For the last few weeks, I’ve watched a growing number of neighborhood boys bring hand-made toy sailboats to the beach. I’ve watched the utter joy it brings them.
The kids go out into the water and stand parallel to the shore. When everyone is in position, they let go and the wind sails the boat to shore in a race. The kids splash over to collect their boats, return out to standing in the water chest-high, neck-high for the little ones, and they start again.
Fathers or older brothers sometimes get into the race. When a man came to the shore to retrieve a boat, I struck up a conversation him because I guessed he made the boats by the way he guided the kids. I guessed right.
He showed me the intricate system to connect bendable bamboo and the sails. Metal clips and fishing wire, all around hand-carved wood. The particular boat he showed me he said he made last year.
I asked how much he would charge to build one. He seemed surprised I wanted to buy one. He smiled, shook his head, and said he makes them only for keeps for friends — he does not sell them. Then he showed me a callous on his thumb. The implication was his thumb is hurt from his recent creations.
He said maybe we could talk again next week about my offer, when his thumb was better. I said sure, and he went back into the water to play with the boys.
Toy sailboats with no hustle in Motag
Places like Motag, Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines, are not used to having tourists, visitors, travelers interrupt local life for the sake of their “vacation.” Yes — there are some tourists here. Yes — it is close to Boracay, but it’s also a world away from Boracay. People are living their lives — not catering to tourists.
Tourism has changed local life in so many “destination vacation” spots. Places like Cancun or Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Or places like Kuta, Bali, Indonesia. Or Phuket, Thailand, or any beach on the planet that is marketed as a “destination.” Are the changes good? Yes: locals have more money. Are the changes bad? Yes: the local flavor is lost in a sea of cheap trinkets at countless souvenir stands — many made in China!
The hustle in places like Playa del Carmen is so ridiculous, vendors say to every passerby tourist, “You like? You want to buy my junk?”
Here, in Motag, I wasn’t hustled for money.
I am just a visitor, and as such, I hope the man took my offer as a compliment to his work that brings kids joy, and not as a knock that cheapens his joy in making them.
There are other ways to support the local economy — such as buying fish!
When I woke up today, Mom Diane was in the kitchen with Edenia, a worker and friend at the Hangout Beach Resort. She had brought up a fish for sale.
As I read about the meat shortages back home — with even McDonald’s affected (!) — I’m amazed at how simple it is here to buy a fish when there is a good catch. No processing, no packaging, no marketing or freezing. It cost $11.
Eased quarantine rules
Yesterday, I took a stroll around the neighborhood beyond the checkpoint that had kept me on the street to the beach for more than six weeks. It was delightful. Odd to say this, but true: it lifted my spirits to see the world still exists beyond this road, this beach patch. Seeing is believing, I guess.
Tedly and I went to a nearby store together. He bought canned chicken and some baby wipes. Then I went off alone.
I used a mask, and practiced social distancing; took a few pictures; talked with a few locals; bought a cold Mountain Dew and some hard candy from a mom-and-pop convenience store. He was thrilled at a foreign customer.
However, the store owner’s wife eyed me with suspicion and perhaps even a slight sneer. It seems not everyone is happy about foreigners still in the neighborhood in this strange new pandemic world, and I can understand that.
Thanks for reading, “Toy sailboats and fresh fish on our Philippine lockdown.”
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Ellen and Tedly alternate blog posts each day during their quarantine adventure. Earth Vagabonds advocate for travel when borders are open.