On the first days of spring in Lý Sơn island, the hometown of Hoàng Sa Boarding Party, five-colored flags swing sharply in the wind. Smokes from incenses curled upward from communal houses where prayers for island sovereignty might be felt if they are heard carefully.
Fish flying in water like birds
The QNg 90055 TS boat led by captain Võ Văn Nô (Định Tân village, Bình Châu commune, Bình Sơn district, Quảng Ngãi province) was sunk in Hoàng Sa islands on 27 December 2018 (lunar calendar). Some shed tears when listening to “save us 55” sound from the Icom; no one expectedsadness to happen right in the homeland in spring, told fishermen on the rescue boat.
Captain Nguyễn Văn Cu on QNg 90675 TS boat suddenly left his net full of flying fish for rescuing Nô’s boat and took the crew to the shore three days before Tet. On the silent beach, the wind of spring blew the hair of fishermenwhose face showed sadness and bone-dry eyes. Everyone gathered around the noodle pot on the deck. Captain Nô carried his bowl with one hand, and held his child by the other while his tears brimmed over and fell on his cheeks. His wife Nguyễn Thị Thạnh ran to the deck and sadly told everyone about their life of suffering. They had been married for eight years. She recalled their incident in the very first time sailing when a China’s patrol boat confiscated the whole flying fish in their net right on the sea. It happened a few times laterbut not much in quantity. However this time they lost their boat and she almost lost her husband.
I returned to captain Nô’s house one year later, in the run-up of 2019 Tet Holiday. The 20m2 brick house in the end of the village,that I thought belonged to them, actually was hired by them at price 300 thousand dong per month. After 8 years of marriage, they could not afford a house. Every penny had been invested into the boat for Nô to go fishing in Hoàng Sa.
The poor wife was knitting the net, looking to the sea as if she was dreaming of a new boat in the near future. They have been waiting for insurance from Bảo Minh Quảng Ngãi Insurance Company in vain for a year. Captain Nô decided to come back to Hoàng Sa on his friend’s boat.
The fishing village in Định Tân, Bình Châu commune, Bình Sơn district, Quảng Ngãi province is located in the mainland. There is a boatthat carries people to Lý Sơn island right at the estuary. In the run-up to Tet Holidays, there are many women waiting for their family coming back from the sea like Thạnh. As usual, the last boat arrives at the village on the tenth day of Tet.
On 2018 Tet Holiday, the last boat arriving on the ninth day of Tet was QNg 90297 TS led by Captain Trần Văn Sách after 25 days working on the sea. He and the crew caught 10 tons of fresh flying fish which is usually sold at 35,000 dong/kg on this occasion.
Fishermen Phạm Quang said thirty years ago when local people started to exploit flying fish;every net is virtually full of fish. The fish gathered and flew on the sea surface like birds. Fishermen could not wait to cast their nets; they even wanted to come back to the sea after their arrival. Those put together a picture of a prosperous Hoàng Sa homeland, promising to bring fishermen bright future.
Faith in Hoàng Sa
“Owner of 96539 boat, Captain Nguyễn Thành pays respect to the ancestor, leads the whole crew, goes fishing in Hoàng Sa islands, brings home a boat full of fish, has a safe and sound trip”, said Ngô Vân loudly in the communal house where dead Hoàng Sa soldiers are remembered. His voice is shaking as if he was sitting on the deck and interrupted by the breaking waves. In the lead up to Tet Holidays, many boats are fishing on the sea; some made the calls from their boats to ask Ngô Vân to pray Hoàng Sa God’s for greatest blessingso that their boats would be full of fish and they could come back with their family.
A few years ago, QNg 66192 boat led by Captain Lê Minh Tân and six Lý Sơn fishermen sailed away to Bom Bay island of Hoàng Sa for the last trip of the season. It took the crew two days and nights to arrive at Bom Bay. But it never came back home. People held their tears inside hoping that it would show upone day after Tet. And yet, it has gone forever. The sorcerer makes dummies and put them into a tomb to call up the souls of dead people.
Lý Sơn has been open to visitors in the whole year and Tet. Everyone comes here for sightseeingaround the island and take a selfie in Thới Lới mountain, Flagpole, andHoàng Sa monument.Some attracted to culture and history will burn incense for the respect of Hoàng Sa Marine Corps Team’s Captain Phạm Hữu Nhật andTeam leader Phạm Quang Ảnh. Communal House of Sacred Souls and Hoàng Sa soldiers’ graves are places visitors cannot wait to see when they come to Lý Sơn. The most sacred temple and Roi Madam Residence are located at the corner of the island. Burning incense is to remember the ancestor and like a way back to the history to pay respect to soldiers of Hoàng Sa.