A couple of days ago, while strolling along Lianga's Pugad Beach, I caught sight of a couple of local residents building a floating cottage just a few meters from the sandy shore. I stopped to take one lingering look then came a flood of memories.
During summers in the late 1970's, the logging industry in the heavily forested mountains of Diatagon just a short distance north of Lianga was still going strong. Many of the already cut logs moored in that barangay's coastal waters would often get loose and float all the way to Lianga where local residents would cut them up for firewood or building materials, ever thankful for the free bounty brought by the sea.
My elder brother, who was already a young man at that time, would gather a few of his friends and put some of the floating logs to another use. They would lash a few similar sized logs together with timber and nails and build large rafts that could carry half a dozen people or even more.
They would not stop there. They would lay down rough planking on the top of the raft to create a floor, a timber roof to keep out the blazing heat of the summer sun and wooden benches beneath it. The result was basically a floating hut which you can take out to sea with a long, bamboo pole to push it along the shallows or paddles for moving it in deeper water.
With much fanfare, all would vie for the chance to take a ride on the floating contraption with nary a fear for their safety or concern for its seaworthiness. After all, the rafts were, except for a few exceptions, strong, solid and well-made structures well adapted to the relatively calm coastal waters of the Lianga Bay.
Floating along the sea on those elaborate rafts even in deep water is an experience different from riding on a boat. The raft does not so much pitch and fall but gently rocks from side to side, the rhythmic motion soothing unless you happen to be prone to motion sickness. There is no engine noise or even the splash of water from paddles. The noise, if you can call it that, comes only from the bubbling and gurgling of green seawater rushing back and forth through the spaces between the lashed timbers and the gentle whistling of the sea breezes as the raft rides the currents.
From deep water, the rafts were excellent for doing some fishing with lines and hooks or one could just use it as a diving platform. Nothing beats jumping from the raft deck into blue-green waters and plunging from sun and sky into the deep coolness of the sea. But perhaps the best thing to do is just to sit back and relax, to see Lianga from the far distance while the day waxes and wanes and the heat of the summer sun eventually relents and softens into dusk and early evening.
Nowadays, nobody cares to build rafts anymore. Perhaps it is the lack of floating timber logs or the inordinate amount of time and effort (and the expense) needed to build one that approximates the elaborate floating structures of my boyhood memories. Perhaps easier and more readily accessible fun and entertainment can be had with merely the flicking of the power switch on the television set, the karaoke machine or with the digital magic of the PC.
Whatever the reason, I still remember those magical raft rides of my childhood with fondness and with not a little nostalgia. And I mourn for those today who may never have the chance to go sailing on the sea, ride the sunny waves and bubbly surf on what amounts to just a few wooden logs joined together with a lot of creativity, optimism and an infinite zest for life lived beyond the edge.