Camotes: Before the Storm

On the days leading up to the scheduled trip, my mom warned me of an oncoming typhoon. I didn’t believe her. I thought she simply didn’t want to go and was using the typhoon as an excuse to cancel the one plan I had for my one month holiday. And besides, unless they are super typhoons, we get a lot of those warnings in the Philippines anyway: low pressure areas mean rain and even that can sometimes be a luck of the draw. Sometimes some areas escape the grimness of the weather forecast because the storm has decided to land somewhere else.

I took my chances.

On that Thursday morning, the sun was shining and the birds were chirping like crazy. Obviously a good sign. My mom still wouldn’t budge although to be fair, she tried to compromise with me. She suggested we stay at a resort within the main island of Cebu instead so we don’t have to risk the storm crossing the sea to get to Camotes.

But see, I’m exactly like my mother in the fact that I am just as stubborn. But my decision was mostly based on the fact that I didn’t have much time left. It was either parental rebellion or never.

Middle child syndrome is real.

Danao City, the jump off point to get to Camotes, looked like a bustling little town. I was impressed with all the commercial buildings and restaurants that had sprouted since the last time I was there.

My sister and I introduced Raven to every Filipino kid’s favourite, Jollibee. We had breakfast of chickenjoy, burger steak, and some peach mango pies. My go-to order.

There was a Gaisano Metro shopping centre where we bought sunnies for Raven, one which we had to scour the entire store for because the saleslady couldn’t be bothered to help us even though she was literally just standing there doing absolutely nothing she would’ve been better off working as a mannequin for the same effect, minus the customer expectation.

I’m sorry for being salty. She could’ve at least faked trying to help and I would’ve appreciated the measly attempt but…


With the sun glaring in my eyes and Danao City getting smaller and smaller and farther and farther away as the boat departed, I brushed off the slightest bit of trepidation growing inside me.

What if my mom was right?

What if I incur the wrath of the gods for going against my mother’s advice?

What if there really was a big storm coming?

Which was how I got to talking with a boat crew who was just as optimistic as I was earlier that morning.

“Murag di ra lagi ni kaabot ang bagyo sa Cebu,” he said. “Motipas ra na.”

I reckon if there’s one thing Aussies and Filipinos have in common, it’s the “She’ll be right” attitude and approach to most things, even if those things are potential disasters. The guy seemed pretty confident the typhoon would deliberately avoid Cebu like a jilted ex-lover that I had absolutely no reason to doubt his conviction.

“So, how are you going to get to the resort?” the crew asked, whose name I have already forgotten but whose kindness I will always remember.

“I don’t know yet,” I replied. “There should be some tricycles there for hire.”

This trip was both planned and unplanned.

Mostly unplanned.

The plan was to wing it.

But you know what, the universe always follows through. Because what do you know, the man was already talking to a cousin of his who was in the tour business and who was going to pick us up when we docked.

It was a very flattering welcome, I must say.

I felt like a freaking rock star.

Look, I’m no grammar nazi. You can laugh all you want but I found the gesture — and most especially the words written on the sign — heartwarming, to say the least.

It was like welcoming me… to me.

Like, bro, how fucking deep is that?!

Mangodlong Rock Resort was pretty much how I remembered it, save for the bricked outdoor flooring where it used to be all sand. I liked the latter better.

The sunset was still as beautiful as ever.

The green mango shake still tasted like heaven in my tongue.

The resort’s pool may have been small and unheated but my memories there nightswimming with Raven were significant and warm as we played football in the water with a baby coconut we found earlier in the afternoon. In between kicking and laughing, she would jump behind me and wrap her arms around my shoulders saying:

I love you so much, Mama!

You’re the best mama ever!

I don’t want to lose you.

I don’t want you to die early like Felicie’s mama. (From the movie, Ballerina.)

I want to spend time with you as much as I can.

I love you forever and ever!

You’re the best!

I love you so much!

Variations of these lines spoken over and over again. Words I took the time to write verbatim in my journal later that night to remind me of how exceptionally good I have it in life simply by having a daughter as wonderful as her.

For all the warmth and the sun that we were blessed with on the day of our arrival, the following morning was what the island looked like when all the summer tourists had left and only the locals remained. The reason why you get discounted off-peak rates on the off chance you get storm clouds instead of sunburns.

Signal number 1 from Typhoon Paeng was officially declared in the region. It meant relentless rain and howling winds. The waves rushed angrily to the shore. My mother back in the mainland probably saying “I told you so.”

But somehow, even with nature’s tantrums, I felt at peace. I wrote and sketched on my journal. Sat on the balcony and watched two older ladies wade into the shallow water while a group of boys played catch with the waves. Listened to the gentle sound of men’s hammers thatching straws on the roof.

Little did I know that for the next three days, we were going to be stranded in the island.

Welcome to JanJan.

*Raven at 6 years old

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