Kar’na Mamakuyod — and I spent days of personal retreat and digital detoxification over the Semana Santa (Holy Week) at my parents’ place atop a hill in Romblon.
Just a quick language lesson — kar’na or kari na (tara or halika na in Filipino) is a Rombloanon expression used for inviting. Bakuyod is a hill or mountain, and the inflected term mamakuyod (mamundok) means going to the mountains or taking mountain tracks to travel from one place to another.
The place I was talking about was just a fifteen-minute climb from the main road, but my knees silently complained from the rough, rocky, and steepy track uphill. I even got my travel sweater almost soaked through. I had to catch my breath at every landing.
It was two-thirty in the morning when the ferry docked at the Port of Romblon, and I was immediately picked up for a thirty-minute tricycle ride. I still felt sleepy until I had such a re-initiation into the barrio life.
I was no longer used to it after having lived in the city for a very long time. It was during my high school days when such a hike was almost a daily routine. But it got easier and lighter through the days.
Although my late grandfather’s humble estate stretches from the mountains down to the seashore, my father picked his share farther atop the hill to enjoy a quieter environment through retirement. Well, he’s got a good point.
It’s been a decade since my parents moved there after the construction of their two-bedroom concrete bungalow. Both of them were used to going up and down for running occasional errands, only my mother would take a wooden stick for a little help.
I should say that it was a perfect place for a summer escape from the hustle and bustle of city life even for just a week.
The twelve-hour sea travel by a ferry, Salve Regina, from Batangas Port was even unwinding and rewinding, particularly the bar vibe at the stern of the ship.
The house that came with basic utilities, such as water supply, electricity, and cable, was also surrounded and partially shaded by fruit-bearing trees — mangoes, avocados, guavas, guyabanos, citruses, and jackfruits, among others. There were also pineapples and bananas.
The far horizon and the Sibuyan Sea provided a majestic view from the marble-furnished terrace where I enjoyed watching both the sunrise and sunset while sipping coffee and eating boiled saba, or sometimes just meditating.
Not a big deal — but I wasn’t informed that there was a complete blackout of Globe’s network service in the area, even down the barrio proper. Smart, however, got a strong and stable signal.
On the first day, I had to connect to my mom’s Smart data connection via a mobile hotspot to make some social media updates, just a few mydays.
Soon, I decided to completely cut my digital connection, and that was just perfect as I planned to have a digital detox in the first place. At night though before sleep, I would still draft some blogs on my offline mobile notes app.
I badly needed that detox as I’ve been with my phone for most of the days checking emails and managing my digital content since my work resignation.
What is a digital detox? Digital detoxification is a break away from using a smartphone or all other electronic devices and refocusing on offline or F2F social interactions and other activities within a certain time.
It is usually done to reduce stress, prevent internet addiction disorder, and improve physical and mental health. It also increases one’s mindfulness.
Quick Summary — Summer is a perfect season to take a personal retreat and digital detox as there can be more days and long weekends free from work or school. To make it happen, find a place close to nature, live the simplest way you can through the days, and do new things, while disconnected from the digital world.
12 Things I Did (and You May Also Do) This Summer for a Digital Detox
I arrived at my parents’ place on Tuesday of the Holy Week and left the next Thursday.
My departure was supposed to be on Tuesday as well, but sea travels were canceled because of Typhoon Amang. I was then at the port holding my ticket and sneaking a power nap when the announcement was made.
To share, here are the things I did (which you may also do this summer) while in Romblon for a vacation and digital detox.
 Catch the sunrise while sipping hot coffee. Noons and afternoons in summer can be hot, but mornings at the barrio remain gently cold and foggy because of the sea and mountain breezes. With that, hot coffee or tsokolate (chocolate) is still perfect in the morning.
I have already cut my coffee intake down to just a cup in the morning and another in the afternoon, but I couldn’t resist a third cup when I was in the province because of the serene ambiance and the picturesque view from the terrace that afforded me more time for self-reflection.
