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Reflections: A weekend on Aguirangan island

It was going to be an exciting weekend. Saturday was a holiday and the next day was Palm Sunday. The timing was just right for a long-awaited break and retreat from a physically and emotionally tiring stretch of the Pandemic isolation.

One Tabang Bikol Movement board member scheduled her once-a-year trip abroad, and another was celebrating her birthday soon. Over our weekly group chats, an idea quickly came up. Why not an out-of-town trip to a virgin island away from the hustle and bustle of stressful deadlines and daily grind among friends? That would be a stimulating getaway! But being volunteers, experts, and experienced organizers, another thought came up: why not include some officers of the community sectoral organizations that TBM is assisting and helping to join the get-together for bonding and sharing? Why not turn the gathering into a healing, meaningful personal, and collective reflection among the members in time for the Holy Week?

However, news about scattered thunderstorms due to a low-pressure area and the threat of Typhoon Agaton over the Visayas and Bicol almost dampened everyone’s mood. Was it going to be a stormy Holy Week? We almost gave up the idea. But then, a bit of Haring Araw showed in a streak of luck, and everyone cheered. TBM board members and officers of people’s organizations PODiS, Ilaw ng Kababaihan, and Bugkos ng Kabataan confirmed to get together. The destination: Aguirangan Island (Rose Islet), a tiny idyllic tropical paradise on the Lagonoy Gulf in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Used to quick organizing events, especially in times of disaster and relief, we soon came up with a plan for what I later called a HEALing Outing after the TBM’s program of HEAL (Health, Environment and Alternative Livelihood) for a much-needed respite and healing. It turned out more than that, we soon found out.

Long and winding road

The group of 15 took their ride on the coaster of the Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation (MPCF) in Canaman, which extended consistent support for TBM projects and programs, including transportation provision. But, like any new experience, I decided not to join the group bus ride and drive my own to get to the destination of choice, my first trip to Presentacion. I have always enjoyed adventure and new experiences since my younger years. So, with my husband in the back seat, I drove with the thought that it would just be an easy breeze for me.

The road to Presentacion, passing by Pili, Ocampo, Tigaon, and Lagonoy municipalities, was long and bumpy. Reaching the boundary to Presentacion uphill, the winding road reminded me of Baguio’s zigzag Kennon Road. I saw carved roads ahead in the mountainsides, apparently part of road widening projects. The best part of the drive was seeing more mountains, hills, trees, and plants. Finally, I reached a steep corner near Lagonoy; then, I realized there were numerous switchbacks to navigate to reach Barangay Maangas and our final destination. My heartbeat quickened as I drove closer to the gate and saw immediately at a distance, not far from where the blue-painted Mariners coaster parked, the beautiful silhouette of the tiny Aguirangan island in the middle of the wide and clear-blue Lagonoy Gulf. Everyone was ecstatic, and I understood. On reflection, I compared driving through a long and winding road to lengthy progress to such a trip, as life is a continuing journey with breathtaking detours and bumpy roads.

Reflecting and communing with nature

After the preliminary personal chores, dining, and group talkies, everybody went around the vicinity to bond, explore and enjoy the night bathing under the stars, in the pool, and the jacuzzi-like waters pounding on one’s back from the natural flow of ocean seawater. Pebbles, stones, cobbles and fossil-marked, eons-old rocks on the beachfront provided healthy grounding and natural foot massage. Everyone was excited to pick up a few pebbles and stones –colorful and invariably shaped- to bring home. On reflection, like rocks, pebbles are a natural sea defense against big waves, so I reminded the pickers just a few stones would do, why not?

At sunrise, a ten-minute motorboat ride to the island was a maritime experience for everyone, especially those who forgot, didn’t know, or was traumatized to swim. The island -virgin, yet untouched by commercialism, with its cold turquoise water, is a tremendous natural refuge where one can dip or laze around, walk on fine powdered brown coral sand, with coral formations everywhere.

The officers of the farmers, women, and youth groups who joined us had forgotten about their problems -oh, there were a lot of them! -- even for a while. We had a few hours chatting about our personal lives, organizations, and country—nothing profound but just plain sharing and reflecting. We can’t grow without challenge and reflection. When they stepped on the stony footpath and the gleamy golden beach sand of the island, they enjoyed each other’s company, the quiet green and blue nature, the peaceful and calm climate, and the gentle breeze around the island that makes it ideal for reflection and communing with nature. They all agreed that the island’s weekend was a deepening experience – whatever that meant. “Malalim.”

On our way back to Naga, we passed by Ocampo for a late afternoon Palm Sunday Mass. My husband opted to rest a while inside the car. Outside the church, to my amazement, I saw myself in a sea of very young churchgoers from 12 to about 20 years, in fashionista clothes and sneakers, who were playing, excited to see each other, while holding on to their pagaspas. Some saw and greeted me, smiling at the sight of a senior citizen among them. I remembered the famous lines “No man is an island” of an English meditation prose written by John Donne. Just like from the song, “Pananagutan,” the words resonate, “walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang,” It’s about the connection of humankind. People need each other and are better together than in isolation because every individual is one pebble of the bigger ocean that is humanity itself. Just like the tiny island of Aguirangan, it is a part of the bigger homeland.

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