COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
The summer when I was fifteen I took to going alone to the sea to swim. It was my first taste of freedom in exploring the waters since years before that, mother would not allow me to venture alone to bathe in the sea. Almost everyday I’d walk to the beach in our coastal village, swim in the cool waters, and lie on the sand while gazing at the mountains that outline Sogod Bay.
I just graduated from high school at Silliman University in DumagueteCity, packed up all my things in the dormitory, and sailed to Cebu and then to Leyte to spend summer months in our village of Consolacion in the province of Southern Leyte. I was looking forward to that familiar place of wide farmlands, long coastal lines, the assorted fruits in our yard, and the mountain ranges and the sea.
The village of my childhood rests in the middle of SogodBay so that when you stand at the coast and look towards the sea, you’ll see on both sides the mountain ranges surrounding the bay at daytime and the lights of numerous boats anchored along the coastal towns at night. The seashore is only about three hundred yards from our house and a daily walk to the shore would give me a breathtaking sight to behold as a daily blessing.
The sea water near our shore is not very salty as two rivers flow out in this area thereby diluting the salty water with the fresh one. Village folks take to bathing in the sea anytime of the day; young people swimming like fish as children’s play, teen-age boys after a basketball game, and older people after working in their farms and gardens. The sea is part of our life and part of our days and we can simply bring food—breakfast, lunch, or snacks—and eat at the beach and bathe in the water if we like.
So that summer when I was fifteen I started walking alone without older people as chaperones and bathe in the sea. I’d run along the long beach, soak in the cool waters, swim as far as I can, and laze leisurely under the sun. The water along our coast is so clear that I can see the sand, gravel, fish, weeds and all other objects therein, living or non-living. Mornings or afternoons were spent soaking in the waters or simply lying on the sand.
The entireness of life in the countryside makes bathing in the sea a normal part of a day’s activities, unlike in the city where one has to schedule a picnic at the beach cramped with people and getting a very small slice of the space. There is no delineation of work and leisure here and swimming is not regarded as a holiday or a week-end event. For one can get up from bed in the morning, walk for a few minutes and dip oneself in the sea water. Or soak in the salty water in the late afternoons to relieve a tired body from the day’s work.
At times, I’d find myself alone beside the sea with no other soul around and it is such an exhilarating experience to feel the wide expanse of the place. There are no resorts here and only a few houses stood at the beach front, and along the coast stretched native sand lined with coco palms and mangroves as far as the eyes can see. And the feeling of freedom—as I ran with abandon on the sand and bathed with contentment in the waters—this I experienced on those summer days and the following days thereafter, even when summer is gone.