If you’re in the province, you’ll experience longer days and nights. People sleep as early as nightfall and wake up hours before sunrise.
You’ll also see that they just take their time doing their daily routines and physical activities without any rush or pressure.
That also applies to taking a cup of coffee when you can have all the time enjoying its bitter-sweet taste and whatever thoughts or daydreams you may just have.
 Breathe the freshest air in and all the stresses out. The lush green vegetation surrounding my instant summer retreat house provided the freshest air I had in over a decade.
I breathed a lot of fresh air in and all the stresses out, especially at dawn when I could still catch the fog, and the mountain dew was just beginning to evaporate. Dawns at the hilltop also allowed precious intimate moments.
It was also a perfect exercise routine to do some stretching, strolling around, and climbing the hill up and down before sunrise, or even at dusk.
Running errands, even a quick trip to the sari-sari store down the roadside, was a little physically demanding but also a good exercise.
 Conquer your fear of heights and climb a tree. Mango trees were just blooming with flowers when I was there. The avocado tree right in front of the house, the same as the guava in the backyard, already had fruits, still green but ready for picking.
Maybe in a month or two, most fruit trees would provide an abundant harvest. Let’s see if I would have time this May or June to come back.
But even a single fruit hanging down its stem is worth picking if it’s ready, and climbing the tree for that prize is just an exciting activity and a new experience.
If you’re really afraid of heights, you may just use a long stick to hit the fruit at the stem and catch it as it falls. A small net may also be attached to the tip of the stick.
 Take siestas under the shade of a mango tree and let the birds sing you lullabies. It was still cool staying inside even at noon, but it was cooler and more relaxing to take siestas (afternoon naps) outside and under the shade of a mango tree.
It was quite a challenge picking which tree to take it under because there were literally a dozen or more of them. Others stooped to the ground, while others stood straight and high.
Sometimes, I would just drag a bench outside, lay a towel on the grass, or tie a hammock and then jump in for an hour or two of afternoon naps while enjoying the strong blows of fresh air.
I didn’t even need to play Spotify or the old stereo. Anyway, I am not really into music. But the chirps of the birds and the choruses of the summer cicadas were perfect alternative music.
 Dip into the spring and scrub off some dirt. It’s what I love more about swimming and bathing in the river or beach than in the pools. I can scrub my skin all the way I want.
While dipping into the sea one afternoon with my mom, I simply grabbed a fine-surfaced rock and started scrubbing my arms and down my feet. The seawater was warm, and it was an instant spa treatment.
We don’t have a nearby spring or river in the province for bathing, but if there is, then it must be worth visiting in summer. I expect the flowing water is always colder.
I remember, in one of our visits to Paluan, Occidental Mindoro for the charity outreach, we even walked a forest track for half an hour just to get to a spring, and its cold water was indeed refreshing.
 Take boiled kamote and fresh coconut juice for snacks. I woke up late the next day, maybe at nine or ten already, after two tiring days of travel and an unexpected swimming trip to Bon Bon Beach.
I was just surprised that after taking a cup of coffee, my mom would offer me young coconut meat and juice. She even had her recipe for the drink with milk and biscuits. I forgot what she called it.
I didn’t know who she asked and paid to climb a towering coconut for that morning treat. Asked about climbing, I already forgot the skill, and I was already afraid of extreme heights.
Coconut juice may also be perfectly paired with boiled bananas, kamote (sweet potato), or balinghoy (cassava) for morning or afternoon snacks.
 Weed the backyard garden and get your hands soil dirty. I just saw some sweet potatoes planted in my mom’s backyard garden. On one perfect afternoon just before sunset, I pulled up the weeds around, cultivated the soil, and watered them.
I wasn’t even satisfied and tired yet that I moved to the other side of the yard and did the same with the rows of pineapples that already came with red bracts. Pineapples usually make good harvests in June.
