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Bantayan People
Bantayan Island Outreach
June of 2014

While surveying the scenery on the narrow, broken, bumpy roads each morning between where we were sleeping and our base of operation (from the back of a motorcycle fitted with a mini-van frame to extend seating), I had a lot of time to imagine what it would be like to live on this island. The people of Bantayan Island that we visited, a community of farmers and fishermen, appear to lead a simple life and I believe they are much happier for it. I found myself envious and would welcome a break from technical and industrial congestion of the world I live in that pulls me in more directions than I ever have time for.

I could imagine myself getting up each morning and going fishing. I'd walk past my cows and pigs, with chickens roaming everywhere, knowing that my children will also be up soon to feed the pigs and walk to cattle to grazing pasture. I'd walk through the field where we've planted a garden to provide food for family and with luck, a little extra for sale or trade. I'd reach my destination on the beach where I have a small banca (a native Philippine boat much like a canoe with a parallel bamboo pole attached on both sides for stabilization, and sealed at both ends to add buoyancy) pulled up on the sand with 1 paddle and a spool of nylon cord rigged with a hook at the end.

I'd watch the sun rise from the ocean horizon with a cool salty mist blowing in my direction as I slowly paddle out to my favorite fishing spot. I would then chop up the small bait fish I found in my net the day before and select a rock from a bucket of stones my children collected and left in the banca for me. Un-raveling nylon from the spool, I begin winding the end with the hook around the rock while rolling the rock in the freshly chopped chum. Next I would secure the spool and drop the rock over-board, watching it unravel on its way to the bottom where it will depart from my hook and bait, leaving a long trail of chum scenting the path right to my hook. (Simple, raw, genius. I consider myself a pretty good fisherman and I have the best gear money can buy but on one fine day in the Philippines, I was out-fished by a young man with a spool of nylon cord, a hook, and a rock.)

On a good day, I'd be back by noon with enough fish to feed my family and some extra to sell in the wet market. The sale of the fish would provide funds for any necessities that my crops, livestock and trade couldn't provide. I'd have some time now to spend with the family as my mother-in-law and wife cooked dinner and we waited for the children of age to walk home from school. Dinner would be on the table then, and soon after the children would walk the cattle in from grazing, all in time to watch the sun set, talk about our day, and prepare to do it all over again when the sun returns.

The children are possibly the happiest I have seen anywhere. Though living in a land of broken coco trees, washed out roads, and homes that Mother Nature has crumpled and discarded like an ant mound in the path of a farmer's plow, the children (when their most basic needs of nourishment, shelter and love from their parents are met) are very happy.