What I Have Learned Living on an Island for Two Months

I never thought I would ever find myself one day standing in front of Gaisano Grand Mall in Lapu-Lapu City engulfed in awe.{Handel's Hallelujah Chorus gloriously plays in my mental soundtrack}.

The sight of Jollibee made my daughter scream while running to hug the popular fiber glass statue. I belted out orgasmic "ooohs and ahhhhs" gazing at products and brands that were only available in the cities, under the luxurious confines of air conditioned (yes air-conditioned!) supermarket aisles. My husband could not resist treating himself to a Belgian Waffle. 

A plane ride later, we weaved our way through the urban jungle of Manila. I suffered an indigestion one evening from stuffing my face with a gigantic burger from Zark's, something that I was craving a lot when I was back in Santa Fe. To sum it up, our family had a bit of a frenzy after missing the urban comforts that we were used to.

Urban Cure May Be Needed from Time to Time but once the frenzy has passed, the longing to go back is strong.

Days passed. Once we were back stuck in a commuter van during rush hour last night, we started to miss the island. I found my husband perusing photos of the southern island of Cebu on his phone. He consistently sends me Facebook messages of blog articles about the islands everyday which I have yet to read. 

I daydreamed about the sound of kids playing on the streets before sunset,  the long late afternoon walks on the road watching motorcycles zip past and the salty air in my hair.

The Culture Slowly Grows on You

I talk about the island a lot with my family and friends. I just hope I am not boring them to death. I am now eating more bananas and a lot more plantains than ever. Whenever I hear someone speaking in Bisaya, I tune in and wish that I am fluent. 

I Never Thought I Could Live Without Perfume,

My scent was a mix of sunscreen and mosquito repellent. When I ran out of deodorant, I used my husband's deodorant spray, because no scent can outdo the combination of DEET and sunblock.

Losing Weight is Effortless

I was constantly watching what I ate when I was in the city. 

Back in the island, we ate more vegetables and seafood. I was paranoid after I got food poisoning a few times while buying meat and eating in some restaurants with unsanitary prep. We eventually figured out the places where we can safely buy meat and eat. 

Thanks to tropical humidity! Sweat became my best friend.  I swear, even if I ate more rice than I ever did, I was already burning them while eating. I was also perspiring profusely while cooking in our outdoor kitchen.  The semi-vegetarian diet we put ourselves in and the constant movement around the island kept us toned and fit. 

A Growing Beer Belly

I love my wine and my beer but nothing prepared me for how normal it is to drink a cold bottle of beer at 11AM on the island. Perhaps, a trip to Germany back in the day and afternoons spent at the beer garden will dull this island experience, but a cold bottle of beer during a hot sweaty morning is so tempting.  We may lose weight in every part of our body, but always be on the look out for a growing beer belly.

Learning to Ride a Motorcyle is a Valuable Skill

In order to become a full pledged island girl, I learned to ride a scooter. It is very convenient to get from Point A to Point B under the sun's scorching heat. My baby cheerleader motivated me to do it. I can't wait to cruise around the islands on a motorcycle someday. 

Who Needs Whitening?

Tan is the new black. I love the exotic golden glow! Though I still need to figure out the best way to beat tan lines. To all the glutathione crazed, you have no idea how gorgeous you are if you keep your natural colour.  Yes, of course we have to be responsible in protecting our skin, so bring on the sunscreen!  

Mastering the Art of Hoarding

Hoarding is a survival technique that needs to be learned while living on an island. A quarterly trip to the supermarket in the city and having a gigantic refrigerator and freezer are the best solutions to enjoying life to the max. This goes for stocking up on meds and basic necessities in case of emergencies.

Air Conditioning is a Comfortable Luxury

The electricity on the island is more expensive than in the city. It's roughly around Php 9 -15 (USD$ 0.2 - USD$ 0.33 per kilowatt hour which averages to about Php 13 (USD$ 0.28).  Our electricity bill, for a small one bedroom having only a fridge, laptop charger, one electric fan and a window AC unit is equivalent to about Php 4500 (USD$ 97) per month. The major consumption of electricity went to the daily use of air conditioning unit. This explains the absence of air conditioned restaurants, cafes and shops on the island.

Mental note for future home: Use solar panels, insulation and efficiently designed passive cooling homes with lots of natural light and shade.

Shopping means Ukay-Ukay

Ukay-ukay is a thrift store for previously owned clothes and goods. You might also find new stuff that are mostly factory overruns. One needs a lot of patience to dig in a box full of clothes to find something that you fancy and that fits. It was also interesting to find ukay-ukay peddlers that go around selling clothes door to door.  

Though I do love great quality medium to high end brands, it is refreshing to strut around without anyone second guessing the attached designer label. Numerous times I had to cut the sewn brand tags because they were causing discomfort.  

I met a lovely lady living on the island and she was wearing a striking black dress one evening at the pub we often went to. I wasn't the only one who noticed and when we complimented her, she smiled and proudly answered, "Ukay-ukay!"  Worn with confidence and style. Hats off to you my lady friend!  

