THE SUNNY PHILOSOPHER | No longer a forgotten paradise

DECADES ago, this sleepy Paniman village in Caramoan facing northern Catanduanes was a forgotten paradise. Not even its powdery white beach, the blue ocean in front of the village and the bloody piece of WW II history had drawn curious visitors.

The war drama involved a captured Japanese soldier beheaded by avenging guerrillas and buried where he was killed, near two shore batteries made of coconut trunks.

The village was torched by the Japanese at the start of the war. My lolo said that his pet dog, Jeff came back to his charred house after the invaders had left.

The villagers rebuilt their homes soon after the end of the war.

On a clear day, you can see the bluish mountains of northern Catanduanes from the village shore. As a boy, I often dreamed of crossing the sea to Catanduanes in a fast sailboat to experience the thrills of riding on the crest of giant waves.

The village has a natural attraction. A balikbayan from the US fell in love with it at first sight. “Wow, beautiful, magnificent”, he cried on getting off the jeepney.

A prodigal son, on a brief visit after 15 years absence, was excited. “Really wonderful sight”, he exclaimed.

I was the prodigal son.

Immediately after finishing high school in Caramoan, I packed my few belongings, bid my grandparents and my village goodbye and headed from parts unknown.

For over a decade, the village which had raised me up as a dreamer was a blur in my mind. I was too busy to think home.

Finally, the wings of fate brought me to Catanduanes and thence to Legaspi City where I have found a home.

My years of wandering have ended.

My village?

No longer a forgotten paradise.

The filming of the Survivor Series, shown worldwide, has brought spectacular pictures of the village as a paradise for adventure seekers.

Hordes of foreign and local tourists came, enriching the village coffers. The village now has a 24-hour power supply. Its over three- kilometer mountain road, abandoned for 50 years, has been paved.

Hotels and lodging houses, with hot and cold showers, have sprouted up. Most of the menfolk are employed.

Businessman Kekoy San Pablo, former Caramoan Vice- Mayor, said the richest village in Caramoan is Paniman.

Years ago, it was the most depressed.