Local gifts are treasures in pandemic times

local gifts bring joy and hope

Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Ellen

On any given day, I’m blessed with many gifts. Some are from God, or the Universe if you prefer that word. Other gifts are from the people I meet on our travels.

Here, in Malay, Aklan, Panay Island in the Philippines, we are on a travel pause thanks to the pandemic. But I still receive many blessings – and gifts. Because we are not traveling, little by little, I’m getting to know people better. Their local gifts are treasured acts of kindness.

Local gifts


My friend Yolly, the owner of the Hangout Beach Resort where we rent an apartment during the pandemic, brought me three giant avocados. And I mean giant! I’d never seen avocados so huge.

I happened to have some tomato and onion in the kitchen, and so of course, like a good lover of Mexican food, I whipped up some guacamole! Instead of regular limes, we used small but mighty calamansis, which are Philippine limes.

A little salt, a few chips and carrot sticks, and viola! We enjoyed the treat at dinner!

the avocado size - nearly as big as a water bottle - from yolly's local gift to the kortan family

Herbal plants

Yolly also sent Edenia – the resort manager – up to see me with a special medicinal plant called lampunaya, or mayana. It’s a purple leafy plant with an interesting odor. Edenia beat the leaves in a small bowl and took the juicy leaves and placed them on my bruised leg. Then she wrapped it all up.

Long story short: I fell and hit the edge of the roadway on one of my walks into town. A week ago. And the bruise is still huge.

The cool, wet leaves had a soothing effect. It was pleasant to feel. Edenia instructed me to sleep with the leaves on my leg, and left me enough for another round tomorrow.

the purple herbal plant as a local gift to help heal ellen's bruised leg


Raphael, the owner of Balay Tadyaw in Malay, serves a great cup of coffee. I visit Raphael every now and then when I need a cup of brewed joe. This morning, he treated me to a delicious glass of lemongrass cold tea after coffee.

He said it would help clear the toxins out of my body. What a thoughtful thing; what a great way to start the day!


Meanwhile, I continue to make small gifts to give to people. My collected shells are shellacked and positioned ‘just so’ in glass jars. There aren’t any arts and crafts stores in these parts, so I make due with what is here. If I ever find the right mirror with a wooden frame, or the right votive candle holder, or the right wooden box, I’ve got some other ideas on what to create.

There is one boy on the beach I walk named Mark. While I’ve played the “Let’s Make a Deal” game with some kids about what price I will pay for pristine shells they find on the beach, Mark gave some shells he found to me as gifts. That is so sweet. (I started playing the ‘buying shells’ game with kids because they asked for money without delivering anything in return.)


It amazes me how many beautiful, unique shells are found on the beach in Balusbos and Motag — the neighborhoods where I walk along the beach. This is a rocky beach. But if you are patient, and if you go at the right time and tide, you will be rewarded with shell treasures.

Just like people. If I put in the time to grow a relationship or a friendship, I am rewarded with treasures — small but mighty, beautiful gifts that lift me up, at a time when the world is so ugly.

Thanks for reading, “Local gifts are treasures in pandemic times.”

Read about how Earth Vagabonds came to be at the Hangout Beach Resort during the pandemic.

Take a video tour of the two-bedroom apartment Ellen, Tedly, and his mom Diane rent as a ‘pandemic bunker’ during their travel pause.

Earth Vagabonds advocate for travel when international borders reopen.

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