in between islands Wellness

Quiet. Peaceful. Clean. Kind.

All the work is in the headspace when you know where to stay.

The sound of the changing tide beside the coast is like the world, breathing.

If you close your eyes any where on the stretch of beach in Sandugan, you hear the soothing cadence of the changing tide. In less sheltered coasts at this time of year, the waves might roar as they rush to shore, and then crash.

Here, the waves don’t roar. They murmur. They don’t crash; they brush against the sand. It seems like their sounds are spent as they roll on, tripping over each other, dissipating energy in the spooling stretch to the beach.

Other than the waves, there is the rustling of palm fronds and talisay leaves from the trees surrounding the property. The thin fingers of the palm trees play a high pitched trill when breeze blows in from the sea.

Between the waves and the palm leaves, there is no other voice.

Talisay tree and beach, Sandugan.

The man in Cottage 1 is alone, and he likes his quiet, too. We exchange greetings during breakfast and when we chance to meet at any point during the day, which is not often. There is a couple but they are in their cottage or out taking a walk. I don’t know what their voices sound like.

After nine islands, I notice a pattern in where I decide to stay. The places I’ve chosen are all tranquil, except for that one place in Guimaras, Reyman Resort, where they played house music all day the day I checked in. I checked out immediately after checking in. It was a fluke choice made the one time I chose a place because of the photos rather than the themes in the reviews of past guests.

All the places I’ve enjoyed have gotten reviews from past guests using words like quiet, peaceful, clean, kind, gorgeous.

If there is one thing I’ve learned that has served me well for places to seek out during travel, it is that choosing the places that suit your purpose of travel is key in how much you enjoy time.

Different accommodations for different reasons

In Genoa every summer for the past nine years, I’ve always chosen the business hotel.

The AC Hotel Genova by Marriot on Corso Europa was the closest hotel to the place where I trained as a Cognitive CoachSM and from there one could easily walk to the next block and up a gentle hill to the  IS Genoa campus, where the Education Across Frontiers held the seminars for Cognitive CoachingSM. The close distance meant I could offer coaching to the 70-90 people attending seminars at the institute, to practice my coaching skills. The AC Hotel was also close to the bus stops, the one to Nervi, where I liked to gather with friends for dinner after seminar sessions, and across the street, one from where you could take a city bus to take you downtown.

AC Hotel was my recommendation for those participants in the seminars at EAF who were new to the cohorts we trained every summer. It was convenient and made their first time in Genoa easy to navigate.

In Genova, another business hotel is the Iris Hotel, a fifteen minute walk to the coastside, on Via Gabriele Rossetti 3.

Across from my terrace, Iris Hotel Genova.

The Iris had smaller and less luxurious rooms, but each room had a small terrace where one might engage during off hours in the Italian invention of dolce far niente, literally “sweet doing nothing” which consists sometimes of watching people going by the street below, while having an espresso. Dolce far niente is a favorite pastime for writers who like to watch humans behaving in their natural environments, practicing descriptive writing in their heads.

Here in the Philippine archipelago, in between islands, I choose places that are quiet, clean and friendly.

A little hotel roundup

The Marriot Courtyard at Iloilo Business Park, across the old airport control tower, was a great choice during Dinagyang Festival. Comfortable and away from the noisy downtown the hotel on the old Airport Road was a convenient place to use as a base. It was 6.6 kilometers to the Provincial Capitol, a comfortable walk I savored to and from the parades of the Dinagyang days. The friendly service at the Marriot made the fun factor in Iloilo go way up after the disappointing rainy day in Aklan that started off my most recent island visits.

Guimaras island to me will always have the Czech Beach House, with its writing bench under the tamarind tree. The CBH is the most tranquil place where one can truly get off the matrix and unravel knots in body and mind in the pace of days, making it a true Stress Free Zone. An added attraction are Yvon’s delicious fresh salads drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, difficult to get in the usual Filipino restaurants, a feature of every meal.

Bantayan island was also a writing space after the difficult days in Cebu City. In Bantayan, I stayed at the Sunshine Beach Hotel in Barangay Pooc, German-owned cottages with super friendly service. The Sunshine Beach Hotel proprietors were solicitous when I had a stomach flu on my last day.

After weeks on the road, I had missed fresh salad, and ordered a Greek salad from a local restaurant. I spent that night mostly waking up to go to the toilet and Lorraine, the proprietor, was caring and gave me some charcoal tablets that settled the upset stomach within 24 hours.

The Sunshine was a quiet place with a small table I could use as a desk to write. It was a short walk to the Santa Fe beach, and the walk forced me to get up from the desk for breaks to enjoy the long stretch of sand, sans large crowds.

Here on Siquijor, I am in Sandugan, opposite direction from Larena Port from San Juan, the more popular beach for tourists. The Cliffside Beach Resort is a spacious property with 7 cottages and an open air restaurant that serves meals from 7.30am to 8.30pm. The service is friendly and prompt, and my writing desk is the bamboo picnic table in one corner of the property, where I can see the light changing on the water and enjoy the silence.

The Office, Sandugan.

A different sort of work

The only reason why I stay in a guesthouse instead of an apartment for writing trips is that it takes a lot of the day to day worry off the headspace.

Someone else is thinking about what to prepare for meals, someone else is worrying about keeping floors clean, and someone else is managing the million other details of life, like safety and fixing a leaky faucet and making sure linens are clean.

And I can just think and write. I also meditate undisturbed, take long walks, and have gentle conversations with locals.

Free from the decisions to take care of other needs, the need to keep the space in my head clean, quiet and kind is why I go.

After years of insomnia, the compounded effects of sleeplessness and daily stress has changed the way my brain functions.

When a person experiences chronic stress, high levels of cortisol flood the brain and body. Cortisol is a hormone that triggers the fight-or-flight response in the brain’s emotional centers when there is a threat perceived by the body. Cortisol at normal levels are good for our brains because it helps keep us safe from danger, among other benefits. When the mind is chronically exposed to stressful situations that may be perceived as threats, high levels of cortisol pumped into the brain and body can lead to impaired function of the normal stress response. The body reaches an imbalance called allostasis, and that imbalance can show up as

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain around belly and face
  • Memory and concentration impairment

Been there, done that.

Sunset from ‘the office’ on Sandugan.

The actual work in between islands is to attempt to reverse the damage to my brain by adopting new ways of thinking. I have a hunch that we can design our environment and ways of living in it to give our bodies and brains the best chances of reversing the effects of chronic stress.

In a way, this is a science-backed personal version of Eat, Pray Love that Elizabeth Gilbert did in her travel after a terrible couple of years. I don’t have a personal guru that has advised me like Gilbert did in Bali, and my short phrase might simply be, Pause-Slow Down-Heal.

The retreat in between islands has given me the chance to reimagine time and space and the purposes they serve this personal enquiry.

Quiet. Peaceful. Clean. Kind.

Sometime in the future, I would like these words in a review of the valuable time and spaces, in between islands.

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