Our recent trip to Doong island was a step back from the present and a step away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It brought me back in time to the world then and took me away from routines and activities that I unstoppably keep up with and get used to. Doong island is where my beloved wife spent her early childhood days.
It was about five years ago when I wrote about my first trip to Doong, and I felt undeserving for writing about a place where I haven’t lived, grew up or really know about. I have no right to talk about a place where I am not a native of and where there’s only one or two persons who knows more than my name and my relationship with my wife. Somehow, I am compelled to exercise my freedom to tell about our recent travel to the place. I believe that one can learn from books, but one can learn a lot more from traveling. Traveling teaches life lessons that can’t be learned from reading a book.
Our travel itinerary was not easy. Ten adults and my almost three year old daughter makes up our group which was led by my seemingly inexhaustible mother-in-law. It took us almost nine hours to reach Doong island from the house in Labangon, Cebu city through several transport means – a jeep, bus, ferry boat, cab and a pump-boat. The weather was sunny and the heat is unbearable without a cover.
Doong has progressed in some ways. Though many has gone, many has come. There is a power plant that provides electricity to the three islands from 6PM to 12MN. Its increasing population I think has driven the construction of more concrete houses. Sari-sari stores have more items in their inventory of goods sold. There is now a wider access to basic needs and resources, and there are more transport vehicles. Though the typhoon Yolanda has devastated a year ago a lot of the people’s houses, livelihood, trees and other structures, the people seemed to have gotten by with their own means, resourcefulness and helps from private individuals.
We were welcomed by my wife’s grandma and her two uncles when we arrived. We stayed at their house and despite our number, we were able to have enough space in the house to rest our bodies at night. The house that proudly faces the seashore just about a hundred meters away has an upper floor, but it was shattered and destroyed by the typhoon Yolanda more than a year ago. One of my wife’s uncle could still recall how strong the wind was, that though he reinforced and blocked the front door of the house with furniture, the wind still violently knocked the door including him and the furniture to a few feet away. The wind was so strong and whistling like it was crying, as it tore off the roofs of the houses. It was a terrible experience back.
Our December vacation’s intention is to visit my wife’s kin. A year ago, when the typhoon Haiyan hit the island badly, we have heard unconfirmed news about my wife’s grandma living in a tent after the typhoon, but our visit proved the opposite. She and her house are standing tall. Besides the kin, I think that it was a good time for my wife to get in touch with the past and for all of us to greet. Meet and celebrate. Our supposed two-day stay in the island was extended to five days due to the typhoon Seniang, but despite getting stranded in the island, it was a great experience. This experience is indeed a lovely, notable account for my memoir.
In laws’ hospitality. My in laws’ hospitality, generosity and concern is something that I deeply appreciate. Their warm welcome made me feel familiar with the place. Unfortunately, I detest liquor and they might have felt a bit bad for not being able to join them in their happy hour. However, I think that my love of playing good old songs with the guitar has saved me because it made a way for me to connect with one of my in-laws during one of the nights. It was also interesting to hear one of my in-laws’ personal story of survival when he was at Tacloban city during the typhoon Haiyan – it was heart breaking and funny. During the day when it rained, my in-laws made a shelter to cover the dilapidated kiosk where the rest of us would play cards and hang at night.
Seafood. It was my first time to taste and eat a hammer shell (oyster) – an irregularly shaped shell with a tasty oyster meat inside. My in-law ordered a sack full of it the afternoon we arrived. I didn’t know yet what it was until when I tasted it. I don’t know a better way to prepare and cook it but it taste just fine when freshly boiled from the pot. Danggit seems abundant in the place and our lady chefs (our daughter’s yaya and my mother-in-law) makes a tasteful paksiw out of it. A Dried danggit for breakfast also made our rice intake almost unstoppable. Another first-time taste I had was a giant clam as big as a whole plate. It was sliced in little chunks and sautéed with onions and garlic and some spices.
The Fiesta. It was also their annual fiesta when we arrived, and there were celebrations in the homes, and activities in their small public plaza. We were invited for a lunch during the day and had our fill of a variety of local meat delicacy. During the night, we witnessed their way of celebrating the fiesta. They had a dancing competition and a disco dance for the whole night as a way to raise funds for their community. Any group who wants to dance must pay an amount for each dance piece. During the day, they had a street parade.
The beach. The hot sun and the rough sea prevented us from swimming in the beach, but the rain didn’t. My daughter too loves staying and playing in the beach, and we allowed her to have dip and walk in the shoulder deep beach water. Sadly, a typhoon has hit the Visayas and PAG-ASA raised a signal #1 storm. This has closed all ports and cancelled all boat travels. However, my wife’s nephews who were with us were not threatened by the typhoon and still enjoyed the beach for almost a whole day under the rain and wind. Due to the typhoon, we were stranded in Doong and was forced to stay for another two days.
The Peace and Tranquillity. Visiting Doong reminds me of the peaceful community where I grew up as a kid. It reminds me of the idleness of time where dreams were honed and hope of greater things was promising. Staying in Doong reminds me of the old days when time moves slower. There is plenty of time to do what you want and people do not rush because there is no need to. The limitation of amenities that I enjoy back in the city equates the experience of peace and tranquility in the island. The peace is not just the absence of noise or civil violence, but it’s the peace that you feel when you are with your family. Despite the typhoon that brought the rain and the wild wind at night, which I haven’t experienced in Puerto Princesa by the way, we were kept safe in the hands of God.
My wife’s kin didn’t allow us to leave the island until the typhoon signal was lifted out. Providentially, our prayer was answered and we were able to travel on the 31st of December. The regular pumpboat that travels in the island was full with passengers who’ve been waiting for days, so we hired a private pumpboat to bring us to Bantayan Island. From Bantayan island, we rode on a Ceres bus from Bantayan port to the other side of the island where the bus will be transported in a ferry boat to the mainland.
We arrived in Cebu city earlier than expected. We had enough time for a rest to keep us roused through the night and hail the New Year – 2015. [Click to view More Pictures From Doong]