Isak Dinesen once quoted, “the cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea”. Among these three, for me, it is the sea or the beach that I regard as a “real cure” for a heart that needs comfort and a mind that needs peace. Long before I came across this famous quote, the beach has been my personal solace. Whenever I am in distress and I feel the burden of fast-paced living, I would run off the nearest beach, walk on the shores, listen to the sound of the waves, feel the kiss of ocean breeze and just feel the calmness of the seas. There is comfort in the beach.
I grew up loving and enjoying a laidback beach life in my hometown Cateel in the east coast of Davao Oriental. There, we don’t have white beaches to boast. No posh beach resorts to stay. No beach crowd of party animals. There, all one can see is the long beach of gray sand, sea of raging waves and local beach goers just living nearby. Despite this plainness, beaches in my hometown Cateel have certain allures that charm us, the locals, in living a beach life so carefree yet so memorable.
Whenever I am home, going to the beach tops my to-do lists. So, while spending my recent holiday break in Cateel, there was no single day that went by without me lounging at the beach. I visited different beach spots in different places while I was home – at times with the company of my friends and relatives but most of the times I was alone. There was a soothing feeling when only Me, Myself and I, alone at the beach.
The vastness of the ocean, the azure skies kissing down the navy seas, the gentle breeze gently caressing my face, the roaring sounds of the mighty waves, the sea of drift woods scattered on the shores, the dancing coconut trees close at hand, the poor sandcastles, the simplest family picnics, the feeling of being one with the beach – all of these mattered to me. These are things I always long to relive again – a rustic way of celebrating a beach life. So this has been my quest whenever I am home – to go back to the beach.
One of the beaches I would never fail to visit in my hometown is the Baldo Beach. It was the most famous beach spot during our childhood days back in Cateel. It is where the waters of Cateel River and the seas of the Pacific meet. We, kids, loved Baldo, named after the famous local who lived near the area. It is where I first learned how to swim and battled against huge waves. Baldo played a great part of my beach life in this coastal hometown of mine. Today, things have changed. I can no longer see kids playing around enjoying the waters of Baldo. Even Baldo’s topography has changed.
Moving forward, my itchy feet brought me to the long forgotten Sisters’ Beach. This beach is named after a Sister’s Convent situated in the area. The sister’s convent was the home of Diocesan Nuns running my alma mater then Maryknoll High School of Cateel, the only Catholic School in my town. Years ago, Sisters’ Beach was as famous as Baldo’s. If Baldo was at the mouth of the River, the Sisters’ Beach is a long stretch of gray sand that faces the mighty seas of the Pacific Ocean. Long ago, this beach spot was the town’s favorite. Its huge waves were among the much loved features of the beach. I can recall how we loved swimming and playing with the waves using an inflatable rubber tires we called salbabida. During beach picnics at the Sisters’ Beach, we would gather coconut palms from nearby and make huts out of it to cover us from the punishing heat of the sun. It was really a rustic way of beach life that until now I want to experience. Today, the charm of Sisters’ Beach is gone. No more picnics, no more beach goers. I wondered what made it changed. The ravaging waves are still there – just waiting for its playmates. I can still see the sisters’ convent from afar but the glory that the Sisters’ Beach one savored is no longer there. Indeed, a lot has changed.
The next day, I went further to now famed Santa Filomena Beach. This is where local beach goers frequent now these days. Years back, Barangay Santa Filomena was just a quite coastal barrio in Cateel not frequented by beach fanatics. As development and infrastructure progresses, Santa Fe as fondly called by many becomes so accessible from the main Poblacion and other neighboring barrios. Slowly, entertainments like videoke houses and mini-resort were introduced in the place. Gradually, Santa Filomena Beach becomes the most loved beach spot in Cateel putting the Baldo Beach and Sisters’ Beach behind. Today, Santa Fe has gone too far. Lined up Videoke Houses/Rural Bars abound the place. Another featured spot of this coastal barrio is the Muelle De Santa Filomena. It is an old wharf that has now become a favorite spot for diving and swimming for locals.
There is also Mahan-ob Beach. It remains undisturbed until today. I got so emotional when I visited this spot. I got to stay here alone for half day doing nothing but romancing its innate tranquility and total calmness. Its stillness is infectious. It instantly got it. Here, I found some enlightenment to my questions about life’s ups and downs I was carrying when I was there. Now, as I look back, I wish to be there again – this time to thank the beach and its kindness for letting me realized some things I should have long realized.
Having revisited some of my favorite beach destinations at home, I realize that this simple beach life I have back in my humble town will always be part of who I am – a Beach Person. It influences a lot in me – appreciate God’s given natural gifts, the value for life and love for my humble beginnings. Looking back, I know that the Beach has helped me a lot in realizing my potentials and seeing my worth. I know for a fact that a lot has changed now. Beach life in my hometown was no longer the same like the old days. I must admit, I miss it. But despite these changes, the beach will always be part of the lives of my townsfolk.