Hilotongan island – live in the true spirit of island life

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View of Hilotongan Island during low tide

Hilotongan island is not your typical place to travel. In fact, there are no tourist or any resorts that can be seen in the island. But Hilotongan island offers more than what we consider a typical day at the beach.

If you search Hilotongan island on Google, there are only a few things to know about the island. All I know is that Hilotongan is an island located almost 30 minutes away from Bantayan Island. It has approximately 2919 people on the island. Most of them don’t have access to electricity and clean water are either brought from Bantayan island or stored rain water.

I was privileged enough to have traveled to Hilotongan island. Not everybody can experienced what I went through because like I said, the island is not a typical tourist’s destination. I had only made known of this island because one of my friend’s family knows a family that can accommodate us in our stay.

If you like to experience what a true “island life” feels like, you should immerse yourself in Hilotongan Island. In my stay on the island, I had relived things that I haven’t done in a very long time and do some of it for the very first time.

Here are things why I love Hilotongan island:

1. Simplest lifestyle you’ll ever gonna get

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When you’ll stay on the island, expect that most of the people on the island does not have any access to electricity. But even if there is no direct access to electricity, somehow they have learned to live without it. Besides, they only use electricity (they however have generators) when they need them the most. Most of the people have something to do during the day. You can’t see anyone who is not busy with their work. Even children’s past time is helping out with the work. No access to electricity, no internet and simple problems makes it enjoyable. It is an egress out of the busy lifestyle of the city life. You don’t need social media to know what life is. You will get to realize what it feels like to live outside the four corners of your phones, tablets and laptops. For the first time in what seems like eternity, I had slept before midnight and woke up early in the morning. My usual routine (just like now that I am writing this blog) is sleeping late at night, almost 4 in the morning and wakes up around noon time. It is completely, without compare, the naked truth about the island life. Those beach days on resorts is not how island life should be. The immersion with the locals on the island and experiencing their daily life is the true meaning of the island life.

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Simple living = simple problems

2. Hospitality at its finest

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The local has this joke that goes “bisan pag nalimtan nimo imo phone sa lamesa, bisan unsa pa na kamahal, pagka-ugma naa pana, pakapinan pag sud-an” (even if you left your phone on the table, no matter how expensive it is, by tomorrow your phone is still there plus food as incentive). You will never know what true hospitality is if you have never been to Hilotongan island. Almost everyone knows that we are not living on the island and was very hospitable to us. They don’t even think about gaining something from us when we asked for favors to take us somewhere by boat. They just asked to be paid with fuel they have used. Everyone was friendly and are easy to socialize with. Children too are not your typical spoiled brat kind of children. They are so friendly. They also gave the sweetest good mornings that lightens up your day and think that truly it is a “good” morning.

3. Luxurious dining beyond compare

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Simmered crabs and shellfish gleaner for lunch – THE BEST.

Have you ever had a literal bucketful of simmered crabs for lunch? We surely did. Mixed it with a bucketful of shellfish gleaner (kinhason), rice and mouthful of talks in between. It was surely the best way to have the simplest lunch with your family and friends.

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Spoon and fork are useless at this point. Your bare hands is much preffered. ©Jon Jellan Mercado (instagram)

We had also experience breakfast on the beach, not just by the shore but literally on the beach. The feeling of having water under your feet, mixed with the glorious morning sun and to topped it all off, another seafood-centered breakfast. At some point you would think that this is definitely “the life” (insert you imagining yourself on a reclined chair looking at the beach in front of you while sipping the coldest beer to drink kind of “this is the life” moment). The food will surely lure you to come back again for more. Simple living yet luxurious dining.

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Breakfast on the beach are the best kind of breakfast. ©Arian Abenes (instagram)

4. Experiences you’ll never trade anything for.

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Jala woke up at the right side of the b̶e̶d̶  tent. ©Jon Jellan Mercado (instagram)

Being on the island, we didn’t waste time to do things we hadn’t done in a long time. We had also gained new experiences we never thought doing at some point in our lives. I am the type of person who doesn’t know how to crack crabs (yes, I. Am. That. Lame.). My parents are surely proud of me because finally, I know how to open a crab all on my own.

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Clark surely knows how to fly a kite – lucky bastard (instagram)

Living at a town where I can’t go beyond the gates of our house (our house is directly by the highway so we weren’t allowed to go out of our gate), has taken a toll on my childhood. I had missed a lot of things that a “batang kalye” possesses. Like flying a kite during summer. Seeing children playing with their kites taught me what I had missed when I was still a kid. There are even children playing with black tires, rolling them around using their hands or a piece of wood. Thankfully, I had experienced even just a little, how to fly a kite.

My friends also experienced how to “manoh”. From what I know, “manoh” is going to the beach at night and catching shrimps and little squids by either catching them through nets or cutting them through a knife. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, I am not an expert on this and this also not my experience (I was too tired to go back o the beach).

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Gleaning for shellfish takes a lot of patience and focus (as you can see).
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Gyb is so focused trying to find those darn shellfish (instagram)

Early in the morning we had experienced gleaning for shellfish (manginhas). Since it was a low tide, it was easier to see and hunt for shellfish. But low tides in Hilotongan island is not your typical low tide. Low tides will be as far as you can see. If you are living in Cebu city, imagine the distance from USC – Talamban to I.T. Park, that’s how far we had walked and because we had fun walking around the beach, we hadn’t realized how far we’ve come. It was just the exercise I needed for the day.

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The last time I had slept on a tent was when I was still in high school (almost 5 years ago). I was so happy that finally, I had experienced what it feels like to sleep on a tent, made a bonfire by the shore and the most amazing part of sleeping by the shore, is sleeping under the shining stars above.

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Truly these experiences will be treasured for a very long time. I’ll hopefully tell this story to my grandkids of how their grandfather had lived the simplest life I had experienced even just for a little while. The sun, sand and seclusion will bring you back to this island, time and time again.

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5. Nothing is dull if you’re in good company

Even the strangest things, like a drunk man shouting his frustrations in life, didn’t stop us from having fun on our campsite. No matter what the situation is, as long as you share it with great people, it will never be dull. Be it multiple bus, boat, tricycle, trak rides and long hours of sitting and waiting for the next ride to come will never be as fun, if your friends aren’t along with you.

I don’t think this trip will be as lonesome if it weren’t for these freaking people you see on the photo. They have been supporters and confidant from the start and what I loved about them, is that they are as free-spirited as I am. They have this hunger to discover new places and while revisiting others. Truly these kind of friends are for keeps.

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