MANILA, JUNE 16, 2006 (STAR) By Joy Angelica Subido - After snorkeling in the clear blue waters and kayaking in the islandís lagoon, I curled up in one of the payag-payags (or roofed daybeds) with a book. However, the sound of waves crashing on the rocks below and the setting sun that threw luminous streaks on the ocean surface made me set my book aside and explore other threads of thought.

"Perhaps, this is the Heian concept of aware," I told myself as I tried to dissect the melancholy that unexpectedly besieged me.

"All things are transient in the Buddhist principle," I had read somewhere. The 12th- century Japanese Heian aesthetic is defined by a bittersweet sorrow born of the evanescence of life, which leads to aware, the intense emotion that one feels in response to beauty. As the emerald sea gradually turned indigo, then black, I finally began to understand the notion of aware. I didnít want the day to end.

We left Cebu City early that morning for the trip to Sumilon. Our trip took us through Carcar town where we visited an ancient house built out of limestone blocks, and Argao where we tasted the local torta leavened with tuba or coconut wine. We likewise visited Boljoon Church, which has faded, yet still has beautiful murals on its ceiling.

As we passed a winding strip of road in Boljoon, a quaint roadside sign announced: "Enchanted Il Boulevard, Please Blow Your Horn Three Times." In my part of the country, supernatural beings are believed to inhabit certain stretches of road. Thus, it is prudent to warn them that you are passing through to prevent vehicular problems. Apparently, the superstition is believed in this part of the country, too. However, to see a road sign that announces "Enchanted Il" was unusual, and I noted that our bus driver failed to honk. Was he one of those modern unbelievers who scoffed at local lore?

Finally we reached Oslob, the town that has jurisdiction over Sumilon. The bus made an abrupt turn into a steep driveway that led to a private dock. Perhaps the bus driver miscalculated the turn, or possibly it was because he didnít heed the road sign to honk, and the tires of the bus scraped against the cliffís cement barriers. There were a few moments of tense maneuvering, and the bus conductor barked terse directives, before the driver was able to negotiate the driveway safely. A ferryboat waited at the dock and quickly brought us to the island.

Sumilon is derived from the Cebuano word "nisilong" or "to take refuge." It is currently a marine sanctuary teeming with ocean life. Centuries ago, however, it was a vital post in protecting the town from pirates and marauders.

From a towering watchtower or baluarte, local guards took turns in watching for hostile intruders. By means of flags, they were able to forewarn the villagers of impending attacks.

By then, it was already too late to explore the baluarte after the first dayís activities. I resolved to explore the watchtower the next day.

"Ara toto/ aoba wakaba no/ hi no hikari." (Ah, magnificent! / Green leaves, young leaves, / The sun shining.)

I was so pleased with myself for remembering the lines written by the 16th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. We memorized the haiku in summer camp many years ago, and I thought it was apt, as I happily wove through the path lined with young trees. A Japanese group had custody of Sumilon Island once, and there were stories of treasure hunts. But perhaps, the treasure they found was better than gold. The cicadas singing in the trees seemed to agree. From the ancient watchtower, the view was marvelous. But then, the sun was almost at its noonday intensity, and it was time to head back.

I momentarily lost my bearings and experienced a tinge of anxiety on the way to my villa. While following a fat, silver-green dragonfly, I had taken a wrong turn.

"Calm down," I admonished myself. "You canít be really lost on 24-hectare island."

But I jumped as a shiny blue lizard darted across the dry leaves on the ground near my feet. Admittedly, I was relieved to see that the trail I made for myself led to the main pavilion. Likewise, this commanded a breathtaking view.

From the vantage point of the pavilion, I was told that one might witness dolphins cavorting in the ocean at certain times of the year. The resort staff also informed me that the island had some caves that were worth exploring, and should I wish to go scuba diving, the marine life was varied and abundant.

However, I felt that I already had enough physical activity. The rest of the day was spent floating lazily in the hilltop pool that overlooked the ocean below. For those of us who seek respite from the clamor of the city, the few days of serenity in Sumilon are a welcome refuge, indeed.

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Sumilon is being developed and managed by the Bluewater Group of Cebu. For inquiries and reservations, call 817-5751 or e-mail

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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