“Q”, as in Quinapaguian, is one of the small islands in the coastal municipality of Mercedes of the tourism-friendly province of Camarines Norte.
Its coordinates are 14°4’8″N 123°4’21″E. Looking at the satellite photo of the island, one can give credence to the alleged origin of the name. It is derived from the word “pagui” which is the name for stingray in the local language. It certainly is shaped like a sting ray with a small part of its tail-end showing. By coincidence, the tidal waters off the island are reportedly home to the stingrays. A visit to the local fish market in Mercedes would show that there are many rays caught and are up for sale. In a culinary mix of malunggay leaves and coconut milk and , the stingray meal called “kinunot” is a local delicacy, especially during Good Friday when partaking of meat is taboo.
Looking closely at the aforementioned satellite photo, one could deduce that it is ringed with white sand beaches. And this is partly the reason why the ultra-running 83neans targeted Quinapaguian for an excursion immediately after the 2014 80-km Mayon 360 race in the nearby province of Albay. After a day-long march (run-walk in Galloway’s parlance)on our Hokas under the heat of the Bicol sun, why not spend another day under the sun in our board shorts , this time swimming and cavorting on a mini and barriotic version of Boracay.
Equally, perhaps even more, important purpose to visiting the “Q” is to go on an outreach activity ala Korina S of ABS CBN where we distribute slippers to young children in remote and rural barrios in the Bicol region. We have been doing this SECS outreach since 2006 and the “Q” would be the 4th island barangay to host this eleemosynary endeavor for the Ateneo de Naga HS Batch 1983. Noteworthy is that all 4 islands are in Camarines Norte and this is attributable in large part to the kind heart and hard work of our classmate Epok Dacudao who is originally from Naga in Cam Sur but is now an adopted civic-minded resident of Cam Norte by virtue of his love and marriage to a lovely lass of Labo a couple of decades ago.
Come the morning of April 7, there was Epok leading us his fellow 83nean men for others (Ernie Badong, Ed Balcueva, Bobby Castilla, Bodjie Importante, Allen Tolledo and the Bicolano Penguin) in his Toyota Hi-Lux pick up on the road trek from his Jocelles Garden hotel in Daet to the coastal barrio of Cayucyucan (this barrio juts out into the sea like an armpit) which serves as our embarkation point for the Quinapaguian Island. There we boarded a motorized banca for the 15-minute boat ride to the “Q”. The 15 mins turned into 35 mins as the banca’s propeller got snagged with a moribund fishing net. Nothing a little bit of Pinoy ingenuity can fix but time had to be expended.
Excited to see the tropical paradise, the BP was standing all throughout the trip. And the patience was rewarded by the view of the “Q.” An alluring flat island. From the boat, the island looked like it was floating. As we got nearer and the water got shallower, the color of the sea morphed from ultramarine to azure to turquoise and to eton. Blue paradise indeed.
Upon touchdown on the sandy shore, we disembarked from the boat and quickly proceeded on foot to the barangay day care center a few hundred meters away where majority of the island’s populace waited. And the majority of this majority were elementary-age kids and even younger. Wasting no time, we unpacked our items of slippers and snacks, readying them for distribution in a manner we hoped would be orderly yet joyful. The barangay captain, Mr. Nolito Manago, with a handful of the barangay council members, was present and Epok requested him to share a few words. A true man of the people, el kapitan made his speech real short, mindful of the fact that many of his young barrio mates were lined up under the sun. Immediately after, we commenced with the distribution of slippers and cracker snacks (courtesy of Naga-based friend Junbel Paglinawan) to the kids and the handover of basketball and volleyball to the barangay officials. The whole proceedings took less than an hour but we hoped that our act of reaching out would have a positive and profound impact on some of the kids. Perhaps, some of these kids would get to do some outreach a decade or 2 from now, thereby continuing this chain of paying forward.
After the outreach, came the outing part. Still on “Q”. After a 10-minute walk from the barangay day care center, we found ourselves on the “tail” of the island school. No beach resort, high-priced or otherwise, but we made do with a small hut where we placed our bags and food. We then hurriedly occupied the white sands where we had a great time sampling some beach running: Ernie, Bob, and myself. But the main agenda of the outing was some swimming on the turquoise-colored water and we frolicked like penguins. For a moment, we were transported back in time to our high school years and gambolled incessantly on water and on land. Not even the sighting of a tiny jellyfish gave us pause. Clearly, the endorphins (helper’s high) derived after a charitable activity contributed to the youthful zest.
We had this romp on the sands for more than two hours. And the only thing that brought us back to the small hut was the arrival of the group of Lito the Barangay captain. They brought with them a big fish, freshly caught from the surrounding sea. They gave it to us as a gift to show their appreciation of our visit. Such pinoy hospitality never fades in our rural setting.
Much happiness for all of us as the “Q” was paradise for us. But, sadly, the joy will have to end as we have to leave the island early in the afternoon for our 6-hour trip by car back to Manila on the same day/night. After some group picture taking with the Barangay Captain on the beach, we boarded our banca for the trip back to the mainland. As the boat motored its way thru the azure waters, I glanced at another island on the horizon. Pointing at it, I quizzed Epok with the words “Next year?” He had this youthful smile when he answered “Men for Others continue.”
Amen to that.