An even bigger crocodile story
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-09-13
The 20-foot (6.1 meters), estimated 2,370 pounds (1,075 kilograms) male salt-water crocodile that was captured in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur attracted global interest. The local officials of Bunawan made the smart move to capture the giant croc alive and transform it “from a threat to an asset” — quoting the Bunawan Mayor, Edwin “Cox” Elorde. Now in their wildlife park, they named the giant croc “Lolong” in honor of the crocodile expert who helped capture it. The giant croc will surely become a magnet for curious Filipinos as well as foreigners.

There are reports from the town that the captured giant male croc has an even bigger companion. Could the captured giant croc, or its companion, be the same croc that was reported by the March 23, 2009 PIA (Philippine Information Agency) New Service as the cause of death of 10-year old Rowena Romano? Per the PIA news report, Caraga Police Director, Chief Superintendent Jaime Elorita Milla, sought the assistance of other government agencies in capturing an estimated 25-foot croc, said to be Rowena Romano’s killer. Rowena’s headless body was found three days after the March 7, 2009 attack on Lake Mihaba, Bunawan.

Rowena was riding on a boat with her cousin when the giant croc attacked them, causing their boat to capsize. Rowena fell to the water and the giant croc immediately bit her on the head and dragged her to the bottom of the lake. Her cousin was lucky because another man, riding on another boat, was able to grab her and deliver her from certain death.

If the March 7, 2009 killer and the recently captured croc happen to be two different animals, then extra effort should be made to protect the people in the area as well as those who may be visiting. If there are two or more giant killer crocs there, their powerful lethal bite could cost many more human lives. The thing that scares you about crocodiles is that, unlike sharks, crocs can chase and attack you on land.

Your Chair Wrecker was privy to one amazing killer crocodile story — told to me by the late Kim Ramos. Kim had stumbled upon the story, researched on it and developed a movie script around it. Kim was well known in advertising circles during the 1970s and early 1980s. He voiced many of the radio and television commercials of that period. He was also an avid scuba diver and used to regale me with his stories about encounters with sharks and barracudas.

Kim got to know about a killer croc story that happened in Hinatuan in Mindanao where there were over 40 deaths and disappearances that were attributed to a giant croc. These all happened during the early post-World War II period. At first, many local residents thought that an evil witch was behind the disappearances. If in Metro Manila, you’ll still find people who believe that there are really witches, you can just imagine how much more this belief is shared in our most far-flung areas during that period.

As described by Kim, the size of the Hinatuan croc would be much bigger than the giant croc that was recently captured. Kim did not see the entire carcass but was amazed at the size of its head and the width of its mouth when he was shown these. According to Kim, a crocodile hunter heard about the Hinatuan disappearances and immediately connected it to a giant killer croc. Eventually, the crocodile hunter killed the giant croc and it was only then that the natives realized that there was no witch at all.

Kim gave his movie script the title “The Witch of Hinatuan” and proceeded to entice American film producers to consider it. There was interest in Kim’s script. This was the time after Steven Spielberg’s Jaws made a killing at the box office. Two considerations though kept American producers from doing the project.

The first consideration was that after Jaws there were already many “monster” genre movies that had bombed at the box office. This reduced the number of film producers who were willing to take the risk. The project also attracted only the B-type movie producers and that meant a lesser budget to work with.

The second consideration was the cost of making the giant killer croc mechanical contraption. Unless the contraption is able to credibly portray a giant killer croc, the movie may just end up being a comedy. The estimated cost of the contraption killed the killer croc project.

It’s a pity that Kim did not live in this era of computer technology. Much of the costs that kept producers from doing “The Witch of Hinatuan” are now much cheaper to do with the help of computer technology. My whole point in sharing Kim’s project is to tickle the interest of some enterprising film producer out there who may want to revive the project, thereby boosting our tourism.

Since we’re forced to live with giant crocs, whether these are the ones found in the marshes or those sitting in important public offices, we may as well find some residual value from their existence that we can benefit from.
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