Wednesday, May 28, 2003

White Island and weddings

I wake up 5:30am. The multi-cab is there right on time. It's not hard to wake up this time in the morning. The day is still cool, the air fresh. I tag along with Merci, Menchi, their mom, and their kids. Merci has been here before.

The White Island is a sand bar just off the coast from Agohay Resort, although there are pump boats that will take you there from several different resorts. There are no trees or houses, but it's a nice swimming spot and good view of some of the volcanic peaks. Merci says that 15 years ago, the coral reefs around the White Isle were incredible, but have since been bombed out by dynamite. Our driver tells us that the coral is starting to rebuild. We find only a few small fish and what looks to be a prickly puffer fish that has lost its way.

The Philippines is one big coral reef. But many of them have been overfished, polluted and or bombed. The dynamite and poison were quick and efficient means of fishing which destroyed decades of growth and habitat. Some island communities have stopped such practices, understanding that as people who live off these fish, they must also be their caretakers.

There are fishermen there gathering their net. I don't see much fish, doesn't look like much of a catch. I have often thought that in a previous life I was a fisherman. Something about riding small boats that makes me feel calm and at home even when the waves are crashing. Something about tying and untying knots. There's a sense of deja vu about it, that I have done this before.

As the sun brightens in the sky, I cannot believe how stunningly beautiful this place is. It seems at every turn at every moment there is a scene even more beautiful than the one before. My aunt's family went to Boracay last year. Their pictures of Boracay were lovely, but there's something more to this island, Camiguin, a certain charm perhaps that I can't quite pinpoint. Maybe it's the hot breathe of the volcanos that I feel, a certain sense of life whose heartbeat is ever present.

We return to Tia's around 9am for red staining sausage and eggs for breakfast. I get reacquainted with Norma from Davao. Don and I and stayed at her place in Davao for a few days. I didn't recognize her at first. My Philippine database of names is rusty. We catch up on the family. She too knows Ros very well. I have yet to meet Ros in person.

My last email from her mentioned how plans might be falling apart. So I don't know if I'll still be teaching kali. I haven't gotten in touch with Sunnie yet either, so really I don't know what I'm doing after the wedding: where I'm staying, where I'm going. But this is the way I travel when I'm alone. I know when I'm flying in, where I'll stay for the first nights or so, when I'm flying out. All the days in between, well, I'm never quite sure. I consult a few guide books to see what kinds of things I might want to do, then see what I end up doing. Just enough planning, just enough improv. I don't know where this journey takes me, I just know that I'm game to go and pray that my instincts guide me well and that things figure themselves out in the end. If worse comes to worse, I'll stay at Tia's.

Preparations for the wedding have begun. The flowers straight from Davao are being arranged, the white sheets and ribbons being adorned, the tables for the reception are lined on the beach. Gary Grenada continues to play guitar after the wedding rehearsal. Menchi's son says Gary's pretty good, maybe Gary will be famous some day. Sikat daw. Yeah, Gary, maybe you'll be a famous singer, cut records, and tour around the world. Just keep practicing. haha! (Gary Grenada already is a well known singer-songwriter in the Philippines.)

I head into town with Norma and another woman. They ask some folks about souvenirs, they tell us to go way out of town to a souvenir shop. 4 pesos to take the motorella there. A lot of the items are from other parts of Mindanao, I recognize the patterns. Others are more of the generic island souvenir craft: wood carvings, tie-dye skirts, t-shirts. When we head back into town, we see several shops selling t-shirts. That's what we get for being new. Norma spots some lanzones, a citrusy type fruit grown in bunches. The high season for lanzones is October, these are early season fruit, but coveted nonetheless. It's one of the fruits Filipinos abroad miss most. It doesn't travel well. Camiguin has an annual lanzones festival every October.

The other Camiguin delicacy is Pastels, a sweet filled bun. Almost every area has its own unique culinary specialty. In Los Banyos, Laguna, it was buko pie and bulalo. It makes for excellent pasalubong. It's almost 4, so we head back to Tia's, make a quick change and get ready for the wedding.

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