For as long as I can remember, I’ve been exploring Mindanao with my parents one summer at a time, or as much as we can. We always make time to travel especially during school breaks when we are all free. I remember that last minute travel decision making was the most exciting thing to do. They are the reasons why I like traveling. My parents made it look so easy. We just go with a tight budget but always ended up completely happy with our vacation.

And through our trips together as a family, I met Brenda.

I was a naïve traveler, and I believe that I’m still learning until today on how to travel ethically and mindfully.

So I want to share this story of me and Brenda with you. I want to know your thoughts and take away from my own observations and realizations.

The First Impression of Brenda

Brenda, who was…and still is a beauty.

It was the summer of 2011 when we took our new second-hand car for a test drive and we decided to visit the main attractions of Surigao del Sur. Back then I didn’t know about blogs or blogging. My parents only know new attractions by word of mouth, from their colleagues and from our family members. Word of mouth has been the most effective way to promote anything.

We visited Tinuy-an falls, and Enchanted River for the first time. Then we went to a place in the middle of a bay. The owner was my father’s friend from work, who was very nice and treated us for dinner at that time.

I was amazed to see big fishes in cages, but I was more excited to eat tons of seafood.

Fast forward to 2016

We went back to the same place.…I saw Brenda for the first time. I was amazed to see a creature like Brenda. She was a beauty and a sight everyone wants to see. She was the star of her own stage. The main attraction of her own paradise.

You see, we always include this place in our list of places to visit when we have visitors in our province, Surigao del Sur. For the first time that I saw her, I was very excited to see her up close.

For a cheap price to pay, you can feed her and swim with her. You can even touch her if you want to. Just let the people who are in charge of her know ahead.

The Second Visit

We went back to the place located in the middle of a bay.

I saw Brenda again last December with my family. It was an extended celebration of my father’s 50th birthday.

She was still a beauty and a sight everyone wants to see. She was still the star of her own stage. The main attraction of her own paradise…

…but this visit made me realize that she was a star in her ONLY paradise.

We stayed overnight in the same place where Brenda is located. After our Britania Group of Islands Island hopping, we needed a place to stay before continuing our trip.

I guess two years did really change me, especially on how I see the world and how I see creatures like Brenda.

In case you don’t know, I am now into freediving. I learned and still learning new things about the ocean because of this recreational activity. Through freediving, I swam with turtles and even whale sharks, and I saw how beautiful the underwater world is. Even if I saw just a small part of it, I could really say that the underwater is like a different dimension or a different planet.

Through tons of freediving trips, I had a glimpse of how wonderful to see sea creatures swim freely.

So, when I saw Brenda again. The same thoughts hit me. It would be wonderful if Brenda could swim freely like the sea creatures I saw in my freediving trips.

If Brenda could speak, what would she say?

This visit, I didn’t swim with Brenda. I let my family swim with her in the cage because they want to, of course, it is part of the reason why we went there anyway. And of course, I do not want to ruin our trip because of what I think.

I didn’t even look at her for that long because I was so sad about her situation. She was a star, the main attraction in her own prison.

Brenda, a stingray, is with other stingrays, and now a new member was added, a guitar shark along with big fishes are in Sibadan Fish cage located Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur.

I, myself promoted this place because of Brenda, but now I’m looking at her in that fish cage, touched by a lot of people. I wonder, what does Brenda feel? Is she is okay with it?

I’m not a biologist. I’m not even a vegetarian. In fact, I can eat Brenda, if I want to.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite or something or anything. This is just me wondering about my own feelings and actions. Why I was sad about Brenda’s situation when in fact, I was amazed by her, I swam with her, I even fed her before.

Why do I have these thoughts and questions at that time?

I’m still learning to be a better traveler today. On how to travel ethically and mindfully. My personal goal to be attentive to my surroundings, traveling or not.

I believe that we should do the things we want like learning to be a better traveler because it comes from our own good intentions. NOT because of other people, and certainly not for social media.

I’m quite confused about where I should stand on this, about my realizations on Brenda’s situation. I am not perfect, but I know that I can certainly have my own opinions and perspective about anything I encounter in my life, and so are you. That’s why I want to know about your thoughts, feelings or take away from my personal observations and realizations about Brenda.

And to you Brenda, my thoughts are with you.