Tuesday, February 14

An island touched by Mayumi of the Sea

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Patrick, hanging out at the beach?

Let me show you the perfect place! 

It's just off the coast of Palauig, in Sta. Cruz, Zambales, an estimated 7-hours travel time by bus from Manila.

When someone asks to go with me on a trip, the initial questions I ask are how much is your budget? and what would you like to do? This helps me determine how far we can go and how long we can be away. So when my friend Yay (from WAY OF THE SUN) put a PhP3,000 cap to a trip at the beach, I began looking for the farthest placed we've both never been to within an all-in 1K round-trip fare. 

The weather was Summer-in-January: bright and sunny. Perfect for skipping and hop-scotching. For walking under tree-lined-streets and the beach. So while others were stuck in traffic, fanning themselves in the midday heat tsk-tsk-tsking, I was gallivanting somewhere else, a little worried about global warming  --since summer has come early-- and at the same time excited that summer had come .

starfish multitude
Off we went to an island where dogs run  free and it's perfect to be a starfish! The place was strewn with a multitude of them, some even beach themselves on the shore, the tide leaving them to dry. Magalawa Island is not yet commercialized that it still retains a homey feel to it, with personalized service from the owners of Armada Beach Resort: Nanay Auring, if you're friendly enough and pay your respect -- this could be as simple as playing music for one (i.e. headphones) instead of for a crowd (i.e. speakers) in a place with a strict NO SOUND PLAYING rule. You know what it means.

island rules
Lounging at night at the beach, I thought how perfect this island would be for a night to watch a good celestial show. Clear skies with twinkling stars is how I want it to be on November 17 & 18 when I intend to go back during the Leonids Meteor Shower; when hundreds of mostly blue and green meteors will shoot across the sky per hour!

If you intend to do the same, here are other dates for the best meteor showers this year:
     * December 13 & 14 during the Geminids Meteor Shower. It will be an awesome show of up to 60 multicolored (white, yellow, blue, red, green) meteors per hour under the dark sky conditions of a new moon. This will be a great chance to see a bright fireball cross the sky!
     * August 12 & 13 during the Perseids Meteor Shower when 60 meteors per hour can be seen shooting across the skies. 

Other dates of interest are:
      *  June 4 for the full moon at a partial lunar eclipse -- this will be visible throughout Asia
     * November 28 for the full moon at a penumbral lunar eclipse -- this will be visible throughout Asia and the Pacific Ocean

Thursday, February 9

1 is a COMFORTABLE number

When I get asked if I'm daunted traveling alone, I'm happy to tell people NO.
I am confident in my solitude.

Traveling on my own is easy. I've done it in Sabah, and my travel friends can tell you how it would not be uncommon for me to spend a day on my own when we go out on trips. I was more confident when I decided to go to Malapascua Island, north of Cebu. Thanks to Eat Bulaga (mula Aparri hanggang Jolo!), people will understand me even though I don't speak Cebuano; and they will attempt to explain things to me, as Filipinos always do. I had become comfortable to be on my own that I adapt quickly as soon as I step out of my door, taking my queue on the smiles of people.

Don't you get scared? the man next to me on the bus bound to Maya, asked.

We have been holding a conversation for the last hour of the 4-hour bus ride, and during that time I learned that he's a seaman from the many exploits he accounted to me. That he was originally from south of Cebu where there are a lot of waterfalls, and that he had gotten married to a woman from the north of the island, hence his current residence. And that although he'd been living in Maya for a number of years, he had never stepped foot on neither Bantayan Island, nor Malapascua. 

What a horrible thought it would be to be afraid of exploring one's own country . . .

Malapascua Island, north of Cebu

As soon as I got off the bus at the small pier in Maya, I have already struck a conversation with a woman traveling with her daughter that led me to tag along with them and share a low-cost accommodation in the island. They were my good company for a couple of days -- we hung around the beach,  swam and took a long walk  at the shore when night came. The sky was clear then and the sand was reflecting the brightness of the waxing moon above that I could see the white foam topping every wave. In the morning, we headed out to the lighthouse via habal-habal and met a small island girl, age 11 whose skin was sun-kissed red and her hair oxidized by the sun and the sea. We learned she was helping her mother bring food to the table from tips off guiding foreigners around the interior of the island.

Childhood is a different concept in the island. The poverty is just so immense, children are no longer children. Their play are no longer purely for pleasure, and their mindsets are geared to moving away, because that's what the adults are subconsciously transferring to them.

I was contemplating the easy life in the island lying on the bermuda grass that covered the sand in this strip of land at the tip of Malapascua; squinting my eyes against the sky as I looked at the pattern of this shell Cathy (the island girl) gave, when an idea came to me . . . Note to self: add a section in my TO DO LIST in life -- put up a school in an island where children (and any adult who wishes to learn) can receive free progressive education. Harness the power of the internet to bring in travelers with free lodging and meals, in exchange for their contribution in the education of the community.

When Sheila and Louie (the mother & daughter) checked out, I took a long walk at shores where waves were filled with sea-grass and their rolling folds marooned on the shoreline. I took a dip in the water just the right temperature to cool me off the midday heat, even under the shade of clouds. And I realized, the elder women and the men are the only ones who took notice I was alone. All the girls at an age that had grown breasts are too busy watching the foreign tourists, to take notice of me. Sometimes, it is sad that they even view me as a competition . . .

I got acquainted with a local elder woman I found gathering something from the water. At closer look, I learned that she was putting an effort to rid their beautiful shallows of broken glass that were either washed to the beach from garbage thrown too close to the shore, or were inconsiderately thrown in the water by people. I thought how herculean the feat was. Her concern for the children who could be injured swimming or the unknowing tourists walking barefoot, touched me. I tried to help her, but I could not see what she could, so I wasn't much of a help. But as easy as that, I learned she has 2 grown boys in Cebu and she works as a masseuse by the beach. I shook hands with her husband who offered to take me around the island by boat at the cost of only the gasoline purchased for the trip. By the next day, I was petting their 2 black Aspins and the mother's 4 fat litter.

exploring the island by boat

The beauty about traveling alone is that you meet a lot of locals and other travelers. I get to learn more about the lives others lead, than when I'm held back by the company I sometimes keep.

island lighthouse

other traveling solo experiences: