A family enjoying the water at the beach.

Water Your Dreams by Paulina Constancia

Water Your Dreams

By Paulina Constancia

SARO, meaning “ONE” in my Dad’s native Bikol language, is the word that rings in my heart when thinking of the ocean. And my memory always directs me straight back to one particular seaside town in the Philippines which I frequented in my youth.

I am a Filipino-Canadian, born and raised on the island of Cebu, Philippines and immigrated to Canada in my early 30’s.  However, my water story begins with my  paternal great grandfather, Lee Chan, who braved the long journey from his hometown of Taishan, Guangdong Province in China to Manila in the Philippines, where he met my great grandmother Veronica and together they settled in the little town of Magallanes in the Philippines’ Sorsogon province.  

Fast forward, in this same town in the 1970’s, I would spend the summer months at my grandparents’ home. The photo you see here was taken at Parola Beach (Bagatao Island of Magallanes) during a family excursion. I am the little girl with the big straw hat sitting on my grandmother’s lap. This was my first visit to Magallanes as well as the first time meeting all my cousins. My Uncle Gus and family were about to immigrate to the USA. Thus, my grandparents wanted us to be together.

A family enjoying the water at the beach.
My grandparents lived a few meters from the shore and beside their home was their gas station where we, vacationing grandkids (those old enough), would help out in the day to day business. My job was to sell gas to fishermen for their kerosene lamps on their way out to sea. I thought that was a very special job, I got to interact regularly with local fisherfolks and this is where I learned the word “SARO”.  Our customers often asked for “saro” because in the 70’s one peso worth of kerosene gas was enough to fuel their lamps for one night of fishing.
Helping out at the gas station was a tiny fraction of our day. The majority of the time was spent in our floaters in the water which was just a few meters away from Lolo and Lola’s (our grandparents) home. We would spend hours in our tubes until we were called to eat, everyday it was sira-maluto-ketchup (fish-rice-ketchup). In the evening, my grandparents routinely took their chairs outside the house where townsfolk would stop to greet them and some would seek their free counsel (both were retired lawyers). Fisherfolks also passed by and my Lolo and Lola would wish them well as they headed out to sea. In the morning, the fishermen would return to the shore with their catch and  my grandma would buy directly from them and that would be the fish we eat for the day. This was our daily routine: a sweet, simple life indeed!
Remembering that day at Parola Beach with my cousins that were about to move far, far away from us, I think about how symbolic that moment was for all of us.  The name of the beach – Parola – means lighthouse. A lighthouse is there to warn ships of danger and guide them safely on their way. Looking back to that moment, immersed in the same waters that led my great grandparents to Magallanes, the waves did speak to us, echoing a guiding wish from our great grandfather: You only get SARO (one) life.  Follow your dreams; sail on until you find your Magallanes!
Story by Paulina Constancia
Pagtitipon, an artist showcase collective

“I am a multidisciplinary artist born and raised in the Philippines and now living in Canada. I love the ocean! It’s the water of my birth. Its beauty and generosity are a constant inspiration. I always include it in my art so we are all reminded to care for it.”

Stories of Water and Change

In honor of World Water Day 2024, this online feature is dedicated to celebrating the profound connection between individuals and water, while shedding light on pressing global water issues. This diverse collection of personal narratives and photographs serves as a testament to the multifaceted relationships we share with this vital resource. As we immerse ourselves in these accounts, we are not only inspired by the depth of individual experiences but also reminded of the urgent need for collective action to safeguard our planet’s most precious resource.