Being a Coffee Addict is Not as Fun on the Island

I can't wait to have my own coffee machine! Or at least my own french press! Buying freshly brewed coffee everyday can be very expensive.  

I have been living on the instant black coffee sticks since moving to the island.  Ah, the same coffee I literally spat in 2012.  Guess what, my taste buds adjusted with a bit of mind conditioning. Don't get me wrong though, I still won't be able to control my gag reflex should I drink the 3 in 1 coffee. Believe me, I tried and I really can't.

A coffee fix twice a day is something that I look forward to and this can be best enjoyed inside a cold air conditioned cafe or during a cold rainy day. 

Try drinking hot coffee on a typical hot day with boob sweat flowing down your chest to the base of your bra. It doesn't matter if you're well endowed or as flat as a runway, the same sweat will flow wherever you are. 

This is why cold beer and cocktails sound more tempting on the island. 
Yet, the fear of beer belly made me drink my cup of joe inside the air conditioned bedroom instead

Hats and Sunglasses are Not Fashion Accessories

They are mandatory. Period.

Learning to be Flexible

There comes a time when complaining becomes obsolete. The power cuts are normal. The cooking gas ran out of stock. The meds you're looking for are not available. It's our responsibility to accept and cope with the situation. 

Relax and just celebrate the moments of every day. As my husband always say, " In every problem there's a solution. If there's no solution then it's not a problem. " 

The Gift of Trust

I am someone with trust issues.  Living on the island opened me up to kindhearted people who naturally give without expecting anything in return.  This caught me off guard a few times.  I felt shy accepting favours where I am not given a chance to pay them back in return. Especially in our culture where we were raised to embrace "Utang na loob." A distinctly Filipino trait where there is an obligation to appropriately repay someone who has done us a favor. I tend to avoid this by ensuring I don't owe anyone anything. Living in the city, such acts of kindness usually comes with certain expectations.  Somehow, my perception has slowly been altered.

Living in a small community of warm islanders, I feel safe living there. It almost feels like home.

I have so much more to learn. I have only just begun.
Love & light,

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  1. Is Manila a very huge city? I mean, above or under 5 million? And do you who were born there sweat less than Johan and other foreigners? :)

    1. There are 16 cities within Metro Manila estimating to 12.8 million population which increases to 15 million during the day. Crazy, huh? One of the most densely populated urban capitals in the world in terms of number of people per area which is way more than Mumbai and Paris.
      We both sweat as much but I have a higher tolerance to heat and humidity than he does. I guess being born here helps with that.

  2. Deet and sunblock are very much necessary here in Texas too. Love the healthy way of living that y'all are embracing, even though it is very different and means giving up creature comforts (AC!)

    1. I am trying to visualize what the weather is like in Texas. We returned to Cebu and since, booked rooms with AC. Thank goodness for rainy days and nights.

  3. You are so lucky to be eating a lot of veggies and seafoods. I love seafoods!!!

    1. Same here Claire, definitely perks living on a rock. Before, living in the city, I was slightly apprehensive and careful buying seafood. For the first time, it's such a relief to say that I feel more confident buying and eating fresh seafood without thinking twice.

  4. This was so interesting to read! I loved reading all of the nuances of living on an island. I felt like I was right there with you! And your diet of veggies and seafood sounds divine!

    Stephanie ● Sartorial Diner

    1. Thanks Stephanie for your kind words. Buying fresh catch of the day from fishermen and vendors were such great treats.

  5. I love reading about your island life so much. It is so different from all the blogs that I am reading, most of them tell of a trip to a certain place. But you, you offer a different perspective. You're not visiting, you are living there, which makes the story so appealing to me.

    It seems like the island has already grown on you and your family for you to be missing it while being in the city. I am aghast though at how much your electric bill is, 4,500 pesos? That's too expensive! Is it really that hot in there? The solar panel looks like a good idea.

    1. Thanks so much Marge. I do miss the island of Bantayan, despite still roaming around in another island. :) The electricity bill was something that really surprised us. It is expensive indeed and it was just a one-bedroom. It's almost the same amount as what a huge 4 bedroom house with full appliances would cost like in Manila. I recently visited a B&B in Argao that runs their lights and fans on full solar panels. It's working. Their operating cost and electrical bill for an 8-bedroom is roughly around Php 3500 because of the ACs which was connected to the main electrical service. A sustainable and energy efficient home is something we dream of one day.

  6. You make me miss my home:( the provincial life wre evrythng is simple and celebrated.yes electricty is really expensive hahaha that's why we have a part in our house were materials arw traditional and open big windows.no issue with security bck home, neighbors are dr to help and protect u everyday which is one of the reason that in time i'll be back..soon and embrace the simple life and relaxed lifestyle:)

    1. Haha, so that explains it, expensive electricity is normal :) Well said, yes the security and community offered by our neighbours were heartwarming. These draw us back to return and stay. They have something going on there that us city folks should learn a lot from.