sabang in a few dozen minutes. I answer all their questions, then I accompany them to the rooms involved in the night theft. Meanwhile the news began to spread, and we gather the sorry solidarity of the various authorities present. The police takes us to the local station, where our report is diligently handwritten on a large paper register.

We return to the Dab Dab resort, where shortly after arrives an investigative team sent directly from Puerto Princesa. Another series of questions and answers, then field investigation with fingerprint detection on doors and windows. Their colleagues from Sabang have touched everything without gloves, so it seems unlikely that this work can lead to some result. However, the investigators from Puerto do their best to find out something.

It seems they have already a suspect, known to the police for other similar events in the past: rather than thinking about the possible recovery of my property, at this point I worry about the safety of the suspect. I express my concern, but they guarantee that human rights are always respected, and that no violence will be used. I really hope that, I can’t think the safety of one person could be put at risk because of my report.

The drafting of the report takes many hours, and only after dinner I can finally sign the 10 copies that a fatigued policeman pass to me. For a normal tourist, they probably would not have involved so many people and so much resources, but here La Venta is carrying out an important and well-recognized cooperation project at institutional level. A burglary in the project manager’s room looks like a stain really difficult to accept. Something that alters the image of this place as a paradise from an environmental and human point of view. A sort of betrayal...

Before leaving, the policeman updates me on the investigation: the suspect is unreachable, since yesterday no one has seen him. However he tells me that in the past days they has seen him around the resort. Maybe he has nothing to do with the theft, maybe now he is fishing by the sea, or he is in the mountains to pick up resin. This thought does not leave me, mixed with an anger that I try to sedate focusing on the many positive aspects of what happened. They have stolen few things, and only from two of us. They did not see the watch leaning on the table (it would be the second Rolex stolen…), I did not wake up and avoided the risk of ending up in a hospital with a bump in my head. Finally, I have received another life lesson, one that forces you to re-evauate your scale of values.

I’m going to bed, and I think about Dal Cin. He always said that you must take care of problems, not be worried about them.

Tono De Vivo

Participants: Ada De Matteo, Alessio Romeo, Antonio De Vivo, Carla Corongiu, Chiara Paniccia, Fabio Giannuzzi, Felice La Rocca, Gaetano Boldrini, Giorgio Annichini, Giovanni Fiorini, Ilenia D’Angeli, Jo De Waele, José Calaforra, Laura Sanna, Leonardo Colavita, Leonardo Piccini, Luca Massa, Marco Camorani, Marco Vattano, Marta Ciaramella, Martino Frova, Paolo Agnelli, Stefano Vanni, Tommaso Santagata, Tullio Bernabei, Vittorio Crobu.

Research Institutes involved: University of Bologna, University of Florence, Museum of Natural History of Florence, National Institute of Nuclear Physics of Turin, University of Almeria.

Institutional sponsors: Italian Embassy in the Philippines, Philippines – Italy Debt for Development Swap Program, Puerto Princesa National Park, Tagbalay Foundation, City of Puerto Princesa.

Technical sponsors: Leica Italy, Laserscangst, Eragest by Tiziano Conte, Lifesaver, Amphibious, Ferrino, De Walt, Dolomite, Scurion, Tiberino.

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