By Edwin Nombre
Actor Edwin Nombre was shooting on an independent film for the Cinemalaya film festival in Guimaras Island and then in Iloilo until March 14. With him then and until now are his wife Sharon and two kids Jessica (16) and Timothy (11). With no flights from Iloilo, they took a bus to Kalibo, then to Caticlan in hopes of getting a flight back home to Manila. After finding out about the cancelled flights in all three airports, as well as no boat trips they decided to just go to Boracay while waiting for the flight ban to be lifted. They have been staying in Diniwid. He is the founder of True Manila, a project supporting homeless children and families living in poverty, that has been instrumental in relief efforts spearheaded by Edwin while in quarantine on Boracay. Visit them to support their efforts at https://www.facebook.com/truemanila.
They say that being stranded on this Island is the best place to be during a lockdown. Of course, this is a beautiful island and everyone wants to be here every summer. But for us, the first two weeks were really challenging. We came here because there was no other place to go. We came all the way from Iloilo and took a bus because there were no flights back to Manila anymore, nor ferries to Batangas. Running out of options, and out of fear of the virus, we decided to ask for help from our friend who found us a place on the island.
The first two days were okay because we could still go out. But we ended up stranded. Running out of money for food, the hotel was closing due to quarantine, so we started looking for a new place. It was difficult, but after two days we found somewhere.
On the first day after moving, I met some stranded foreign tourists. I saw some alugbati vegetables planted near a papaya tree, so grabbed some and bought a squash, okra, onion, garlic and started cooking. I didn’t realize I cooked so much so I invited the other guests to join us for lunch. The next day they invited us for a barbecue! Thanks to the free alugbati that I cooked, it opened up our new friendship.
Struggling to pay our rent meant I had to look for a cheaper place to stay, sadly, some seemed to be taking advantage of the situation by charging too much. Thankfully, I found a more affordable place, and the landlord was very accommodating. He allowed us to pay daily, and finally we had Wi-Fi.
I decided to share the money that my friends sent to help us here, with our family in Manila and with relatives in the province. But, one day I ran out of money to buy food, and the money I had left I used for paying for our two days rent. I went outside and asked some fishermen if I could join them because we were stranded and needed some food.
I was not lucky that day, but the next day, at around 4 p.m. I followed the two fishermen and asked again to join them, offering to help them and said that I only need four fish for my family. Around 4:45 p.m. we started laying the net in the water. it was a new experience for me, it took us about 30 minutes to lay the net out, we were swimming non-stop while holding the net and it was difficult as I had to float from time to time to avoid getting muscle cramps.
After laying down the net, the sun was already gone. The wife of one fisherman arrived to join fishing using a homemade bow and arrow like a fish-catcher. Then we proceeded to walk and swim back and forth while pushing the fish to the net while one carried a can, another a homemade bow and arrow, while I held the flashlight.
After three hours of fishing, we started taking the net in. To my dismay, we only caught a few very small fish not even weighing one kilo.
We went back to their house where they cooked the fish right away and at around 9:30, the food was ready, but their kids were already asleep. As tired as I was, I hesitated to eat but they insisted, and even walked me home. I decided to give them the last money I had so they could buy food for their kids the following day. The next day we went fishing again, but this time on a boat in the middle of the sea. But again, after more than four hours of fishing, we only caught about 1.5 kilos of small fish of which I took only four pieces home for my family.
After those two nights, I decided to do something for the community and started a Facebook fundraiser. As funds started to come in, I immediately started buying supplies. With the help of some people we distributed bags of rice and 100 pesos cash assistance to everyone in our neighborhood. With the fundraising going well, I was able to send help to Manila and some other places. One by one I contacted my friends to buy food and do the distribution in their communities. So, from April 5 onwards, we did the food distribution every day, not only here, but in different areas as well. It has been an amazing experience with the help of new friends. I also post everything on my Facebook page so friends who shared their help could see where all the efforts were going. It’s been two weeks now and we are still helping here and in other areas. We’ve managed to help more than 500 families so far.
It has been scary of course, but luckily for us, our family is safe here on Boracay, and we have been so blessed to be able to share some help for the people here. Now is the time to do it, with more and more kids and families suffering. We need to spread more positivity and kindness and understanding to more people out there, to be able to fight this crisis while being able to share goodness with others who need help.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our humble experience here. Thank you and have a good day!