June 2, 2009

The printed satellite map I am holding shows heavy cloud cover over my destination. This is probably the reason why some of my friends hesitated in joining me on this trip. But here I am on a 4am bus bound for the town of Anda, an island in Lingayen gulf in northern Pangasinan some 260 kilometers from Metro Manila. My destination is the barangay of Tondol in the north-eastern shores of Anda, popular for its (very) shallow beach and a nearby sand cay called Tanduyong island.

It began to rain as we passed by the town of Bani. I could clearly see the wreckage left by the recent Typhoon Emong: houses completely torn down as if a huge wrecking ball was dropped on them; and roofs crumpled like paper. Electricity had been restored in some areas, but others like Tondol will have to wait for a few more weeks. I saw some enterprising locals (who can afford generators) put up cell phone charging stations in front of their homes.

The sun was struggling against the clouds when I reached the small pier in Tondol. I could make out the silhoutte of Tanduyong on the horizon. On good days you can easily walk from Tondol beach to Tanduyong. Even at high tide, the deepest (if you know the proper route) is just about 4 feet. But with the gears I have, I decided to take a boat to the island.

Early Morning at the Pier
Tanduyong on the horizon

I was met by the Torino family - the caretakers of the island. Their house was completely destroyed by the typhoon. The rest house (built by the owner) that survived the strong winds served as their temporary quarters.

Tanduyong after Typhoon Emong
storm ravaged

The once well maintained beach front is still littered by debris. Grasses were left unchecked and have started to spread. With the damage the typhoon has brought to the island, clearing the weeds would probably be the last item on one's to-do list.

Tanduyong western side

I picked the southern tip of the island as my camp site. Its near the shallow beach and it has the lone hut. Its also the narrowest part of the island, with one shore just a few meters away from the other. The island itself is quite small, it would take just 5 minutes (or less) to walk from one end to the other.

First Class Accomodation
first class accommodation: 360-degree view

The battered roof of the hut provided a welcome shade (I was surprised to hear that its raining in Manila while its a fine beach weather out here). Most of the trees (save for the coconut trees on the northern end), were either completely uprooted or had their top parts cut off.

Storm Battered
battered roof

Soon the ad hoc welcoming committee paid me a visit and offered me a quick tour around the island.

Sanchai Smile
Sanchai, Jennalyn, Lawrence, and Simon

They are the island's happy bunch: 3 siblings and 1 cousin. Everywhere I go I notice that kids always have that sunny disposition regardless of whatever situation they are in, and these kids are no different.

Tanduyong Kids
the welcoming committee

I saw the area where their houses used to stand. Its now a huge pile of rubble. Sanchai, the youngest, frowned for a while when she mentioned she can't find her dolls after the storm. A smile quickly returned on her face when Simon (the eldest) suggested we go to the other end of the island.

Storm Ravaged
typhoon aftermath

Its amazing how bountiful the island is. The surrounding waters is still teeming with marine life. You can pick shells under the rocks on the eastern shore, or dig for small crabs on the northern end.

Digging for Crabs
Kiko digging for crabs

Kiko, the island's resident crab digger, would smell the holes in the sand and earnestly dig out the crustaceans.

Grab a Crab
grab a crab

A few of these small shore crabs and some coconut milk and you have yourself a succulent meal.

The western shore of the island (the one facing Brgy Tondol) has fine sand. Dig small holes with a stick during low tide and you'll see plenty of small clams. Within an hour I (with the kids' sporadic help, they quickly got bored) was able to collect a sizeable pile enough for a big bowl of clam soup.


I dozed off in "my" hut the rest of the afternoon, interrupted by quick swims when it got too hot or by the kids clowning and poking about my tent pitched nearby.

Cloudy Sunset
Tanduyong cloudy sunset

For the first time I felt really relaxed in a trip. No group to lead, no plans, no nooks and POVs to explore, no pressure to take photos. I was glad to be "stuck" there, effectively "alone". I did not bring any books to read or an MP3 player to listen to. I am glad I didn't.

Up next:
  • Tondol beach low tide scenes and places to stay if you want a bee line to Tanduyong island
  • Torinos' hospitality
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