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Loreto, Dinagat Island: Kindness-it’s main attraction

By Ramon Jorge Sarabosing

Sunset view from Loreto.

My trip to Loreto, Dinagat Island upon the invitation of Green Mindanao, an environment non-government organization was something I anticipated.

After all, Dinagat Island caused a stir and concern from all sectors after former environment secretary Gina Lopez exposed the alarming mining situation of what many experts and observers called Mindanao’s “last frontier.”

From Surigao City, we sailed on a boat for four hours, passing a panoramic view of green scenery, rock formations, coves and islets and white sand coastlines and remote villages.

Clearly, this is one of Mindanao’s best destinations.

What is heart-breaking to see are the scarred mountainsides you wonder if the greed don’t stop, the whole island will perish. Please. No more. Enough.

As the boat approached the port town, Mt. Redondo looms majestically, I began to imagine the Bonsai Forest nestled atop which the mountain is known for and considered unique this part of Mindanao and even the country.

I stayed in a small two-storey office/staff house of GM in Barangay San Juan. It’s balcony faces the forest and to its side facing the sea, the twin islets of Kayasa.

Another irritant is visible as well-a giant tanker on stand by, like a poisonous parasite patiently waiting its prey.

The first day of my visit however did not turned well. I got sick! I decided to look for a “hilot”( acupressure specialist) and immediately found one who lives in a shack in front. Liza, a fifty year old lady lost no time to see me.

Regular boat at the pier with the looming Mt. Redondo.

Another neighbor, Gloria, the wife of the barangay captain and barangay health worker followed and volunteered to check my blood pressure.

While Liza was rubbing my back with herbal oil, we had an animated conversation, telling me about their cultural practices like “kuratcha”, a big fiesta time event.

It was to me, a radiant information, coming from common folks to a stranger. They make you feel like old friends meeting after a long time.

When she was done, Liza excused herself and I thanked her. I asked her my obligation and she said none. Then it was Gloria’s turn to check me with her blood pressure machine.

When it was significantly high, she was concerned and offered to do it again after a few minutes.

After a while, Liza came back and brought a glass of drinking hot water for me. I noticed she walked limp. I asked her about her family and who taught her become a “hilot” and she said, no none, “just a gift of God.”

She confided she also rub their pet dog and her husband criticized her. “But I believe animals too, need my help, so I don’t listen to him,”she said with conviction.

During the rest of the day, Gloria would come, bringing her bp machine. The she caught me vomiting and that was when she insisted we go to the rural health center and the hospital.

Liza called a tricykad driver to take me there. My host, Brian accompanied me. While on the way, the ‘trisikad’ driver, an elderly man tried to reassured me with how he dealt with hypertension as he too, he said, suffered from it.

The town’s main street scene.

As we reached the health center, the young nurses and the lady doctor were accommodating and respectful. I gathered they were actually locals but chose to practice their profession there.

The doctor advised me to proceed to the hospital for further check-up and in case I need an overnight watch.

Reaching the hospital, an elder nurse accomodated me with a friendly smile. One or two patients came but she managed to attend to all of us alternately.

The hospital, I must mentioned, was clean and organized and not crowded. My bp stabilized and got back to GM’s.

Two days after, bound to the pier for Surigao city, I took another trisikad with a lady senior citizen as a co-passenger.

She asked me if I’m fine already, having seen me at the health center earlier. I told her I’ve recovered. She nodded and advised me to take care of my health, eat the right food. Such a loving grandma-like advice.

How awesome to receive encouraging words full of sincerity from a stranger. In a seemingly ordinary town of Loreto, unforgettable kindness is replete.

Photos Darwin Brian Lawas

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