Camotes Island, Cebu – 2015

The first time I went to Camotes was in 2005. I remember how I was suspended in awe of the beauty that had been waiting for us. As the motorized banca that we rented was about to dock, approaching where the receding sea waves that reached the shore come back and join the body of water again, I thought we found a paradise. I went back a year after, and went again last month—8 or 9 years after.

I often describe Camotes as “guapa” when I talk to my friends about it. Cebu has several white-sand beaches. Some are powdery fine while the others, a little more coarse. Camotes’ is powdery fine. But it’s not just the quality of sand that gives it a feminine feature. Santiago Bay, where we were exactly in Camotes, has a mass of elevated land with lush trees, mostly, coconut, extending to the sea on both sides of the bay. I liken it to a sense of boundary which women, in general, have. The shoreline is not very long so one can definitely walk the entire stretch of the bay. Some who stay at the beachfront by the bay go walk to check Santiago Bay Garden and Resort, a more high-end resort that sits atop the elevated land to your right if you are facing the sea.

That the water is crystal clear—in varying shades of blue, deep blue and green, if you look from the shore—is not anything new about most beaches in Cebu. But, yes, Camotes has it. The first time I went there, we stayed at a resort called Payag, literally a nipa hut, right at the beachfront by the bay. The sea view was totally unobstructed, which is still the case now. For this recent visit, I stayed at Masamayor, with my friend Carla, where we did in 2006 or 2007. More concrete structures have now been erected a few meters from the shore which makes it less unadulterated than it was years ago. But the beach is still glorious in its beauty.

We woke up very early on our second day, around 4:30, and went out for a walk around 5 am or a little past that. It was low tide. The morning was peaceful. The breeze, light and touchy. The air was cool. It was perfect for deep breathing and for emptying the mind with the worries of the city, allowing the self to get drawn to the details of the sea—like the bare beach sand, moist from the water that had just receded and the rustic colors that were starting to infuse the low sky as the sun was starting to rise. We picked up some trash on the beach: a foil pack of junk food, which, obviously, had just been dropped, or thrown, rather, within the hour we went walking and taking photos as well as a few pieces of thin plastic that had lodged in the moist shore.

Santiago Bay is a public beach. I say, the best way for locals to appreciate what they have and enjoy. You see them resting in cottages or waiting for customers who’d like to pay for their services to cook for them or to take them to a tour around Camotes Islands.

Santiago Bay is just a piece of Camotes. There is more to explore and discover. But the beauty and charm of Camotes can only be preserved for as long as the locals help protect the sea from garbage and pollution and as long as the visiting tourists and travelers do the same.

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Mt. Kanlaon Coffee and The Fight Against GMOs

I’ve been trying to find good quality beans to replace my used-to-be-favorites Guatemala and Colombia from Starbucks. I love Figaro but the beans I’ve tried are not good for pressed coffee so I only buy their coffee black when either brewed or the usual americano. Being very particular with the quality of my coffee, I had to repeatedly ask Carlo who sells Mt. Kanlaon coffee at Cebu Farmers Market in Handuraw whether it’s good for a French press. He promised to either return my money if I didn’t like it or lend me his brewer if pressed does not turn out satisfying.

Well, I’m proud I bought this and I love it because it’s local and organic. It has a full flavour but doesn’t have an unpleasant after taste. Plus I need lesser-than-usual amount of coffee to make a tall cup and I put just a little amount of sugar to make it more delightful (sometimes, I go for no sugar).

Some time last year, I joined the boycott of Starbucks after word was out that they have partnered with or supported Monsanto and other GMO companies in blocking efforts to GMO-labeling. It wasn’t absolute boycott as I couldn’t find the right beans to replace what I have been using. A few times, less than five, I went to the store and bought coffee to-go when I had no choice but, hey, I’m trying my best and products like Mt. Kanlaon coffee and the people who grown and sell them help in the advocacy.

Mt. Kanlaon is an active volcano in Negros Island in the Philippines. Negros is one of the few provinces that banned the entry and propagation of genetically-modified organisms  or GMOs and is known for developing organic farming communities including the ones growing coffee trees by the mountain ranges of Mt. Kanlaon. Cebu Farmers Market is an initiative of GMO-Free Cebu, an anti-GMO campaign being ran by volunteers who are farmers and consumers (I will tell you more about the market and the campaign in a separate blogpost).

