Saturday, November 1, 2008

OLANGO: My Island in the Sun

OLANGO ISLAND HAD been humming in my consciousness for so many years. I have read and listened to so many tales about her and it gave me some misgivings why I haven't yet ventured beyond the back side of Mactan Island before the year 2008. That honor went to my “old” colleagues in Cebu Mountaineering Society or CeMS and they crossed the Olango Channel to and fro with such regularity as if the island itself sits on dry land.

My time to set foot on this mythical island of my mind came last May 3 and 4 when CeMS decided to organize and hold the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) refresher sandwiched with the Leave No Trace (LNT) Seven Principles at Bak-oy Beach in Barangay Tingo in a property owned by the family of CeMS member Joy Tongco. I was with 32 others for two days and one night there, some of them first-timers on the me.

We crossed the channel in the morning from Punta Engaño Wharf, beside the renowned (and pink-washed) Hilton Hotel, on board a motorized outrigger seacraft which directly ferried us to Bak-oy beach. The waves were slightly rough owing to a squall generated by a passing tropical depression. Every newcomer were very excited and drooled on the idea of bird-watching on its southern tidal flats or of tasting their fresh bounties caught from its depths.

The latter seemed to be more feasible (and palatable) as on the night of the first day all the seminar participants were served with the very fresh and delicious sa-ang shells cooked in the traditional manner – the island way – by boiling it in sea water. The other island delicacy, scallops, were also caught fresh, cooked and boiled, and it tasted unexpectedly sweet to my tongue and retained an aroma that is very pleasing. Dipped with native coconut vinegar and soy sauce spiced with onions and tomatoes both seashells exuded tastes beyond what our senses could imagine er...taste.

When we arrived on the first day it was raining and we held our outdoors-related BMC indoors and twenty-six of us crammed inside a beach house built to accommodate six persons at the most. Early dawn of May 4, Dr. Abe Manlawe and me led eight others and sweated it out by running the five-kilometer stretch of the fine cemented road from Tingo to Santa Rosa in roughly 30 minutes of time. We ran the same route back to where we came from and all exulted enjoying the pure air of the island as we neared the finish line.

After the road run I felt that I have to cool my body. Discarding everything except my black Bike cycling shorts I immersed into the welcoming coolness of the sea and swam and dove down into its shallow depths. There's plenty of unhindered water space around Olango and they're very pristine, exceptionally clear and totally free! I took my time well until it was time for me to do the honors of lecturing the participants.

We left for home after lunch on the second day with the same seacraft we boarded in coming. The sun stung on our skin as we sat on the craft's deck and maneuvered ourselves around the small boat to be away from the exposed side and into what shaded area the craft could offer but that doesn't dampen our hopes of looking forward to another opportunity to set foot on her powdery white beaches again.

In my case, I went there again on August 10, on the invitations of Joy. Ooowww, Daddy Frank Cabigon, Andrew Flores, Grace Ventic and friends from the University of San Carlos Mountaineers (USC-M) were already there the day before and only Jon Consunji went with me in crossing the channel for Olango. The occasion this time was to celebrate fiesta in Barangay Tingo in honor of their patron – Saint Filomena. Later, Loklok and Tata Caumeran arrived together with the Tinago Bicycle Club.

Jon and I boarded a slow-moving barge, the M/V Sta. Catalina, from Punta Engaño and arrived at Barangay Sta. Rosa after 10:00 AM. We rode a tricycle for Tingo enough to witness a race between two speeding small motorized outriggers. There were many revelers, visitors, vendors and candle dancers converging in Barangay Tingo as one house competed against one another with the most number of visitors or having the noisiest stereo player.

It was a very sunny morning. The heat of the sun were felt by everyone but it never discouraged the fiesta revelers one bit and that includes me. Stringed flyers bearing commercial names ruffled and danced in the breeze overhead as a bonanza of colors mixed and mingled below. The sound of parade drums echoed in the distance as shouts of playful children elicit your attention.

As with my previous visit, I was treated again to a lunch of sa-ang and scallop sea shells. Do you know that Joy's family ordered, collected and cooked 4,000 of these as the main cog of their food servings? Lechon baboy, bam-i, sweet and sour pork, humba, pork estofado and fried pork ribs complemented the sentimental favorites as well as an array of sliced cantaloupe, pineapple and water melon, skewered marshmallows and melted chocolate cascading from a miniature fountain.

I helped myself with several servings of sa-ang shells and scallops and tempted myself to bring some for home but it was just wishful thinking. Anyway, the opportunity of eating this gastronomic treat is quite rare in my own standpoint, so I took the chance of filling myself to the brim and it was good enough for me to skip supper altogether by the time I reached home.

By 1:30 PM, we all bade goodbye to Joy and her family. There was a CeMS meeting that afternoon and it was definite that we have to go back to Cebu. From Tingo we walked a kilometer into Barangay Baring where watercrafts for hire were waiting. We hopped unto one “parked” boat and off we went for Mactan Island then for mainland Cebu. The sea was very calm and from a distance I could still hear the fading rhythms of the drums of Tingo. I wonder where did they get their supply of fresh water?

I would love to go back to Olango Island someday on another date and purpose. CeMS have chosen and made this island close to their heart borne out of their social commitment and responsibility in protecting the environment. For those who don't know it yet, CeMS is a regular participant in the annual “Scubasurero” affair in Olango by cleaning the coastlines and mangrove areas free of garbage.

CeMS have, in the past, joined in bird-banding activities at the Olango Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary and have gratified themselves by dining at the famed floating restaurants of Caw-oy. Those were the days when the oldsters – Daddy Frank, Doc Abe, Rex Vecina, Matt and Ben Lao, Bebut Estillore, Cla-cla Delgra, Tony Cabigon, Lilibeth Initan, Dennis Legaspi and the late Sir Joe Avellanosa – tasted island life to the fullest in the cabanas of Olango.

I would like to try those also, probably, doing the extra mile by crossing the underwater isthmus for Pangan-an shoal in the months to come. They had not been to that place before. It is an exotic place where the sky meets the sea and the sand for miles around without a hindrance save for a lone cabana that is the center of activity of faraway fishermen who shared their catch for a price of a song. A place where time stops for a while and the sea current freeze to a standstill during a low tide. A good time for crossing on dry ground for the unheard of shoal.


Sunrise on Bohol island as seen from Olango

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.


Earl said...

Cherokee: You have an outstanding blog about Olango. I never been there and wished to step on its pearly shore.


Berita dari gunung said...

Been to Bohol once, I thought Bohol is the nicest place I ever been to.