What is Doong? ‘twas the first question and words spoken to me by my wife’s lola – Mama Roming, few minutes after we arrived. I haven’t answered her immediately, I was wondering if she would’ve instead used the how interrogative rather than “what”. Suddenly, “Doong is an island”, ma roming answered. She was right.
Geographically, Doong island is located in the northeastern stretch of mainland Cebu. It is the largest islet of Bantayan Island which I think is one of the towns of Cebu. There are two routes that leads to Doong.
When we went there, we rode a bus from Mandaue Cebu to Hagnaya Port, San Remigio then took the Super Shuttle Ferry to Sta. Fe Port, Bantayan. From Sta. Fe port, a tricycle took us to the port in the opposite side of the island near the Bantayan Public market, then from there, we took a pump boat to Luyongbaybay, Doong. When we left the Island, we took route 2 in a pump boat called “the Islander”. Please refer to the maps.
My wife spent her early childhood days in the island. It was the most beautiful place back then. The shores were covered with white sand and clear waters and the surrounding waters was a rich sanctuary of fishes as well. It was an ideal and an almost perfect place for children to grow and learn life, for old folk to grow old and enjoy God’s creation and a paradise worth visiting for tourists and city inhabitants. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo that would show what was before, but these are the same stories that I hear from those who lived two decades ago near the seashores and riverbanks. I’ve been to a place that fits the description 3 years ago in Black island and it truly was an unforgettable experience.
When I was courting my wife, she told me about the island and I wondered if I will have the chance to get there when I’d become her husband. Fortunately, my wondering years ago came true. I believe that one of the best way for a husband to know his wife is to visit where she grew up. My short visit in Doong allowed me to dig a part of my wife’s life that I never knew and understand before. The more that I come to know the former life of my wife, the bond and love that I have for her increases.
My wife’s childhood was not so much unlike anyone who had their childhood two decades ago. She grew up in an island where the only source of power are personal generators and Petromax, flashlights and fire as the main light source. At the present time though, there’s a diesel power plant that provides power from 5 in the afternoon to midnight. She also remembers watching betamax at one peso each and eating pritos ring, he-man and other famous junk foods in the early 80’s.
The travel to Doong was a strength exhausting journey. A three hour bus + 1 hour ferry + 10 minutes tricycle + 1.5 hours boat. Anyway, we arrived in Doong at about 2:30 in the afternoon.
The sea around the island was the quietest and calmest I’ve ever seen. It was like a wide stretch of concrete surface covered with a blue silk. A Nikon DSLR camera would’ve captured it better. You can also sleep at night and forget that the sea is just a few distance away from your window – there was no wave nor sound of rushing and crashing of waters. The shore however was not as how my wife described it 20 yrs ago.
There was no white sand nor sand. Apparently, the sand was commercialized and was used by the folk to build concrete houses.
Exploited for its sand, the shore now bares a rocky surface. Black things and dark sticky sand is left during the low tide. The shore though has a long stretch of waist to shoulder deep water ideal for swimming – but you’d still wish the sand was there.
One of the things I interestingly found out about Doong are his people. In the short time that we stayed there, my wife was able to meet three of her elementary teachers. Seemingly, all of her elementary teachers are still single. I can sense a joyful heart in them though and I commend them so much for they have raised successful citizens as far as career is concerned. They continuously send out eager young people to conquer the world and their dreams. On our way there, I saw a streamer congratulating a once Doongan high school kid for recently graduating as cum laude (Mech. Eng’g) in the University of Cebu. And hence, to all those who have succeeded, the island awaits their tribute. I think there’s much to be done.
Mama Roming was exactly as how my wife described. She has an all-white hair like Storm in X-men. She’s 84 but stronger than her age. She has a small sari-sari store that supplies canned food and other basic kitchen needs to her neighbors. She also has a concrete water tank that catches and stores rainwater, enough to supply a whole year’s need for tap water. Apparently, she helps supply water in her area in luyongbaybay years ago. Her backyard reminded me about my lola’s mismanaged land where there were fruit bearing trees at that time. At mama Roming, there were guavas, atis, lakatan banana, siniguelas and other more. Her old house has underwent 3 renovations and she carries a key around her waist all the time for the 4 doors outside and 3 doors inside her house. She locks it every time. During the night when we were there, she left an arinola beside our bed because she locks all the doors, and we won’t be able to go to the restroom without waking her to borrow the key.
When we arrived a couple of hours after mid noon, she went end to end of the island to find fish but returned with nothing. These days apparently, fish is scarce. Fortunately, she found a fish for breakfast in the morning. In the kitchen, kalderos are hanged on the roof to keep it away from rats and cats. She has lots of native chicken too and she and mama hermie cooked one for our dinner. The taste of it reminded me about my childhood days in Tabuk, roma and solana.
If i could speak Bisaya, we would’ve had a longer conversation. Her Tagalog however allowed her to relate to me how the Japanese in the 40’s have reached Doong to catch fish, and how her husband died at 33 while sleeping in their lantsa. She was early widowed with 4 boys but all of them- one of them was my wife’s father has finished college.
She worked hard indeed. She was a teacher and was allegedly strict. She has lots of stories too about my wife and how my wife when she was in grade 3 has let a 4,500 pesos worth of earring from ma Roming disappear from her ears after going home from school. Since then, my wife never received any jewelry from her.
Yet, mama Roming is a wonderful woman. A single mother who worked hard to raise her kids and their kids. A wife who was denied of the love of a husband for a chance of a lifetime, and a grandma yearning and who greatly deserves unconditional love and care.
My eighteen hours in the island has taught me some things. The world and its inhabitants will continue to change. Life will lose some and gain some. Everyone’s life started somewhere and we must step back sometime to where we came from. And it reminded me to value and take care of the relationships I have with other people- towards my family, friends and relative or not.
There are many more stories behind each of my story. Stories that continue to inspire, challenge and compels me to hope and pray. I’ve visited Doong and I’m glad I did. I’ll go there again. And God willing, for more than eighteen hours.