When all you want is a little peace and quiet, Camiguin Island is the place to stay a while. Crowd and chaos are rare scenes, just the unspeakable sunrise, the captivating view of Mt. Ilihan, the quiet sunset, and the unfading smiles of people whom I haven’t seen in the last 16 years. Camiguin still feels like HOME.
Crystal-clear blue-green seawater with colorful fish under the skies of blue lies just out in front of my grandma’s doorstep . Some trees and houses that used to populate the beachfront were gone to give way to the construction of a sea dike. Now, very few kids go for a day-long swim, unlike before when my siblings and I were new to the place, we swam without ceasing, unless disturbed by Ate or mom screaming “FIRE” just to get us out of it.
My siblings would have been nostalgic had they made it to Camiguin (but even in the years to come, I bet its beauty isn’t likely to fade). I could only afford my parents’ fare. Tatay and Nanay squeezed themselves in a long queue to kiss Camiguin’s soil before Good Friday. There’s no direct flight from Manila to Camiguin, or if there’s any, we were not aware of it. They finally arrived at 12:24 AM on Friday while I was sleeping like a baby.
In the morning, I woke up seeing neither of them in bed. “Have I slept too long?” Then I heard mom’s voice from the window facing the shore. She was drying a bag of squid to be brought back home in Manila. She was on vacation and the first thing she thought of was to bring special edibles back home. Delightfully odd.
When I came down the stairs, I asked my cousins if they had seen my father. He was at the mini-house (bahay-kubo) by the river, perhaps enjoying the songs of coconut trees and getting some rare fresh air. So my parents were both busy with their chosen activities. I had to think of a way to draw their attention. Aha! Swimming!
Though my aunt told us that witches would be throwing potions into the spring every Good Friday, we still went for a refreshing bath in the midst of the scorching heat. Lush green rice fields waved “hi” as we passed by them on our way to the Spring. My cousin told me to stop and kiss the hand of an elder among the group of men happily drinking. I didn’t even recognize him but I did kiss his hand. Is there anyone here whom we are not related to?
Perhaps the true charm of Camiguin lies in familiarity among its settlers and the generation that follows them. Everyone is known, either as son or daughter, or granddaughter or great granddaughter of a certain surname. Isn’t it just perfectly reassuring to be known and to know everyone in the community? I doubt this is ever possible in the cities. In Camiguin, everyone seems to have their smiles ready for anyone.