My name is Vicki, and I’ve recently joined the People and the Sea team in Malapascua. For the time being, I’ll be blogging my perspectives as a newby to both the island and the team. As I recently read, “A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be” (A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki), so this will be a journey for all of us, time beings that we are. Let’s begin.
Before I arrived here, I didn’t have a good idea of what to expect. If you google “Malapascua,” most of the things that come up are geared towards tourists, and rightly so, because it’s considered somewhat of a diver’s paradise. People come here from all over the world to dive with the thresher sharks. But for me, the most helpful information I could find on the internet was that there’s no ATM on Malapascua. I made sure to bring cash.
Conversely, however, the People and the Sea staff expressed to me all of the things I wasn’t reading online. The south side of the island is mostly covered with dive resorts and restaurants. But once you pass behind this ritzy facade, you enter the the less touristy bits of the island and can get a better sense of what life is really like for the locals, which, presumably, is what I am now? Or what I’m becoming. For the time being.
The roads in Malapascua are all dirt foot paths, which is nice because it means there are no cars anywhere! Many of the locals (and, indeed, some tourists) use motorbikes to get from one end of the island to the other, but you can see that it’s an easy walk so why bother, really? While out walking, you’ll see children running barefoot along the paths, in various states of undress (or in their ‘altogethers’!). Like in Morocco (where I spent the last 2.5 years), when you walk past them, they’ll chirp, “Hello! Whass your name?” And then they’ll giggle crazily…. it’s so cute!
And it’s not just the tiny children that are happy to see you. Every other week, PepSea facilitates environmental classes with a 5th grade at the local school, and when they see us in the street, they’ll say hello and want high-fives and smile large toothy smiles. And having spent two classes with these kids, I can tell you one thing: they are waste wizards. They can identify which items are recyclable (magamit-pa, in Visiyan), which are compost (malata), and which are garbage (di-malata), easy as pie. And PepSea built compost bins for the school, so all of the classes are recycling and composting, not just the fifth years.
One of the main goals of PepSea is to reduce waste in Malapascua, so in addition to this educational work, they’ve done a lot of work. They’re attempting to become a zero waste office (so far, successfully) and have started a gardening initiative, whereby the staff planted food at the office and in plots of land around the island. The host families associated with PepSea are also tasked with composting and recycling wherever possible. Every day, the island becomes a little greener. And “greener.”
So these are my first impressions of Malapascua, the surface impressions, the starting point for the beginning of my adventure. For the time being, it is a quiet place, where it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts. And also easy to get lost, physically, though never for long. The (solar) street lights can be sparse, and at night you can wander between fences and homes, followed by trotting dogs, searching for your destination in the dark. But I can usually find my way back to my house, which is good because, for the time being, Malapascua is home.