Bothmer – How You Move Is How You Are

Some people used to tell me that I am intimidating which contradicts the fact that most of those who I become friends with say they pick up from my aura a message that I am friendly and welcoming. I couldn’t reconcile the two, but it didn’t really bother me because they often said it in the context of why I am not in a romantic relationship with men.

My recent experience with Bothmer Movement International, however, made me look into how the subtleties in the way I move are connected to how some people perceive me in the context of authority. I have started examining these subtleties because I think that they create the illusion that one is “separate.” Separation builds walls and this separation effect tells people you cannot be friends, that you will not understand and that you don’t feel. I still believe that you shouldn’t be drinking buddies with your employees but it is important for people to see the interest that you have in them, their learnings and their development. Generative conversations develop this trust over time and I have learned to trust in the process. But learning from Bothmer, I now think that it doesn’t have to take that long for people to get you right—or for you to send your well-meaning intentions across.

After Bothmer, I said, I won’t walk the same way again. In some of our exercises, we were made to open our palms as an act of giving, to scan the charged air with our fingertips as an act of sensing and to open our ribcages as an act of offering ourselves—eyes, always at a level with the horizon as we move when standing straight. It made me think about how my chin is slightly lifted when I walk, my eyes a little over and, therefore, looking down at the horizon. This is not how it was explained at the workshop—this is my realization thinking about how the movements are incorporated or not incorporated in my everyday life. I used to think that how I walk is how we must walk—properly. Did I get it from a magazine that I’ve read when I was much younger, or saw it on the television, or was this what I was taught at school and I took it seriously? The subtle raising of the chin, it seems, projects a different message I didn’t mean to because the movement is unnatural.

Bothmer also invited me to think about why I hardly subjected myself to conventional body language rules. Somebody must have told you, at least once, that folding your arms in front of you is a defensive gesture. I couldn’t make sense of it and decided some years ago that it is crap. You know how it is when you believe in something and you cannot explain it, you sometimes tend to believe less—or it erodes some of its believable qualities. I think that it is the function of science to help us see and understand so that we can become more conscious and aware of the realities around us. Bothmer is the science of movement. As I put more thought into it, I realize that folding my arms in front of me is an act of hiding or protecting the ribcage from something—it’s a gesture of closing and it is definitely not welcoming. Martin Baker, Founding Director of Bothmer Movement International, our teacher and facilitator, recounted that when we see a child and we want the child to come to us, we open our ribcages; then the child comes running and puts himself into our chest and we put our palms on the child’s back to embrace. We do the same with adults. And I recall those times when greeting somebody is awkward, cheek-to-cheek, with minimal body contact, whereas when we are fond of someone and we missed him, we hug tightly. We do not expect ourselves to immediately offer ourselves to others. I think that this is important in times of misunderstandings and when there is tension between people—when we do not want to rub it the wrong way and not want to push people away. When we’re sorry, we use our palm, not our fingers or a fist, to touch the other person, Martin reminds us.

We have been processing—silently in our thoughts—as we do the exercises and I think that it is powerful in helping re-wire our brains, grounding our ideas and putting them into action. In one of the exercises, we start with the hands on our sides, feet together. Then we start extending our arms on the sides, up to the level of the horizon, palms facing upward. Then we turn the arms inward so the palms also face inward. We start sliding one foot towards the back, while, using the arms, we form an arc, which becomes a circle, in front of us, head bowed down. From the arc to the circle, the palms have closed to fists.

Sometimes, in life, we just keep on giving, never receiving, and we get tired of it. Then we close our palms and hide our ribcages until we have processed the experience. But it is important to rise above it. We bring the circle above our head as the foot slides back to its original position, then we put one foot forward as we release the closed fists into the air, opening our hands back into our vertical, ribcages open. We must learn the lesson.

That is just one of the many realizations that I had from the different movement exercises at the workshop. It is a very rich experience. And the awareness that it brings to our bodies and minds is powerful it trickles down and sinks into our everyday lives. There is wisdom in movement and the space we use or not use around us is alive. Alive is a word best understood when experienced. I wish you could participate in this workshop. I can only tell you that when I closed my eyes, I felt that the space was growing—something of a quality we do not feel when our eyes are open. I moved and continued moving because the space was asking me to just move.

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(Photo courtesy of Shaping Sophia. For more information about Bothmer workshops, you may contact http://www.facebook.com/shapingsophia.)

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