It was Holy Thursday afternoon when we arrived in the town of Inopacan, Leyte. There were eight of us traveling from our hometown Ormoc City by motorcycle. We were four sets of riding-in-tandems.
We came from and survived the fatal walk to and fro Hanginan Church in Maasin City when we drove back to Inopacan.
No one among us have been to Cuatros Islas yet – that makes this trip quite exciting. At this point I would like to thank my phone’s Google Map for directing us behind the Inopacan Municipal Hall where the reclamation area is located. It is the jump-off to Cuatros Islas which includes Digyo Island – our destination.
The two-way trip of the motor boat is at P2,500 inclusive of a one-time island hopping to three other islands. For a group of 11-22 persons, it’s P3,500. Also in the reception area is where you pay P50 per head for Digyo Island’s “maintenance fee”.
Before hopping aboard our rented boat, we went around to buy food. Rice, fish, canned goods, and drinking water – this should suffice our overnight stay. Aside from our budget constraint, it is fasting period. “We don’t go to the island for feast,” I jested to my mates.
We could have dropped by Islands of Mahaba, Himokilan, and Apid, but we agreed to postpone our island hopping to the next day. Our 140-kilometers drive from Ormoc started 3am, then the “buwis-buhay” tramp to and fro Hanginan Church. Hoohh! Imagine how exhausted we were.
Travel to Digyo takes about 45 minutes. It is the farthest among the four. As we come closer, we were astonished by its pristine clear waters, white powdery sands, and the fact that it is the smallest of the four islands makes it more wonderful and enticing to the eyes.
There are no fancy accommodations, just huts and small cottages that ranges from P250-P500. Kuya Jonmar, our boatman, and his sidekick assisted us in arranging our accommodation but [un]luckily, no more cottages nor tents for our accommodation. There were quite a lot “overnighters” who came before us. Actually, one of us owns a tent but intentionally left it for the purpose of traveling light (ehem).
So we rented two mats (banig) at P50 each. We settled down in what we thought was the most comfortable spot under the shades of palm trees. We realized we should not be placing our food on the ground so we asked kuya Jonmar for a table. They brought us one for P100 pesos. It comes with two long chairs which is good for 5 persons.
Had a little rest just enough to restore our lost energy and we’re up again for the venture. We prepared the fish for grilling and had our rice cooked at the nearby store slash residence. It’s fine if you don’t bring cooking utensils in the island as long as you are willing to pay P50 for the “labor fee” of cooking the rice.
It’s almost twilight when we decided to walk around the virgin island. Digyo measures 3.5 hectares with mini sand bars jutting out in both ends. By experience, you could explore the island from end to end for 15 minutes. We discovered that the rear part of the island was where most of the visitors were filling up the small cottages or their colorful tents. People were playing beach volleyball while others were taking selfies for uploading in social media.
P5.00 is collected for every use of the lone restroom in the island regardless of either you unload, pee, or just fart inside. Consider it misfortune if, God forbid, you’re having a bad stomach while in the island because you’ll be drained both physically and financially.
There is no tap water but there is available seawater in the CR. Again, seawater. The island is relatively undeveloped and the seawater are somehow clear, so it’s fine for post-meditation washing and flushing.
We resolved to have early dinner so we would again be robust for our swimming the next day. It was 7PM when we lay down under the open sky with light coming only from the full moon and the stars.
Meanwhile, on the other side were a group of four people (like the Fantastic Four) around a bonfire. We could hear them giggling and insulting each other. They must be close friends like us. We learned that they too are unprepared of their island hopping. We even have to be thankful we have meals (despite minimal) because they don’t, they only have snack packs.
The evenings spent in the island are best spent for catching up with family and friends. While we did so, the moderate wind gradually sent us under our blankets (or towels) while the coconut leaves were dancing (to the tune of Albatraoz).
Few more conversations and one by one started to doze off. In fact, I had to relocate because I was beside a snoring machine. I can’t afford to miss a good sleep because I want to watch the glorious sunrise the next morning, swim like a fish, take a lot of selfies, and enjoy like it’s my last time to see the beauty of the world with my own eyes.
The day after is a Good Friday…
After swimming and photo shoots…
Good news: We can rinse up with tap water for P30.
Bad news: They ran out of stock. LOL
So you get the picture of it. We were in our dripping swim suits and trunks when we departed Digyo Island around 2PM for our much-awaited hopping to nearby islands. As we sail, we saw the three other islands. I was chatting to Kuya Jonmar and learned more trivia in addition to what I got from the web.
Himokilan is the largest and is the least appealing. It is also the most inhabited among the islands. Apid, on the other hand is also not that inviting so we decided to skip this island though I wanted to buy their dried fish. I heard it’s better than Cebu’s Danggit. But we proceeded to Mahaba Island.
As the name suggests, Mahaba is elongated in shape. It’s the second largest of the group. Giant sharp rocks are so inviting that you can’t help but ask someone to take a picture of you with the giant formation in the background.
Mahaba serves as marine sanctuary. There we got the chance to plunge into clear blue-green waters again. Of the four, Mahaba is the only island with data signal. It lets you post your narci selfies for the whole world to see!
Before we left, the “caretakers” of the island asked for any amount of donation for the “maintenance” of the island. “Bisag P20 or P50 lang Sir”, our boatman said.
Then we needed to leave…
That’s life. No matter how happy you were in that particular moment, people come and go. Especially if they already have what they needed from you.
Let’s move on…
Because it was low tide, our boat could only dock few meters away from the berthing area which made us walk a little bit. We thanked Kuya Jonmar and his buddy. “I hope you come again Ma’am, Sir!” was his polite response. When we hit the mainland, we all have only one thing in mind: Where to rinse up?
“There is a CR inside sir, I’m just not sure of whether you can take a bath,” responded the guy when I asked him about the nearest bathroom. He was watering the plants in front of the impressively clean municipal hall. He was the only one around as it was a Good Friday. We went to the CR in both sides and as expected, all that there was are toilets and urinals. No chances of taking a bath dude, pack up!
I remember we saw public restrooms in the mini market where we bought our food. So we head off there but it was closed. We approached a woman who I noticed was the lone fish vendor that time. “The in-charge is not around, he’s got the key,” she said. So is it still a public CR if someone private got hold of the access?
We noticed an artesian well (called poso in local) just beside the CR. Out of slight frustration, we agreed to rinse up with it. With the help of the woman’s amazing pumping skills, the poso was triggered and the water finally came out. “It should be kept pumped and flowing, otherwise, it will again subside”, she informed us before she left.
We took turns of pumping the poso while everyone gets a fair share of nice and cold shower. Who would have thought bathing together could be that fun!
While struggling to change underwear behind a towel, I noticed the post in the CR’s portal. It’s a tariff of services, again. “It could be about how much support they get from the local government” my pal said. He’s got a point. I think that spells the difference between Cuatros Islas and Kalangaman Island or Canigao Island.
It makes me appreciate our city’s public CRs too. We have a lot of public CRs – under the City Stage, at Food Park, behind Sts. Peter and Paul Church, at the back of the old City Hall, in two bus terminals, and the many spacious CRs in the City Hall – all for free use of the public.
Even if it’s a bit pricey, our Cuatros Islas’ escapade was surely worth it. We spent a good deal of our time relaxing and exploring the islands of Digyo and Mahaba by foot. The islands are still far from “tourist trail” of beach goers, so private and solemn, a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle of a city life.
Next concern: Good meal. We drove our way back home feeling satisfied and ready to face again the reality of life.