Wednesday, March 21, 2007


The Red Orchestra
Is the sea at dawn
The crashing cymbals
The thrust of each wave
The call of the gull
A sacred lull
And the sun?
Of course, the conductor.

-Susan Coti-
DCAWP Fellow 2004

The best place for me when I was a child was our family beach resort in Paracale, Camarines Norte.

Paracale is “gold country” in Camarines Norte. Since the Pre-Spanish period, local residents have worked the mines and goldsmiths have turned the metal into finely crafted pieces. The town is a center of the jewelry-making industry and although the art has declined in importance, the town is still regarded as a good place to get fine gold jewelry. Antique styles, like the agimon (also known as the alakdan ) or the flat necklace chain of the 19th century, continue to be made in Paracale.
Our sun kissed beach resort was very much known in that part of our province until now because of its claylike soil and red sand. My great grandparents named our paradise “Pulang Daga” meaning red soil in our vernacular. Everything was natural and untouched. Visitors went to Pulang Daga every summer to enjoy the virginal, undepleted and unpolluted island. The crystal clear sea sparkled in shades of turquoise, sea blue and emerald green. The shallow waters surrounding the island were perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming. The waters were shallow enough for visitors to walk from one reef to another.
My family would stay there for a week or so every month, and I would lazily daydream in a comfortable hammock stretched between two palms when I wasn’t swimming. I loved having my head in the clouds when I was a little girl. I guess my family knew about it because they would allow me to play near the shore when the tide was low. How I loved the corals! I never had to use goggles to see the colorful fishes that swam there. The sea cucumber, starfish, brittle star, and sea snails just crawled on the corals. They were exposed with the low tide every noontime and dusk. I felt like I was a mermaid!
I wasn’t a good swimmer but I felt like I was connected to the waters because of my childhood experiences in this place.
I had forgotten about my childhood fantasies of being a mermaid when I started fantasizing about boys. But whenever we went to different beaches across the country, I know those beaches were beyond compare to Pulang Daga. I transferred to the city to pursue college. I seldom go there now but I still hear stories about how beautiful it is today.

Just a couple of years ago, my family changed the name of our family beach resort, from "Pulang Daga" to Virgin Island.


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