AYOKE ISLAND, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/02 May) — Before heading to this island, I tried to search anything about it on the Internet but nothing turned up. Not until I visited this place.
For me, this island-paradise in the Pacific has a big potential to attract not just local tourists but people from around the world.
I say this because the island looks incomparable to other famous islands in the country. In fact, I think it can be considered a hidden Shangri-La.
Its pristine waters keep me wanting to dip as much as my body can bear the natural cold. Not to mention that it has five spots of waves that neophyte and professional surfers would love to go after.
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Loanne G. Huelma, chair of the Cantilan Surfing Association, said several professional surfers in and out of the country have already invaded this island. To mention a few, our very own Edito “Piso” Alcala, 2011 International Surfing Champion, Mark Cannon, Danny Culdora, and other Filipino surfing royals and other foreign nationals who had brought back with them nothing but their fond memories of the place.
By the way, my visit here was not my first. Way back in 2009, I went to this island with a Russian friend. After a few minutes ambling around the island, he was amazed by its beauty. He wanted to buy a portion of the island immediately then but to no avail.
Being a neophyte surfer, I enjoyed the waves with young fellow surfers who ripped through every swell. But then I almost met a tragic incident when I slid on the slippery rocks, almost dropping the expensive camera of my friend and mine too. But thanks to my quick decision not to drop with my hands first but to let my body fell on the ground first. Luckily, I didn’t get hurt and the cameras and accessories were spared from being soaked into the seawater.
The island has white sand and rock formations, surrounded with reef as its natural sea wall. Its waters teem with different fauna species, its lands covered with coconut trees and breadfruits as well. It was my first time to see many breadfruits sprouting like mushrooms on the center-most part of the island.
But during my visit last Saturday with fellow photojournalist Erwin Mascarinas, I saw that several of these life-giving trees were being cut down.
I hope in my next visit along with my friends, I would no longer see breadfruit trees, locally known as kolo, being cut down again. The visit was unforgettable in that my heart bled seeing this kind of tree being utilized for a purpose other than being a source of life itself.
Locals have turned to using breadfruit as “kasko” or boat hull.
I had the courage to appeal to some locals to refrain from cutting this fruit-bearing tree.
Breadfruits are precious to the island’s inhabitants who depend on fishing as a primary source of livelihood. When the seas are rough every last quarter of the year, the fishermen and their families turn to breadfruits for food.
What amazes me and makes me complete in this small island is that they have plenty of clean potable water, a scarcity in most small islands I had visited. No wonder this place hosts almost 100 families. Upon landing, I switched to the local drinking water as I knew that the distilled bottled water I brought along had no minerals.
Ayoke has no electricity but guess what, majority of the households has solar panels enough to light a whole night.
What I enjoyed much in our short tour was the daring climb on the rock formations at the back of the island. I experienced serendipity when I sat on top of the big driftwood on top of the big stone in Tinago. Thanks Erwin for taking remarkable photographs of me. I wanted to stay long in this island and start daydreaming of having a small hut but full of amenities, about the same as Erwin dreamed of.
I couldn’t thank enough the ever hospitable people there, especially Irene Bo for letting us stay in her kubo for guests. I love to sleep again on the attic and be with the Cantilangnons.
Arriving at the town center on the way home, I was asked by someone about our stay in the island and I immediately replied: “It was not just okay in Ayoke, but it’s more fun and happy in Ayoke!”