A hop, a skip, and a jump later, we arrive in lovely Bantayan Island. I squint under the bright sun and maneuver the strap of my one small bag over my shoulder. Stepping gaily off the little port that extends a long arm into an impossibly blue sea, we flag down local transportation and begin the search for a place to stay.
Owing to impulse and a sketchy plan, we soon find ourselves traipsing one length of the island, trying to secure a roof over our heads before sunset. Small as it is, Bantayan that weekend was swamped with visitors—folks like us who were escaping everyday toil and taking advantage of a long weekend. The more astute booked accommodations way ahead. My friend and I however, were equal parts deranged, so we did not. We chose to leave our fate to the fish.
But the island gods (and the fish) were kind, and after a few dusty spins across the short resort row, our trusty ’sikad driver Orlando led us to a little place tucked away in the farmost corner of the beach. They had one—just one—cottage vacant. We grabbed it, of course. And so there we were:
We settled into a comfy round cottage with birds, foliage, and gauzy curtained windows that opened out into the beach.
After that, everything else took on a vague light for me. I remember there was soft, powdery sand between my toes. There was the heady smell of the sea, the hot summer sun on my skin. I think my feet automatically assumed this pair of slippers.
There were lounge chairs that let us look out on water that changed from clear to foamy emerald, to indigo blue, and maybe a few more colors as it spilled over the horizon. There was an expanse of azure sky that stretched for miles, pouf clouds that seemed to drift purposely, towards us.
Plopped down on the lounge chair in my lurid, fuschia sarong, I empty my mind of all worries, and just let the scene take over. When I look up, I see that the canopy of coconut trees have transformed themselves into green, swaying umbrellas.
There were no crowds, no itinerant souvenir merchants, no vexing videoke music, no garbage on the shore, no traffic, no beach volleyball tournaments. We lost track of time, marking the hours only by the change in the tides and the dictates of our appetites.
I remember eating this, for breakfast.
We did nothing but laze under the sun, plunge into the cool water, read salt-encrusted old magazines, sip cold beer, talk about random things, and stare out into the endless blue of sea and sky. At night, it seemed as though it was entirely possible for our sun-browned hands to touch the stars.
The trek to Bantayan Island was a loafing that was truly restorative, a balm to soothe the senses, a gentle way to jumpstart mind and heart. Sometimes, the best experiences open themselves up to us at the spur of the moment, become the sudden turn that diverts us from our usual path and into the realm of the unplanned.
It felt great to just pack up and leave, to disconnect, even just for a little while. It was worth it, and yes, just on the brink of summer’s end, I managed to acquire for myself a marvelous tan.