I grew up in a remote 24 kilometers circumferential island named Maripipi located at the northern tip of the Province of Leyte, Philippines. Not everybody knows about Maripipi Island but it offered me a harmless environment and shielded me from the atrocities of city life. I grew up without electricity, television, electronic gadgets or commercial toys to play with. I slept early and woke up early. In short, there was no distraction.
I walked to school on slippers, ate fresh sea foods and vegetables every meal, snacked on locally made delicacies from root crops during recess time. I’ve done cardiovascular exercise by swimming amidst big waves. My treadmill was climbing up the mountains to gather firewood. Fine dining for me was by feasting on crops and fruits that grow in the wild. It sounds like I was in the middle of uninhabited place but no, it was a paradise to me. Reason why it is called the Island of No Return.
My first book was from newspapers or magazines used to wrap local goods bought from the public market. I collected colored magazines and compiled them like a scrap-book. It served as my television or entertainment during leisure time. From it, I dreamed about things and places. I traveled a lot through those scenic pictures in magazines. Learned hygiene and fashion from pictures of people I only met in my dreams.
My first Science was high tide and low tide and thought at first that the world was flat. I understood the Law of Gravity by climbing a guava or coconut tree. My parents didn’t have to pay insurance or worry about liability. I discovered early in life the value of taking care of the environment and how to coexist and live peacefully. We had a municipal court but no one got sued and a prison cell but no one got jailed. I played with friends together with dogs, chickens and backyard animals. We didn’t have an ordinance that banned them from roaming around but we can tell which one is ours. I swam with different species of fish and fascinated by colorful corals and underwater creatures. We didn’t have fancy hotels and state-of-the-art resort facilities but only the vast blue skies, coconut trees-filled mountains and beach shorelines and the inviting crystal clear water to enjoy.
I didn’t wear a guess watch because I learned to tell the time just by looking up at the sun. It taught me when to sleep and when to wake up. I learned to count by throwing pebbles to the ocean and mastered my history by singing Yoyoy Villame’s song about “Philippine History”. I can’t forget that Lapu-Lapu killed Magellan because the island is abundant of Lapu-lapu fish. My teenage years was very healthy but I learned the hard facts of relationship through Eva Eugenio’s “Tukso” and Imelda Papin’s “Hindi Ako Isang Laruan” because we didn’t talk about it at home. Those songs reminded me to be strong and vigilant.
My parents didn’t have household bills and mortgage to pay every month. They didn’t bring us to fast food to eat or malls to shop but they didn’t have credit card bills to worry. The church was the only place we go on Sundays to escape from our day-to-day mundane activities or when there was a benefit dance in the public plaza during fiestas or along the road on special occasions. The mountain was my natural backdrop and the vast ocean was my ready audience when I want to sing or speak my heart out, free from the harsh criticisms of this cruel world. I travelled around the island by foot or by a small paddle boat without hefty fares or skyrocketing gasoline cost to pay. Everything was simple and almost free.
Now, it has changed a lot. I know I can’t stop progress but the memories will always linger on. Thank you my beloved island for teaching me early in life to survive. I developed high survival instinct because of the real life experiences you have given me. Thank you for providing fresh air, sea foods and vegetables that made me healthy. You prepared me very well to cope with the challenges of life. Thank you for the values you have taught me. I learned to love and care for my family, value friendship and respect other people. You nurtured in me the essence of hard work and patience to reach my dreams. Thank you for giving me a safe and stress free life. All these have made me a champion, a leader, an athlete and an achiever today. Indeed, you prepared me to be the best person I could be. Whatever my future will be and wherever it will bring me, I will always carry all these precious lessons with me. I will teach my children and the children of my children what you have taught me. Until the last breath of my life, I will always be humbled knowing that despite how small an island you are, you have the qualities of a giant. Despite how backward my life was before, you have trained me to be world-class. It can’t be denied and it will show that I am a Maripipian. I am proud to be one!