The next morning we took a island hopper to Negros. Negros is the 4th largest island in the Philippines. The island consists of Negros Oriental (south) and Negros Occidental (north). Tombobo Bay is located at the very south end of the island, on the Sulu Sea and the main attraction here is Apos Island, a world class dive site. We are here visiting a family friend, Diane, who sailed her boat from San Fransisco 20 years ago, thru the the south pacific, found Tombobo Bay and never left.
|The sea wall at Dumagete City|
|Just like Mexico|
|Tasty Parrot Fish|
|It looks better in this picture|
Couple aboard Pilar
Diane, a graphic artist-designer, and her husband Bill, a forensic geologist in the United States, arrived in Tambobo Bay in 2000 on board a 35-foot Atkins sailboat called “Pilar,” which was named after the heroine in Hemingway’s “For whom the Bell Tolls.”
It took them nine years to launch Pilar and seven more before they left San Francisco, California, in 1991 to see the world. Asked why it took them so long to build Pilar, they said it was because they put more importance to the process of building it together than just sailing it and reaching the goal.
In their sailing adventures, they were able to visit the remote islands of Mangareva, Caroline Island and Kapingamarangi, to name a few. It was while on the Solomon Islands that they learned about Tambobo from other cruisers.
“We were attracted to Tambobo immediately because there are not a lot of places in the world that are safe for boats; even expensive when there’s a marina,” Diane said.
“Here in Tambobo, we can leave our boats because it’s safe. This is not a tourist thing like in the Caribbean or Hawaii; we see Tambobo as our little paradise.”
It turned out to be an extended stay for them in Tambobo. They eventually acquired a small space along the shore which became a studio and workshop.
Like Michael, Diane said she and her husband were enjoying the simple life, including the sheer pleasure of having time to read a book.
One local even asked Diane how the Yachties live and if they have a table in their boat.
Life in a boat
Pilar has a two-cylinder engine, which runs an average of 24 hours on 27 gallons of fuel for 100 nautical miles at five knots. It has berths for four people to sleep on, a toilet and bath, a galley with a sink, an oven, a stove fueled by wood, and a canning machine, 90 gallons of water that could last her a month and a storage for everything.
They have a table but no refrigerator, electric fans, hot water or GPS. “Bill and I are dinosaurs,” Diane jested.
Upon their arrival in Tambobo in 2000, Diane offered to teach one child how to read on weekends. “Then many came,” and the One Candle Schoolhouse was born.
The couple taught the children to translate English storybooks into Cebuano or weave an original story based on a picture storybook.
Bill built a carpentry shop, and began teaching locals how to repair and build boats.
At first, they had kids aged 5 to 15 years. They would take them to the market to teach them how to budget money; each would be given some amount to buy ingredients for a recipe they were going to cook.
They would also take the kids for a tour of Dumaguete. “We took them to the bookstore, an Internet cafe, an art show along the boulevard, and took them for a ride on the escalator at the local store.”
Other cruisers volunteered to teach the children sailing, pottery or painting or donate good-quality musical instruments.
Others would drive their motorbikes from their home in Dumaguete or Valencia to Tambobo twice a week to teach the children literature or computer applications like Photoshop and Excel.
“I feel good simply being with the local residents of Tambobo because I feel that we’re all connected, and that we can help each other to get better together,” Diane said. “Being in a community like Tambobo puts depth in my life.”
When Bill fell ill in 2009, Diane was at a loss. He passed away in the United States later, succumbing to cancer and leaving behind Diane, Pilar and the schoolhouse.
Diane decided to return to Tambobo because she knew the children needed her. She also missed basking in the beauty of nature from her sailboat. In her homeland, Diane said she felt more alone among thousands of people.
“But here in this small community of Tambobo—although I now live alone on the boat—there’s life starting in the early morning as you wake up to see neighbors sweeping their beachfront.”
Diane has continued the advocacy she and Bill started together. The learning center thrives through donors and with the help of friends who have either pledged support or volunteered time to teach the young and promising minds in Tambobo.
The centers have become a place of learning as well as a place for sharing and volunteerism.
Diane still lives on Pilar, keeping her hope of sailing her again. But for now, Tambobo is home