Our home, our late father’s gift to my late mother and to us, their children, was slowly being destroyed by the ravages of time. Sometimes I think it is my fault having decided to move to Manila since my medical school graduation to take up internship and my specialty training which is another four years. Our home, and Tacloban in general, filled my heart with longing. Being away for so long made me remember University of the Philippines-Visayas professor Merlie Alunan’s words in her essay “Reinterpreting I Love Tacloban”, written after Yolanda’s devastation: To me, Tingloy reminded me so much of Tacloban and its laid back people. Being away from my hometown for years fed a desire to see familiar things that bring me back to the place where I feel fully myself. I have fallen in love with the smiling locals of Tingloy with their sun kissed skin, easy laughter and friendly manners. How the room that I have slept in for the last few weekends had begun to feel like my own.
Tingloy was no Shangri-la, but it felt familiar. I began to understand myself better, why the obsession with returning after a busy week spent at the hospital. Why I would brave the 4am bus ride from Buendia in Manila, to a jeepney ride to Anilao port before another 45 minutes travel across the sea to Tingloy. It was all worth it, a day that was truly mine.
Even for those not feeling sentimental about the place, they will not be disappointed. Masasa Beach which could be reached by motorized boat from Anilao port to either Tingloy port or directly to Masasa beach. I recall a friend’s wedding in this nioce town. My brother was the best man, he had delivered the funniest best man speech ever and we were all laughing to hard. The powdery white sand and corals stretches on for a kilometer or so. People can set up tents to shade them from the sun, while generally bonfires and camping are not encouraged because of previous incidences of unruly behavior, there are some who still camp on the shores after police patrol have gone for the night. Most beach-goers choose homestay instead at Php300 per head, which offer a decent place to sleep in the local homes. The beach itself offers a hodge-podge of activities like Banana boat, snorkeling, beach volleyball, Henna tattooing or just simply soaking up some sun with friends and family. Several species of sea turtles are known to inhabit the waters near the beach and I have swam (and chased) a couple of sea turtles while snorkeling. Boatmen will approach tourists for island hopping and snorkeling for a reasonable price of 300 per head. I went by myself, so I paid Php1,200. The small boat was mine to command as we explored other areas like the lagoon with its impressive rock formations, Sepoc island where the filming for the Television hit “Marina” was done, and Sombrero island. The most beautiful surprise, of course, was the underwater paradise of Verde Island Passage. Anilao was thought to be the birth place of scuba diving in the Philippines because of the spectacular underwater seascapes.
In every direction there was an explosion of colors. Schools of fish swam in the peaks and valleys of the corals. Finding Nemo shouldn’t be that difficult here. I even saw Dory too, during a recent dive. My Day in the Sun Summertime usually bring back great memories of growing up near the beach. Those were days filled with fun leaping over sand castles and dreaming about what the future holds. As adults, with all the realities of paying the rent, doling out patient diagnoses, studying for training- it can get overwhelming. Our dreams all come at a high price, mine was leaving home for more than a half decade. I know it will take a few more years of sacrifice, but for now, just for a day, I allow myself time to let the sun shine on my face, where the winds blow freely, where every last grain of sand bring back the happiness of my last summer.