Calamian Islands, Palawan

“It’s easier to find time in prayer here in Manila during Holy Week than anywhere else,” my client remarked as we parted on Tuesday morning. I mentioned to him that I’d be running to the airport right after our meeting to join my friends in Calamian Islands in Palawan. “It’s okay, I won’t be praying there anyway. I’m vacationing,” I said (how sutil ‘no?). But I was expecting God would reveal more of Himself in this trip…as He always does whenever I travel. I guess I take literally the saying “God will meet you wherever you are.”

This entry is not about yoga but about the journey…mine and of other people I met along the way.

*****

Barracuda Lake in Coron

Barracuda Lake in Coron

 

overlooking the Culion town

Culion town

I’ll let the pictures speak for the place (click here for more pictures at my multiply site). Who would have thought that more than a hundred years ago this side of the world, particularly Culion, was known as the Island of the Living Dead, it being a leper colony? It used to be an isolated, excluded community where only the brave missionaries dared to go.

the museum that houses the artifacts in the old leprosarium

the museum that houses the artifacts in the old leprosarium

 

Mang Pitong...doesn't he look like one of the popular yoga gurus?

Mang Pitong...doesn't he look like one of the popular yoga gurus?

I met Mang Pitong, the caretaker of Siete Pecados (who later became the rescuer of my companions…but that’s another story), a 69-year-old migrant from Romblon. He was born to a big family and, in search of a better life, he moved to Coron when he was in his 20s. “Life was a lot easier here in Palawan. Just learn how to fish and you’ll never grow hungry,” he shared. I learned from our boatman that he used to be a muro-ami (illegal fisher). How he became a protector of environment now, we didn’t know. I also learned from my companion whom he rescued that he used to be a Catholic. How (and why) he changed his beliefs, we didn’t know either.

Our boatman said that Mang Pitong is a mystic who can read one’s fortune. Light-heartedly, I asked him to read mine. He moved to our boat and reached out to me for a handshake. He said looking straight to my eyes, “fortune-telling is a sin, I don’t do that. But I can heal and bless through Jesus’s name.” Oops! Just what did I ask for? His gaze scared me…that he might be able to read my issues, both known and unknown to me. But he did just that—blessed me. He said I was “okay” and he could tell by my eyes and lips. Whatever that meant, I took it at face value.

I remember five years ago, around this time of the year too, someone read my aura and was alarmed with what he saw. “You’ve got a very thin, brownish aura. If you were a battery, you’re almost empty.” I wasn’t surprised at all. I was suffering from depression then.

Stories of transformation. The why’s and how’s behind them we’ll never know. We just have to take them at face value.

*****

This isn’t a first-hand information but my companions, who went there a day ahead of me, learned from the masters and the owner of a diving resort that a politician goes there almost every week, what else but to dive. Wow! The “leader,” with all our national concerns, has the time to do that? (Buti pa siya. Ako nga taxpayer lang, di ko pa magawa yun every year.) Is the political figure using taxpayers’ money to indulge in this hobby? Maybe not…because the politician does not pay for the services! And the politician does not even talk to nor thank the people who render their services for free (obviously not by their choice). Note, this politician goes only to this Filipino-owned diving resort…why not go to the foreign-owned ones?

The Tagbanuas—the natives of Palawan—are friendly and kind. They are willing to help without expecting anything in return, just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. I guess, that’s their nature. A guide refusing to accept tip, for example, and people accompanying us to a place where we want to go (when they could have simply given us instructions and prayed that we won’t get lost), and our boatmen religiously reminding us of our stuffs and getting them for us when we forgot them (and that is, after we had already boarded our craft). They could have stripped us of our money, but you see, they refused even to be treated for a snack and were willing to pay for their own food. God bless their souls.

A Tagbanua girl

A Tagbanua girl

These people deserve to be treated with equal respect and kindness. Unfortunately, they shared with us shameful stories of Manilenos—“buying” antique furniture and precious metals from them but never showing up again for payment, doing illegal logging, and yes, diving every week without paying for the services.

The Tagbanuas are taking good care of their ancestral homes. They are quick to get the attention of tourists improperly disposing of their plastic trash or taking something (even just a small piece of shell) from nature. I just hope that they won’t be tempted to sell out their properties to “investors,” as some are already doing now. And I hope the islands won’t become yet another party place. 

*****

An important life lesson (and very poetically said at that) from this trip came from our boatman: laruin mo ang alon, huwag mong labanan. The wisdom of the simple-minded is more valuable than the press releases of the learned. 

 

The Boatman

The Boatman

 

And at the end of my four-day trip, I realized that you can never put God in that convenient box in your head. 

 

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