Pitogo on My Mind

The Parish Aid Campaign was a seminary program that sent seminarians to the different parishes to make an appeal for aid, both cash and in kind.

We were 4th year college seminarians then when Chris formerly called Chris and I volunteered for Pitogo (formerly named Lapinig and lately Pres Carlos P Garcia Island), a tiny island across the sea of Ubay.

Both of us were excited because it would be our first time to go to Pitogo. But our excitement did not come from the idea of getting aid for the seminary but rather for the sheer adventure of going to an unfamiliar island.

It was Friday after lunch when we were excused from community activities, as we prepared for the long trip to Ubay.

A little past 2:00PM, we boarded a St. Jude bus bound for Ubay, which was around 124 km from Tagbilaran City. As the road zigzagged along the eastern coastline, we relaxed and started to enjoy the trip. The skies were clear and quiet, in stark contrast to the blue seas that rushed towards the shore and broke into white froth. Our souls were not only enriched but also soothed.

The only distraction was the bus stopping every now and then to load and unload passengers. Sometimes the loading be prolonged depending on how fast or slow the conductor could help load and unload the cargo and baggage. No wonder buses plying that route were described as “kusog mo dagan pero dugay mo abot.

When we reached Ubay, it was already dark. So Chris and I decided to seek shelter for the night at the rectory and take a banca for Pitogo early morning of the following day. Fr. Boyles, the parish priest of Ubay, was so gracious enough to provide us accommodation. Before retiring to bed we were told that we could take the banca after breakfast.

The following day, Saturday, after breakfast, we went to the pier where we could catch a ride to Pitogo. The banca was of modest size, enough to accommodate about twenty passengers. Having grown up in the interior part of Bohol, traveling on sea was quite an experience for me. I was so thrilled every time the banca rode the crest and trough of the big waves.

It was noon time when we touched the shores of Pitogo. What caught our attention were the cases of San Miguel beer, piled up high on one side of the crude pier. We found out later that the people had the tendency to live like one-day millionaires. Whatever they earned from fishing (we were told that they would even reach as far as Palawan and Batanes fishing), they would spend them everything on beer, as if there was no tomorrow to look forward to. Thus, beer was good business on the island.

At the parish rectory, we were welcomed by Fr. Boy Paloso. He was very warm and accommodating. He showed to us our room and told us to proceed to the dining for lunch. Although we hadn’t warmed up yet, so to speak, we were served beer. It was a good appetizer, we realized, especially with seafood on the table . . . nga maoy kinaham ug ampay gyud kaayo namo.

The round of beer during lunch was not the last. In fact, it was just the beginning, for the whole afternoon till evening, we were served more beer and more seafood. Of course, we enjoyed every bit of it to our hearts delight. Young and energetic, we were like hungry “lions waiting for someone to devour”.

The following day we woke up early and got ready for the mass where we were supposed to make our parish aid appeal.

Before the mass, I told Chris, "Ikaw na lay sulti kay daut bitaw ka, mas daghan ang maluoy. Mohatag gyud dayon."

But Chris protested, saying: “Haa…binuang! Luoy bitaw pud ka’g dagway, tunga ‘ta. Ako, first mass. Ikaw, second mass.” We agreed.

We appealed for support for the seminary during the two morning masses. We were given ten minutes each mass to deliver our piece about the responsibility of the faithful to help the seminary as it was the heart of the diocese.

Fr. Paloso informed us after the second mass that we would have our lunch at the beach. “Ugma namo sa buntag sayo mouli kay dili na ‘mo kaabot sa biyahe para Tagbilaran kun karon ‘mo mo-gikan,” he told us. We were more than willing to oblige.

And so we enjoyed the whole afternoon . . . on the beach. An endless course of seafood and supply of beer were served. It was a timeless moment, as we exchanged stories and jokes, unmindful of the prospect of going back to our structured and protected life in the seminary.

Early Monday morning, Chris and I left the island of Pitogo and traced our way back to the seminary. This time the trip was uneventful as we slept most of the time, dead tired after the weekend of adventure, work and pleasure.

We arrived at the seminary late in the afternoon, tired yet satisfied for we had fulfilled our task. We were welcomed by our classmates who were happy to see us back as we narrated to them our experiences in the island. For Chris and me, we knew Pitogo would remain on our minds, distant and idyllic. (Soc)