By David Haldane
June 7, 2018
It felt like I’d taken a pill and suddenly realized that it was the wrong one. Instantaneously, panic erupted in me like vomit from my gut. “Oh my God,” I thought, “I’ve lost my bag.”
It was a balmy night in General Luna, and we’d come to see our lawyer. By then I’d grown accustomed to carrying the little grey bag slung neatly over my shoulder. In it was my wallet containing, among other things, a driver’s license, credit cards and small amount of cash. Losing all that, of course, would be a major problem. But that wasn’t the worst of it; in preparing for our meeting, I’d stuffed several important legal documents into a pocket of the bag.
“This is a calamity,” I told my wife, Ivy, “let’s retrace our steps!”
When that failed to turn up any clues, we stumbled numbly into the local police station to fill out a report. The truth was that I had no idea how or where I’d lost my bag. My best guess; that I’d stuffed it into one of the side panels of our car from which it had managed to escape through an open door.
Ah, but we were on Siargao Island to renew our wedding vows and I was determined to keep my cool. Anyone who’s ever misplaced a wallet, especially in a foreign country, can appreciate the sense of helplessness it engenders; you feel distressingly weightless, as if you’ll surely be blown away by the next gust of wind. But I was with my wife, who hailed from this island, and so managed to gulp the panic down. With cell and Internet signals so few and far between on Siargao, there was little we could do at this point anyway. So, I tried to forget about it and enjoy our stay.
The day after our wedding ceremony on the beach – and four days following my loss – we hired a pamboat to take twenty guests on an island-hopping tour. I had just clambered aboard at its berth in Dapa when an attractive young woman, apparently the skipper’s aide, smiled and asked my name. “Did you lose a bag, sir?” she inquired cheerfully, and it was as if the hand of God had broken through the clouds and grabbed me by the collar.
The upshot: someone had found the bag in General Luna and given it to his son, who was a fruit vendor there. The son, noting the name on the driver’s license, had placed a notice on Facebook that was seen by the boat owner who recognized the name as the same under which a deposit had been made on the rental of his boat. Or something like that…
Anyway, to make a long story short, Ivy and I rushed back to General Luna where, at a place called Jolan Fruits and Vegetables, I was finally reunited with my long-wandering bag. Much to my relief – and, I must sheepishly admit, surprise –everything was still intact, including the documents and cash.
We gave the guy a reward, of course, and promised to donate to his pet project, an environmental group called SEA Movement, which stands for Siargao Environmental Awareness Movement. For the record, you too can donate to this very worthy cause on its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/seamovementph.
So, what did I learn from all this? First that there are good people everywhere, even the remote islands of Third World countries rife with poverty. That fanny packs are generally safer than shoulder bags. And, finally, that the utterly astounding karma I’ve experienced in recent years related to everything involving the Philippines seems to be continuing. My conclusion: apparently God really does want me to move here.
A former Los Angeles Times staff writer and winner of a 2018 Golden Mike in radio broadcast journalism, David Haldane fell in love with the Philippines on his first visit there in 2003. A few visits later, he also fell in love with the beautiful young Filipina to whom he is now married and, with whom, he has returned many times. David has written extensively about his experiences in the Philippines for several publications including Orange Coast and Islands Magazine. Today he and Ivy, along with their eight-year-old son, Isaac, divide their time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Surigao City, Philippines. His award-winning memoir, Nazis & Nudists, recounts, among other things, the courtship of Ivy and finding a place to call home. For David that turned out to be at the tip of a peninsula marking the gateway to Mindanao where he and Ivy are building their dream home next to a lighthouse overlooking the sea. This blog is the ongoing chronicle of that adventure.