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What lures ‘Yachties’ to stay happy in Negros bay

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SLOW BOAT TO HAVEN. Boats from all over the world, of all shapes and sizes find refuge in Tambobo Bay in Siaton, Negros Oriental, backdropped by the majesty of mountains. Forested by extensive mangroves, the bay is one hour from the capital Dumaguete City. LYN RILLON

Siaton, Negros Oriental—Michael Prader, a retired artist from Austria, was travelling in Asia in search of the simple life when he heard about the Philippines where “even people in the villages speak English.”

His journey brought him to the Tambobo Bay, a beautiful cove in the quiet town of Siaton in Negros Oriental. With an extensive mangrove forest and a rich marine life, it is an ecological sanctuary situated at the southern end of Negros island, almost facing the Sulu Sea.

He totally fell in love with the place that he lost no time renting a bamboo house to start building his dream boat.

That was 10 years ago.

Now building a second sailboat, Michael, 60, is just one of the many foreign travelers who have found a safe haven in Tambobo and have chosen to live in boats moored in the bay’s still waters.

With the majestic Mt. Talinis and the Cuernos de Negros mountain range for backdrop, it is not surprising that many world travelers have found a home in Tambobo Bay. Schooners, sloops, catboats, sunfish (a type of sailboat), catamarans, ketches and yawls—name it, they can be found in Tambobo.

So comfortable and enchanting is the place that some sailors, finding the exotic girls of their dreams, have settled down and raised a family.

Cruisers are particularly attracted to the cove, an hour’s travel from the capital city of Dumaguete, because it shelters their boats from typhoons.

Tambobo has at least 30 boats at the bay.

Michael said he enjoyed living in the bay, where locals were also friendly and helpful.

Jobs for locals

He said foreigners got along well with the locals in Tambobo.

“Foreigners hire the local people who do not seem to have a chance to find jobs elsewhere,” he said, noting that they hire local carpenters in building or repairing their vessels.

Nemesio Avellano, who comes from Valencia, Negros Oriental, has decided to settle in Bonbonon because of the work opportunity. Although he specializes in building houses, he said the “Yachties,” as the foreigners are called, patiently guide him in boat building or repair.

The Yachties also tell the vendors what food they like to eat and how they want it cooked.

Business-minded

Arlene Palallos, owner of Arlene & Boy’s Café, was in her 20s when she paddled her small banca from yacht to yacht, selling bananas from a bilao (winnowing basket).

She became friends with her customers who went to her parents’ hut to be served guisadong munggo (sautéed mung beans). The Yachties then invited her to their boats for salads and sandwiches.

They asked if she could prepare meals, like in a restaurant, where they could come to buy food and drinks. They even told her how they wanted their bread made.

From her share in the sale of her mother’s property, Palallos bought a refrigerator and built a bamboo dock where foreigners could moor their dinghies and head straight into her little restaurant.

Giving from the heart

She also recalled her customers chipping in to pay for the surgery of her brother who figured in a motorbike accident.

“They also give financial advice; I know they want us to improve our lifestyle, and not only to eat once a day; they always give from their hearts,” she said.

The Yachties also reach out to the children through several learning programs.

American Diane Pool, 63, has initiated a Saturday school program called the One Candle Schoolhouse, where children learned writing, computer skills, the art of self-expression and life skills such as budgeting.

Now, it has evolved into Bright Lights Community Learning Initiative, a community-based, extracurricular school, with campuses in Bonbonon and in another barangay, Siit.

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.

Budget lessons

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.


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Tags: Austrian expat , Bright Lights Community Learning Initiative , Diane Pool , Michael Prader , Negros Oriental , One Candle Schoolhouse , Siaton town , Tambobo Bay , Travel Philippines , “Yachties”


  • JK1000

    Oooopsssss..kids be careful..don’t talk to strangers.

  • Vangaurd

    What a wonderul story on humanity !

  • isalexus

    Lucky for them– they were able to avoid pirates! AND so pray tell – this Diane a Filipina? Just what is their status in RP? Just curious.

    • pepengkabayo

      Don’t make an intrigue on the people.They are there to help and enjoy.

  • AllaMo

    Please let the local government unit in charge of this haven keep it as plain and simple as it is. But, please also remind them to plan for changes that will inevitably come.

  • pepengkabayo

    What a beautiful place.
    The scenery is fantastic. But what is alluring is the cove. For sure, boats moored are protected against surf and big waves during storm.
    I hope it won’t become another Boracay.
    Simple place, simple living and simple people.
    Congrats…

  • imongredneck

    “I hope this is not going to be another Boracay”. This is the usual concern each time a place developes in the country, and I share this concer. I hope the Yatchies will continue to treasure the place and the people.

  • turniphouse

    there are plenty of beautiful places in our country.  God has bless this country so much.  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EH4ULRSTE37PKHCRB6Q6WAWPB4 nitehawk

    It’s nice to know that people still find a place where in they could still be left undisturbed, wag lang sana pumasok ang pulitika at ang mga ganid na negosyante para mapanatili ang ganda ng lugar na yan.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DZNY6SZAXUMAXWXRABG7DW2ZFA Bad_wolf

    Beautiful place, amazing story… fantastic people!

  • kulittwit

    God bless the Philippines.

  • http://twitter.com/chly2rees Chly Torres

    i hope there are no hidden agenda by the locals.

  • jojolaxz

    Wonderful world. Beautiful people.

