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Daydreaming in Dakak

Driving through the narrow zigzagging road etched into the side of the hills of Dapitan, I strained to catch my first glimpse of the famed beaches of Dakak. Every sharp turn that would point the car towards the sea offered an opportunity, but somehow I just couldn’t find it. There were patches of mangroves and small seaside villages lining the coast, but so far, not a sign of the crescent-shaped white sand beach that I’ve seen hundreds of times in postcards and magazines.

Then after one last turn – the hundredth or maybe the thousandth as far as I could tell – there it was, the gates of Dakak. The manicured landscape of the resort just beyond the entry way stood in stark contrast to the naturally unkempt hillside that bordered it. Once past the guardhouse, I made my way past the huge Dakak totem sign, then down a steep winding roadway and finally into the heart of the resort.

Walking into the lobby-cum-front desk, I could see snatches of the beach off to my left, and beyond that the shimmering light blue ocean. There was a brisk wind blowing across the cove, whistling through the low-slung branches of the talisay trees and whipping the sand swiftly past the few sunbathers on the beach.

It being about noon, most of the people there were already having lunch either at the open-air restaurant or under the shade of the trees by the beach. I chose a table with a good view and settled down for a slow, leisurely meal after my long trip from Davao. It took about seven hours, six hundred kilometers and five provinces to get to that point and I was determined to relax and catch my breath.

I looked out into the sea while sipping my mango shake, and reminisced about the sights I saw on the road to Dapitan and Dakak. The wide expanse and deep canyons of Bukidnon, white-capped waves of the Cagayan coast, the green topped hills and swift-flowing rivers of Misamis and Zamboanga seemed like a dream compared to the drab, brown shantytowns that one gets used to when living in the city. And while small, not exactly prosperous villages lined the rural countryside, it was surprisingly free from the oppressive feel of poverty and hopelessness that hover above similar communities found in urban centers.

Turning from the socio-economic ramblings of my mind to the little that I knew from my history classes, I imagined Rizal walking through the same groves, dreaming of independence, of revolution, or maybe simply of his love for Josephine, or what he’ll be having for dinner after his walk. Whatever his thoughts – monumental or mundane, walking or driving, it certainly was a good place to think – of that I’m sure.

I remembered the river that lined the highway leading to the Dapitan-Dipolog rotunda and how amazed I was to see a river that was still alive. Its banks covered in lush greenery, its waters a bright, translucent emerald that hinted at so many hidden wonders lying just beneath its calm surface. It wasn’t anything like the murky, sickly brown color that I’ve known in all my years of looking at the Pasig and Marikina rivers in Manila and the Bankerohan in Davao.

Again I could imagine Rizal sitting by some huge river boulders, the wet clay in his hands slowly taking the shape of the lovely young lady doing her washing by the batis.

Abruptly my reverie was interrupted as my eyes were drawn to some movement  in the distance. A school of small fishes, probably taking in the sun near the surface leapt into the air – glinting like tiny jewels in the blindingly bright sunlight. Being an avid fisherman, I surmised that there was probably a bigger fish – I imagined a barracuda or maybe a hungry wahoo – skimming silently, hunting just below the waves that was scaring them off. Sigh, what I would have given for a trolling boat, rod and a good reel right then.

My appetite sated, I was seriously considering taking a dip. I figured a few laps in the placid waters would be the perfect cure for my road weary back. But then I heard it – the siren call of the hammock swinging languidly under the shade of some unknown tree by the beach. It was a perfect hammock in a perfect tree – its leafy arms stretching out across the sand, towards the waves like a lover’s at the moment just before an embrace. And its timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

I lay down cautiously, aware that the branches might be too brittle to hold my weight. It groaned a bit, settled down to a comfortable height above the blowing sand, and I was in heaven. Thoughts of the road trip, of the fishes, of my aborted swim were swept away like the swirling grains a few inches below me. I was asleep in no time.

I don’t know how long I was out, a few minutes past two centuries it felt like, but I was refreshed. I vaguely remember dreaming, or maybe having several dreams – but none as vivid as the one I was waking up to.

Going back up those winding streets and making my way past the gated lawns of the resort, I was wondering if perhaps even the whole trip to Dakak was a dream, it certainly had that dreamlike quality about it. Quietly I tucked my memories into whatever corner memories get tucked into our brains and gave silent thanks for the wonderful time I had – and a promise to revisit the dream again someday.

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