By Kindra Calonia
ON THE MORNING OF CHRISTMAS DAY, Typhoon “Ursula” had come through Boracay like a raging Mother.
Black and dark skies hung over the island, winds howled, coconuts fell and in the meantime we we’re all messaging each other photos of uprooted ancient trees, electric poles, everyone “abandoning ship” as glass shattered everywhere, until finally nature prevailed and left us in the dark with not even a sliver of phone reception, internet coverage nor electricity.
With nothing but darkness to hold on to, the island and its people surrendered, hoping to wake up the next day with at least a phone reception. Yet this Boracay limbo state sans-connection lasted a good 72-hours, and although the whole central Visayas region was declared under a state of calamity, it also brought locals and tourists back to a time when life rolled through a rhythm of its own, never dictated by the internet nor the outside world, but just governed by our intuition and yearning.
The following morning as we were clearing the fallen branches of our mango and banana trees, our first unannounced visitor came by to see how we were doing. As we discussed the damages of the typhoon, we also laughed at how this natural disaster pushed us to leave our houses and visit friends and family that we would normally check up on via a simple phone call.
“The first day, I thought: where’s the phonebook?” explains a local. Another said, “I panicked!” In a world governed by cellphones, it seemed almost an unusual endeavor to pick up a dusty phonebook dated from the early 2000’s to call a landline, yet it also pointed out to our human need for contact, for story, for exchange.
Without a phonebook nor the memory of a landline number, I picked up my bag and decided to walk from Station 3 to Diniwid Beach, to see who I’d bump into along the stroll. True enough, I saw everyone!
On an island resort where most jobs entail answering bookings, booking tours, dealing with guest inquiries, the absence of a telephone or internet connection definitely pushed resort owners and their staff to a challenging position. Most of the people I met, surrendered to this surreal world of disconnection and actually took advantage of quality time to enjoy the beach, to read a book, to play cards.
As another local explained, “For a while I completely forgot phones existed, events spread through word-of-mouth. As I biked from one place to another, a friend told me that dinner was at 5 p.m. and as I met other people along the way I’d relay the message. I was so relieved not having network service for a few days that I was already planning to put my phone on airplane mode as soon as network coverage was restored.”
It’s a funny thing to be connected all the time. Sometimes we miss out on the little things of life that make it great. Not wanting to underestimate the damages of the typhoon nor belittle the extreme hardships of families that have lost their homes or have been displaced, I did appreciate how for a moment in time, Mother Earth gave us this opportunity of connection through disconnection.
Perhaps a much-needed reset button for the beginning of the new decade.