  • taga_labas

    Thanks for the news.  Enterprising people. especially those on the throne, with bad habits are now thinking….kaya ingats.

  • BacolodBoy

    what about natives lurking for….and foreigners lurking for hmmmm.. we hope  everything is truly as it is described……

    • picker_blend

      yes, there is always a bad side to every good thing happening – it’s human nature. but if you just focus on the bad things, then may be for you, life is not worth living. let us appreciate their kindness.

    • Diepor

      Lurking means spying , to sneak around , so what do you mean?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Choi-Senieres/100000577010205 Choi Senieres

    dumaguete, city of genteel people

  • Isawtheworld

    This may sound strange for my kababayans but I from Dumaguete and I pretty sure people of Negros Oriental does not like tambobo to be come like  boracay or the city of Dumaguete to be come like Manila. And politics here is not the same as with the other provinces. If you just visit our place and you will be surprised on how people think and see things. 

    • jurbinsky77

      I’d like you to have expounded a little more. Maybe politicians from other places can pick a point or two.

  • Atagalong

    I see the reason why. From the picture shown, I can see that the bay is well protected from any surge of big waves. Also, in my honest opinion, the Visayans are intrinsically hospitable people.

  • jurbinsky77

    I would have preferred that this was not published. The greedy people would come in and this paradise will cease to exist. Arlene and Boy’s Cafe will be bought by an Australian or whoever a local woman sleep with.

    But I should post without contradicting myself, I salute those foreigners, who abide by the local laws and help the community especially the children. Thank you, Diane and thank you, Bill.

  • efriend

    It is the foreigners who see the real beauty of the PHL. I am sick and tired of Filipinos throwing mud at their own country and its people.  I am sick and tired of media highlighting all the negative stories about the PHL.  I am sick and tired of directors who show nothing but poverty in the film festivals abroad.  Like other countries, there are good side and bad side of the PHL.  In fact, the negative psyche of some Filipinos is already evident in this comment section.

  • pepengkabayo

    This beautiful scenery and beautiful story is refreshing to the mind and gives more positive outlook in life.
    This kind of story is deviation from the daily irritating annoying news on politics and Noynoying which are really stressful.
    Nature gives us hope because it is pure on its appearance.
    Give us more stories and pictures like these and not the picture of the President which is really depressing to see.

  • Diepor

    Nice story , the sad thing is all the people that doesn’t have a nice foreigner to help them.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2C3OT6Z5MZBNA2HRXAXIMEA23M Bacj

    hope to see more foreigners like dayan and bill done to our locals.  keep the good work dayan and let’s pray for the soul of bill. 

  • edgar_calor

    i’ve gone to the place by car two years ago. it is about 40 minutes from any of the main highway entrances. and it is difficult to go down to the bay from the road, one needs some strong legs to go up and down the bay from the road.

    yes, the place is enchanting. but sometime last year, a near cholera epidemic took place, because of the people who decided stay around the bay. the main entrance to the bay from the sea is so narrow and the surrounding areas are high cliffs. near the place is antulang resort. please google to see more.

    there are many foreigners who learned to love our places! it is only us filipinos who try to pull down those who had succeeded in life and or have at least tried to help the poor! enough of our crab mentality/attitude, enough of our bickering, stop the political mindset and let us all help each other and don’t wait for the foreigners who loved us to show us what to do

  • Guest

    this shouldnt have been published. the abu sayyaf see a business opportunity here, and with their kidnapping, will surely scare these nice, well-meaning foreigners away……………..

  • Carum Al Dumal

    Spell check needed here? “Slow boat to HAVEN”?

    • randyaltarejos

      That’s correct. It means “sanctuary.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FZYJ33IINN63H5EBWDMFG4O3LU Diane

    I thank everyone for the time they took to respond to the article about Tambobo, and the positive feedback given to the Bright Lights Community Learning Initiatives project.  When Irma Pal alerted me to the online comments, I tried to thank her (and Greg Morales) for the support they gave to us in their story.  “No, Diane, that’s the fruit of your labor of love,” she said. 

    But she is wrong. 

    True, Bill and I were the seed, but the fruit that is now being harvested is the direct result of others who donated time, money and materials–the list of names is LONG who supported us (Filipinos as well as Foreigners), not just physically but spiritually, particularly after Bill’s death–so to those people, the credit belongs. As Tracy Kidder observed, “LIVES OF SERVICE NEED LIVES OF SUPPORT.” 

    To those who fear that another Boracay may arise, thank you for voicing your opposition.  Speaking Out, Standing Up, Seeing Work that Needs to be Done and DOING IT, works.  And if it doesn’t, “Well, at least we tried!” (Helen Caldicott, PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NMM3BZ5SAKNWSIDYG3BSIOFNKY Stephen

    I hope this will not be another opportunity for politicians to ruin. Please don’t mess this one up…

  • edongski

    My faith in humanity is restored. Many thanks to Bill and more power to Diane!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PLPOJEGSRPM4ADMHKR7GJQVVWA nice

    its good to hear good stories like this happening here in the Philippines, ” it really more fun in the Philippines”. its the only country i got..

  • randyaltarejos

    Pilar will not be there forever for Diane. Will somebody offer her an abode onshore where she can be close to kind-hearted people? It would be the best gift that the local people could bestow on a foreigner whose heart and mind are focused on enhancing the learning process for the kids in Tambobo.

  • randyaltarejos

    Just don’t allow Tambobo to be another Boracay. Let it remain as it is.



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