Don’t get me started with mangoes. So far, nothing beats those of Guimaras. Nobody can prove otherwise. They’re the best I’ve ever tasted! I don’t regret choosing this island as my new home.
But besides being the producer of the sweetest mangoes, Guimaras Island has a deeper, more meaningful effect in my life.
A year ago, I decided to move to the island and leave the posh city life behind. Most of my friends were surprised by this decision, doubting that I would survive. To be fair, I didn’t imprison my self in Guimaras and tell you that for the past 365 days, I just stayed here. I still traveled, mostly around Western Visayas. I still visited Manila once in a while to attend special occasions, but most of my time, around 70% of it, I was in Western Visayas.
It was not a hard decision to move to Guimaras Island. Its proximity to Iloilo City was a big factor, knowing that if I suddenly missed the city, I could easily ride a boat for only Php15 and stay in Iloilo to enjoy the city. I super love Iloilo. If I had more than enough money, I would definitely buy a house and move there.
It was in May 2018 when I started living on the island. My first 2 weeks felt like a vacation. I would wake up to the spud of birds and the crashing waves. Then I would, later on, enjoy the blue water and the beautiful view of the islets of Taklong Marine Sanctuary. I eat fresh mangoes every day since it’s the best month to enjoy it. Seafood is fresh, too! I can enjoy fresh lapu-lapu, shrimp, squid, lobster and native chicken–all the food that I seldom eat in Manila. This is the life I imagine, a life away from traffic, stress, pollution, and noise of the city.
But I wasn’t there for vacation only. As you know, one of my clients (Nature’s Eye Beach Resort) opened her resort’s doors to me where I could stay for free. Yes, for free! Free food and accommodation, but in exchange, I do the marketing for the resort (of course I also get paid). She said, “You can stay here anytime you want, leave anytime you want, and come back anytime you want.” Who will say no to that offer?
The first 3 months was the most challenging. I was still adjusting to this very simple way of living and when I say a simple way of living, I mean it. Very slow internet connection to the point that reaching 500 kbps is happiness. There are no malls, no fast food, no coffee shop nearby. If I want to experience those perks, I need to travel for one hour and 30 mins going to Iloilo since I’m staying in the southernmost part of Guimaras Island. No neighbors either as the resort is a bit secluded and located inside a forest.
As was anticipated, life here will never be as perfect as living a fairy tale. Till now–and I’m sure most Guimarasnons will agree–I’m having a hard time adjusting to the frequent brownouts. There’s not a day in the week that we don’t experience brownouts. Sometimes, voltage is low.
And this is not just a one-hour brownout. Most of the time, it spans 6-12 hours! Can you imagine that? Slow to no internet connection plus no electricity. How did I survive? Well, if you don’t have control over something, you will just accept it. On the brighter side, when darkness envelopes the surroundings, I see lots of fireflies and enjoy watching the stars–not a bad consolation prize.
I would be fair to Guimelco (the electric company in Guimaras). Honestly, there were many times that I cursed you and even ranted on your Facebook page, because no one is happy about experiencing brownouts and low voltage every single day. But to give credit, this year, there was be a big improvement in the electricity supply. I’d say that there are weeks now that we don’t experience brownouts, although I’m not yet confident that the supply will be more stable, but I commend the big improvement.
One thing that I noticed–and something that’s hard for me to accept–is the non-existence of good water supply.
“Water supply is the process of providing water in a systematic way through installed pumps and pipelines.”
I don’t know how many barangays in Guimaras don’t have proper water supply, but I know the community where I live doesn’t.
Up until today, the community still depends on the well for their water, which, during summer, gets dry. But I saw a “poso” that, luckily, produces water all year round. This is where the community of hundreds of people depend for water supply.
Why is this unacceptable? It’s 2019. Water is a basic necessity that the local government should provide to its people. I don’t want to go political here, but promises to provide good water supply to our community have not yet materialized.
Another thing that surprised me is, our community, Barangay Tando, in Nueva Valencia, is out of route for garbage collection. That’s unbelievable. I don’t need to be an environmentalist to feel sad that for the longest time, people just burned their garbage or, hopefully not, just throw it in the ocean. Could be, right?
People don’t have a choice. Again, I don’t want to be political, but thanks to the resort’s persistence and initiative in asking the mayor to collect the garbage in our community. It happened! It’s not just for the benefit of the resort. It’s a victory for the environment. We no longer need to personally take our garbage to the dumpsite and the people no longer need to burn their trash.
Transportation is another issue. Well to be fair, I only experienced once queuing for 3 hours just to buy a pumpboat ticket going to Iloilo. I normally don’t have a problem with this.
I usually ride on a public jeepney from Jordan to Pandaraonan and vice versa to go around. Public transportation isn’t the worst, but it can definitely improve. I have no high expectations, because this is what I experience in most rural areas in the Philippines–jam packed jeepney, with top loaders together with all groceries, vegetables, and sometimes, live chicken inside with 40-50 people. How did we fit? We all needed to adjust.
But I pity a lot of people who look so tired coming from work or school from Iloilo. I pity a lot of old people and the children who can’t sit comfortably. They look so exhausted inside the warm jeepney. I pity ourselves because although we have a choice, we will still choose to pay Php40 going to Pandaraonan because the other option, renting a tricycle, costs Php500, one way. We just need to accept and endure this for an hour or more because again, we don’t have a better and cheaper alternative.
How about the current healthcare situation? I visited the public general hospital in San Miguel twice or thrice. I noticed that a big part of it is under construction so obviously, something good will happen soon. With its current state, though, I will definitely not let myself get confined. It’s nowhere near to being a good choice.
This is to call the attention of the local government and the Department of Health to please look into the situation of the public hospital in Guimaras. The people deserve better healthcare and its undesirable to think that by looking at the emergency section, people here are not getting the best care they deserve.
People would think that I have a lot of complaints and not doing anything to help. Or why not simply move out of Guimaras Island.
First, this is not a complaint. This is voicing out my opinion, hoping that at some point it will reach the people who should take care of these issues. This is one way that I think could help to elevate the standards of living on Guimaras Island
I love this island and it will always have a very special place in my heart. It’s a place that teaches me to appreciate a simple way of living. Simplicity doesn’t mean that we will just let them ignore their duty. We deserve a clean environment, good water supply, consistent electricity supply, safer transportation, and quality health care.
Let us not be content with getting less. Progress is good, but it should be balanced and basic necessity is non-negotiable. It should be given without begging. It’s your right as a Guimarasnon, as a human, to have a better way of living.
There is no perfect island, nor a perfect place to live. I traveled to many different places in the Philippines and without hesitation, I can instantly put Guimaras Island on my top 10 beautiful destinations. It has all the potential. Its strategic location, its rich marine sanctuary, its beautiful beaches, its good road condition, and sweet mangoes to compete with top destinations in the Philippines. But I really do hope, that people living here would realize and tell themselves, ”I think, I deserve more.” Believe me, you do.