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| Travel Essay | The Clouds of Bantayan Island

There is something about the clouds. Their beauty is their fleetingness.

They are “unburdened by memory of any kind” unlike us. I could remember the pile of cup noodles below the television swaying, and if they had fallen down, it would have been a signal that the waves won over the ship. Luckily, the waves were not furious enough, but they constantly reminded us with their disturbing presence.

A man steadied himself on the lower rail of the ship while painting its exterior white. He was left unperturbed by our cloud imaginings on the second deck. Everything was moving—the clouds, the ship, the water—while he steadied and balanced himself as to not fall into the sea. His focus was almost as pure as the cirrus from afar. 

There is something about the clouds. We can weave characters and plot a flash fiction like Hemingway’s “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn” and instantly forget about it a second after and move on to another story. They become soldiers, a rabbit, a pregnant woman, a hermit with his back to us, a pig, a World War II scenario, flying turtles. It was the clouds with their changing “shape, shade, pose” that constantly accompanied us on our trips.

“Can you see the  hermit,” Paw asked.


“Just beside the massive explosion of clouds.”

“Ah. Found him!”

There is something about the clouds: they can be as faint as a thin veil of white hair. They fashioned the sky while I waded through the waters of Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort one late afternoon, when the sun was soft on the skin. Its shore was aplenty with crabs and sea shells.

My senses centered on the soles of my feet—kneading the soft shore for knobs that could be either shells or the fruit of the tree by the shore. Locals did the same. A man a few meters away harvested guso from what seemed to be lines of white buoys. Someone shouted, “pagda dirig linug-ang saging ug ginamos!” which momentarily distracted me. I salivated at the thought of boiled bananas and ginamos.

Panginhas is a meditative act. It makes me forget the world and allow my senses to concentrate on the world underneath the feet. It makes me forget the existence of time. I became aware of it again when the clouds became less visible. It signaled that the night was about to dock on the shore. It was time to go to the room with my catch. My dinner was secured already.

There is something about the clouds: they sometimes get pregnant and shower the earth with baby raindrops. And when they do, one is either forced to stay indoors and witness the force of gravity or do something else, like enjoying a different form of water: a cave pool.

“I guess, it needs one more light,” I said.

“I like it the way it is. It looks mysterious,” Paw argued.

“But it will look a lot more beautiful in pictures when it has one.”

“It is beautiful as it is.”

With the rain’s pitter-patters, small details strove from the chaos of things: a shell key holder, a kagingking towel holder, a mat ceiling, a wall mosaic of rocks, rock-and-shell house of a fire extinguisher, woven rattan place mat, termites-eaten wood sculpture, and wood-mosaic tray. Yes, I found myself admiring the small details subtled in the grand scheme of things.

There is something about the clouds of Bantayan Island:  they scattered across the horizon but close to one another like the islands of the Philippines.

During our first trip in Sta. Fe, almost two years ago, a colossal columbus teased the skyline while three kids crawled on the muddy shore like a six-legged insect circling and giggling around.

A group of locals stayed under the shade of the coconut trees. They halved the bulinaw (anchovy), removed its tiny vertebrate, and let it dry by the shore. An old man’s hands looked worn out. A woman’s face looked as bored as the anchovy’s. A young man’s muscled arms were pronounced with the weight of the bucket of water in his hand. I realized then that buwad derived its name from the act itself: the halved fish facing the scorching sun.

A foreign couple inspected the drying bulinaw, looking surprised with its smallness.

“What is it?” the woman asked.

“Anchovy. It is good for the brain,” I answered.

There is something about the clouds of Bantayan Island: they remind me of the clouds somewhere else, of the clouds on Olango Island, the clouds on Siargao. When I think of clouds, I think of islands.

Yes, somewhere else. The ubiquity of technology  makes somewhere else accessible.  Most resorts were equipped with WiFi, which made me question the real essence of traveling especially on an island. Yet with the presence—omnipresence I might say—of technology, the escape becomes a lie, untruthful to itself. I could check my email anytime, Paw his sports.

Unlike our previous stay on the island, Nature Park does not make the Internet readily available. One has to go by the villa’s front door, under the shade of the pink-and-white bougainvillea to access the Net. The two islands in sight teased the imagination while waiting for the Web page to load.

There is something about the clouds of Bantayan Island: they can be as invisible as air. And when they do, the sun becomes intolerable. But the myriad foliage of leaves above the unlabeled pathways at Nature Park warded off Paw’s thoughts of skin cancer. The paths are unlabeled because “it is always exciting to get lost in paradise.” The place made me forget about the clouds and the sky with the canopy of gumamelas, molaves, talamban, berries, and fruit-bearing trees.

At the town center, blue dominated the sky, which reminded me of Rebecca Solnitt’s “ the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. . . . The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not.” Perhaps it is the reason that feeling blue conjures the image of sadness.

There is something about the clouds: they change and how they remind us of ourselves. 

More pictures:  Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort

Photo Essay: Bantayan Island, Cebu, Philippines 

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona! I’m in my early 30s and is currently based in Ha Noi, Vietnam.I primarily write poetry and short stories in Cebuano and lengthy travel essays in English. Blogging has become an outlet to think out loud. I live the life I set for myself. I try to live an unapologetic life. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at Find me somewhere else!

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  1. […] Of Stories and Storied Places The search of scenes, silence, stories, stanzas Skip to content HomeLINKSMEDIAPOETRYREAD A BOOKTRAVELABOUT ME ← The Clouds of Bantayan Island […]

  2. Gilly Gee says:

    Cebu is so beautiful!

  3. […] Sunday, I headed to Bantayan Island, located in northern Cebu, at three in the morning to give the P32, 000 cash donations and little […]

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