Donated tents are the temporary homes of locals on Bantayan Island
It was the countryside closest to the coast that experienced the wrath of Haiyan the most. While going through these rural communities with our trusty Honda scooter, we felt both sadness and admiration. A number of families were living in big tents, donated by organizations. Some women were washing their clothes outside, but we figured that decent clean bathrooms were non-existent and that potable water was being rationed. It was clear that these people didn’t have much in the first place. They had no furniture, no TV, and no computers. The clothes they were wearing appeared very old, dirty and disheveled. What they lived in before Haiyan were rickety shanties that were taken away from them. We couldn’t help but notice the disturbingly excessive number of children from 7 years and under everywhere. And despite the many schools we saw while exploring on the island, it was quite clear that many children were not attending them. Poverty was staring right at our face almost everywhere on Bantayan. There was no escaping it.
Before we came to the island, we decided to bring as many clothes as we could to give to those in need. It was sad that we only brought adult clothing when we realized that the kids on the island needed clothes the most. We were worried about the distribution part as there were stories about volunteers getting mugged for their supplies. Since there was not a lot of clothing, we contemplated giving them to families living in tents. As soon as I walked towards a community, several kids suddenly started to rush towards me. I almost panicked but when they got to a close proximity, they stopped and smiled. Some women greeted me and asked what my business was. I explained to them that there was some clothes that I wanted to give away to the people living in the tents. One lady answered, “That’s us Ma’am. We were advised not to stay in the tents if the sun gets too hot.” It was so surprising to me that these women were quite calm and respectful. None of them showed selfish eagerness to swipe the clothes for themselves, nor were they arguing who gets to keep what. There was obviously not enough clothes for all of them but everyone was genuinely appreciative. They reacted as if I had given them expensive gifts. The truth is, they gave me back something more valuable. They thanked me with their words, their eyes, their smiles and their demeanor. It was the kind of appreciation that made me feel this unexplainable deeply rooted happiness.
The experience we had on Bantayan will never be duplicated even if we visit again. We came to the island when it was trying to rebuild and recover from a disaster. While there, we did not only find pleasure on the island’s spectacular beaches. We were also witnesses to the positive outlook and the pleasant character of the Bantayan people amidst a huge disaster; and to the goodness of people from all around the world, who selflessly donated their time, resources and skills to help. I remember the British lady commenting, “Bantayan was a beautiful island before the storm, and it will become beautiful again.” For me, Haiyan might have hurled all its might at Bantayan, but the island, with all its imperfections, is still absolutely special.
In time, the infrastructure destroyed will be rebuilt, and I do agree with the banner that greeted us on the pier – “Bantayan will rise again.” But I wish that the island will retain its simple, authentic and undeveloped self. I would love to see again the wild vegetation in between the basic resorts, and the fishermen’s houses and their rustic boats. Perhaps, this is a selfish thought, but a travel destination like Bantayan is extremely rare to find, one that I want to hold on to for as long as I can.
For more information about the journey to Bantayan from Cebu City please click this link:
For donation inquiries, please visit the following websites:
Accommodation Suggestions – Bantayan Island
If you’re making all the effort to get to Bantayan Island, then I would suggest getting a place right on the beach. By simply renting a moto you will have no problem seeing the interior of the island as well. Alice Beach is quite nice, so that’s a good place to stay in my opinion. Here are a few sites that might have the rooms you are looking for:
This is the largest room provider in Southeast Asia. Therefore, it does have a wide selection of rooms even in the remote areas of the Philippines. Here is a link to their rooms in Cebu and the surrounding area (including Bantayan):
Rooms in Cebu/Bantayan Island
Although www.booking.com does not offer as many rooms in the Philippines as Agoda, they try to make up for it with excellent cancellation policies and customer service. If you’re booking well in advance, it makes sense to book discounted, cancellation-free rooms. Here is a link to their rooms in this region of the Philippines:
Rooms on Bantayan Island
This is our preferred price comparison site in Southeast Asia. Within seconds you can find the cheapest room from the world’s top room sites. This has saved us some serious cash (and time) during our trips to the Southern Philippines. Here is a link to their price comparison search:
Price Comparison – Rooms on Bantayan Island