I remember, when I was younger I would tend our two cows, and out of boredom just watching them graze, I would also do the weeding. Through the days and weeks, the farm turned clean. My father then was even surprised.
 Speak chicken and make sure the chicks peck enough food. I just missed doing this. When I was younger, I was always tasked to feed the chickens in the afternoon.
I would peel mature coconuts using buenasan (traditional coconut peeler) and grate them using kudkuran (grater). It was a tough task at first, but soon I managed and mastered it, I could do all the preparations in minutes.
Chickens would just freely roam around, and they just had their body clock for the feeding time. If I would be a little late, they would already start swarming around, getting noisy, and sneaking some coconut being grated.
If I would finish earlier than usual, I still had to call them by ‘krukrukruk’ and they would flyingly rush around me for the feeding time.
Years have passed, and the practice stays the same. Wherever chickens go throughout the day, still they’ll get back before sunset to where they’re fed. And I could just relate to it with my homecoming.
I also missed tending nonstop-chewing cattle and feeding the voracious hogs, but my parents already stopped raising these farm animals as they usually require more dedicated time, physical effort, and feeds.
 Cook dinner on a wood-burning stove and never mind how smoky you smell after. Newly milled rice smells and tastes better when cooked on burning wood. And fresh fish makes an appetizing aroma when grilled on charcoal from coconut shells.
For six days, I got the taste of real home-cooked meals, courtesy of my mom. She prepared me native chicken dinuguan in coconut milk, chicken tinola, charcoal-grilled red lapu-lapu, and yellow-fin tuna paksiw, among others.
Although my mom had gas and electric stoves, she would still use the traditional wood-burning stove in her dirty kitchen outside. I would help her do the cooking from time to time, especially when she had other house chores.
From starting a fire with kusot (sawdust) to blowing and sustaining it with wood added one after another, traditional cooking practices are amazing and worth trying and retrying. You’ll just smell bad from smoke after, but it’s not a big deal.
 Talk to the neighbors and learn about their simple living. Since day one, I could only count on my fingers the people who passed by our yard, actually three or four people who simply checked their farms on the other side of the hill.
Although on the first day, I had a rush trip to the beach with my relatives who just live at the foot of the mountain, it was on the third day when I was accompanied by my mom to see my other relatives at the barrio, had a little kamustahan (catching up) with them, and handed over some pasalubong.
It’s been a decade, but still a little development around, a few houses added, and the same old people. And I loved listening to their stories that I missed for such a very long time.
 Enjoy some tuba or bottles of beer with the old people. It’s never complete without some bottles of beer. I heard nothing already about drinking tuba (coconut wine), maybe people already got tired of it, or it’s the mananggiti (tuba gatherer) who did.
Barrio people have already shifted to something readily available at the sari-sari for their social drinking — either beer or gin.
It was a Holy Week though, so Black Friday was a call-off. Also, it was quite hard to invite some kainuman (drinking buddies) as most young adults, my barrio childhood friends, and classmates, already moved out to the cities for work and family.
Indeed, listening to the stories of the elders in the neighborhood over some bottles of beer was not just a social thing, but also a learning experience.
 Camp out overnight under the starry sky. Your close connection with nature won’t be complete without sleeping under the watch of the dark and starry sky.
It might have been as perfect as I imagined if only I had brought even a single-person tent. Anyway, the hammock at the terrace provided a partial experience and I think the same deep slumber.
During our Mindoro trip in December last year, the squad decided to spend overnight at the seashore.
Tired from the day’s charity outreach and tipsy with some bottles of beer, we just laid our towels on the rocky shore and fell asleep around a bonfire until around three when it started to drizzle. We got no choice but to drive home and seek shelter from the rain.
You might have missed taking a vacation during the Holy Week for some reason, but you may still have many weeks left this summer before the rainy season.
You may then consider planning a retreat and digital detox, even for just a few days. You just — look for a perfect place close to nature, try new things that you haven’t experienced before, even the simplest ones, and engage in self-reflections — while temporarily disconnected from the digital world.