written by Dean ALFREDO Quimbiong GONZALES, 1953
I shall never forget the first time I went over with some friends. We hired a sailboat and started from the little fishing barrio of Malacañang at the mouth of Bacong River. It was early morning and the sea seemed to be still slumbering, so hardly noticeable was the heaving of its tranquil bosom. The weather was calm, so calm that the sails were useless and instead the men rowed all the way across. The tide was low and as we neared the island, we saw tinted rocks and corals beneath the crystal-clear water of lovely limpid green. The island proved to be more beautiful than it looked from the mainland. The beach was covered with cream-colored sand and bits of broken sea shells, most of which were of ivory color but some were more brightly tinted.
As soon as we had landed, we followed the south shore, moving westward to the other side where we had planned to spend the day in a secluded spot as far away as possible from the few houses which were all standing on the side facing the mainland. At the point where the stretch of cream-colored sand ended, hard dusky rocks rose abruptly and with some difficulty we picked our way along their sides until we came again upon a sandy beach of cream and ivory on the west side of the island. It is there where the island reserves its greatest surprise for the newcomer. For there he will see what he does not expect to find at all. There is deep indentation in the form of a small oblong cove or inlet. Across the cove, forming the tip of that side, a rock (now known as NABLAG), some twenty feet in height, rises abruptly and picturesquely at the end of the long line of low reefs that make the west and north boundaries of the inlet. The east side is formed by the rampart of great rocks which, for all practical purposes, compose the west side of Mararison; for at high tide the low reefs disappear and the protruding rock at their extremity looks like an islet by itself, the cove vanishing also as the water in it is lost in the embrace of the incoming sea.
The great rampart slopes gracefully, and at its base stretches a narrow strip of sandy beach of the same creamy hue as that of the shore on the east and south sides of the island. At ebb tide, the beach at the foot of the rampart increases in width enough to permit ample playground for those who are young in body and spirit. When the water is low, you can wade across the cove in many parts, and in the deeper portions you can go swimming or boating with perfect safety, the water being transparent as glass and still as a pool. Toward the north, the height of the rampart decreases and near the middle there is the opening that serves as the outlet of a lovely little valley which, at the proper season, is planted with rice. "There's a dandy place for a cootage!"; I exclaimed, to which the rest of the party responded with like enthusiasm. There you can spend your summer mornings and evenings in a setting of peace, solitude and beauty.
On the same side of the miniature bay but near its southernmost extremity, there is a samll cave at the mouth of which fishermen on the island and from the mainland perform their strange rites at the beginning ofthe fishing season. We saw the ashes and the burn-out firewood where their secret ceremonies had taken place. Also on the same side but at the opposite end, a flat black rock of some size juts out into the open sea, forming a ledge. To that ledge we returned in the gloaming for the delight of eating our supper there with the moon and the stars above us, the glinting, lapping waves below, and before us, the placid moon-burnished sea.
We took our noon meal under a wide-spreading tree on the north side of the island near a spring of fresh water issuing from a flint rock not more than a yard from the reach of the waves. Our meal over, we rested for a while and then proceeded to the little village to make arrangements for the night, as we had made up our minds to spend the evening on the island. Toward sunset we started back for the ledge where, as I said, we were to out our supper. We took a different way this time. It was a path that led past another spring and up, up into a narrow valley and then sloped down and widened into what looked very much like an ancient Greek amphitheatre. The amphitheatre in turn sloped down into the shore and the sea, which we saw spread out below us. The thing was evidently the work of erosion which had carved out the rocks into terraced, semi-circular rows of seats. In an instant on was set to musing on the glory that was Greece, wishing one of those great dramas of Sophocles, Euripides or Aristophanes could be performed in that natural amphitheatre, wondering when here in these Islands, geniuses would blossom as they did in the Isles of Greece.
That night, we slept on the beach facing the mainland. For mats we borrowed two 'sawali' rolls and spread them on the sand, and there we lay down under the wide and moonlit sky. Near our feet the waves were dancing to the tune of their own soft melody, and against our faces we felt the comforting touch of the cool wind of the summer night. If the female members of the party were not afraid to spend the night away from the village, I would have preferred to sleep on the beach at the cove. It was not only because I wanted to avoid the pungent odors and distracting noises from the houses. It was also because it was so much lovelier there at the cove and, besides, my spirit craved the balm of silence and seclusion.
Early the next morning, we left the island. It was as clear and calm as it was the previous day. Before us lay the magnificent scenery that we looked on the preceding morning when we stopped on the side of the hill to view the prospect that spread out before our eyes. On the foreground, a quiet sea whose surface had the soft luster of dull-finished metal, for the waking rays of the morning sun had not yet reached it. For a background, the grey shoreline and the bordering trees and fields of varying shades of green, and farther beyond and over all, MADJA-AS rose stately and mysterious with its halo of unfolding light and its thin sun-woven drapery of morning mist.