There’s a place I call my secret island. It’s one of the 7,107 in the Philippines. Where it is exactly in our archipelago, I shall never reveal. Whether I’ve written about it in my blog or other publications, I’ll neither admit nor deny.
You can’t just land there with your backpack in hopes of being peddled around like a tourist. It’s not a mainstream vacation spot because the only sights you’ll see are the humble neighborhood, fishing boats, neighboring islands and mountains, and bodies of water. There’s no accommodation for rent, unless you have a friend in town who will take you in, which was my case.
There are no telephone lines and practically no cellphone signal. I had to go on elevated areas to get one decent bar of signal so that I could text my loved ones to let them know I’m safe and well.
Had I not been able to text my family, they knew there was nothing to worry about because the crime rate here is zero, a refreshing change from the increasingly endangered streets of Metro Manila. It’s the type of place where everybody knows everybody, so a visitor like myself stood out like a sore thumb.
With no internet or phone connection, what’s there to do? I found myself enjoying things I was too distracted to engage in back at home. I read a book in a garden nook. I picked fruits in the garden. I noticed the difference in shades of lizards and other crawlers—after which I opened the window to kick them out of my room. I took a walk around the island to see the different plants and trees. I tried to witness the 6 a.m. catch, but water lilies were abundant this time of the year, making it impossible for shore fishing. I settled for watching fisherman throw their nets from a distance. The kind people of the island gave me a small sack of fresh tilapia to bring home to my family.
I took photos of the sunbathing cats and dogs without the impulse to Instagram every waking moment of my vacation. I spoke with the locals and learned about how they go about their daily routines. To earn a living in the island, most of them are schoolteachers, fishermen, and owners of sari-sari stores.
This is my secret island—a place I pray would not succumb to extreme modernization and tourism, not because I selfishly want to keep it to myself, but because I learned through my several visits there that the island is doing well just the way it is.