Golden people of this archipelago

There is this sensual amount of sunlight when I travel around.  I was 23 when I strongly felt that my heart had this soft space for travelling solo.

I arrived in a coastal baranggay in Pulupandan at 2 PM. I knew the sea was very close.

I spent a week with my artist friends in Bacolod, and my visual artist friend Nonon told me that there’s a boat going to San Lorenzo, Guimaras. My adventurous spirit ignited and I thought it would be a new experience. I then envisioned the route Pulupandan-San Lorenzo-Nueva Valencia-Jordan-Iloilo.

I missed the last boat for the day, but my intuition led me to the humble beach hut of a fisherman’s family. It was on a sunset when I found them. They were so brown – all six of them. I bought some inasal that evening and I offered it for dinner. They were very hesitant at first, but the Mother told me that in return, I could eat some portion of their rice. Sitting there with them, eating with bare hands, eating around a gas lamp made me remember those barrio nights in Sitio Batuan – the place where I grew up. Listening to their stories made me felt so connected to this collective resilience and compassion Filipinos share. When I left the next morning, the youngest child kissed my cheek. As the boat sailed across the very still salty waters, I breathed in gratitude, and breathed out a prayer.  I prayed for them. I prayed for their Father who’d fish at night to keep the family together. I prayed for their Mother whose eyes were made of kindness. I prayed for the children who had sunshine in their laughter.

There is this sensual light when I travel around.  Whenever my intuition guides me to share time and energy to those who need it, I’d find myself closer to this delicate world of dreams.

I stood steady as I let my eyes gazed the beautiful hills of Malalison Island. Typhoon Yolanda left the houses destroyed but the hills and the sea remained majestic. My friend Harren invited me to do a storytelling activity with the children there. I wrote a short children’s story inspired by the hopeful hearts of children I have talked to in my hometown Barotac Viejo (who were also greatly affected by that time).

The children there were all sun kissed. I can still vividly remember how their teeth would look so white when they smile at me. In Malalison Island, I met a young boy named Gio who religiously followed me around. I’d kneel and touch his hair. I’d bend my back a bit to look him in the eyes and listen to his stories. Gio was around nine years old. He had this very rich copper skin and eyes that carried joy in them.  After a few hours of playing around and swimming together, he called me “Mama”. He’d hold my hand and wrap his arms around my waist when I’d walk around the island with some of my fellow volunteers. Whenever I’d sit next to him, I could smell the sea from his skin and hair.

One evening, Gio invited me to their house when I told him I needed some fresh water. They were still trying to rebuild after the big typhoon. Gio told me that he’d become a fisherman one day because he wanted to keep helping their family and he wanted to be like his Father.

That night, my friends and I slept under a sky full of stars – so full that it felt so surreal.

I wondered what ’s dream was that night. I wondered if he also saw the shooting stars I had seen.

When we left, I handed him my blanket.  He excitedly took it and hugged it with giggles. His eyes beamed and his teeth appeared whiter as he stretched his lips to smile at me.

“Mama, balik ka ha. Hulaton ko guid ikaw!” (Mama, please come back one day. I’ll wait for you!)

As we crossed the sea, I closed my eyes and thought of the rainbow that welcomed us in the island. As we took the bus back to Iloilo, I held my breath and imagined how in those coming colder nights, Gio would wrap his golden body inside that blanket.

There is this sensual light when I travel around. When I follow my passion, it leads me to places and people that allow me to experience the intensity in truly living.

I dropped my bag on the damp sand. My filmmaker friend Eric picked Tabugon Island in Carles as the setting of our short indie film. He is from San Francisco, California. When I was 17, I wrote a song dedicated to my childhood playmates. I entitled it “Panaguay”. When I randomly shared it to Eric, he instantly fell in-love and felt the energy to make a movie out of it.

The islanders were so thrilled to meet us and they offered their baranggay hall for us that weekend. They also shared to us mats, pillows, blankets, and fresh water. We slept on the floor.  The baranggay Secretary offered to cook our meals. In those hours when we needed hot coffee, another family provided hot water for all of us.

In Tabugon Island, a little jolly girl named Ging-ging became my friend. The sun has bronzed her fair skin. She was just six years old when I met her. I felt sad every time adults would tease her.

“Libat! Libat! Ging-ging libat!” (Ging-ging is cross-eyed! Cross-eyed!)

Ging-ging seemed never affected. She would just walk around, jump around, stick her tongue out and laugh. She liked holding my hands. Whenever I walked around the shore, she would take my hand and sway it as we walked. Sometimes, I would carry her in my arms and we’d spin around together. We would laugh a lot.  Ging-ging had difficulty in speech, but she loved telling stories. Her stories were always happy and optimistic. She told me about how they ran out of their house, how they crawled their way to a safer place during typhoon Yolanda. She told me everything in a very animated manner as if she never feared what happened. She told me she was a bit scared but she believed that God protected them. She liked fixing my hair. She also liked touching my face.

“Gwapa ka man. Namian ko sang imo mga alom daw mga bitoon.” (You are beautiful. I like your moles. They are like stars.)

When we had to leave, Ging-ging asked me to carry her in my arms. I kissed her forehead and she hugged me tightly. She touched my face and traced my moles.

“Layo imo balay? San-o ka mabalik diri?) (Is your home very far from here? When are you coming back?)

When the small boat rocked with the waves, I looked at the mountains and sighed. I looked back to see the island fade away from a distance. I closed my eyes and smiled at the memory of Ging-ging’s laughter.  Her giggles were golden.

There is this sensual amount of sunlight when I travel around.








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