Mornings at Masferre Restaurant were the best part of my trip to Sagada. Mornings spent sipping deliciously brewed coffee while gazing at the lifting fog on the hill behind the restaurant – a view most enjoyed by the window.
In the morning, I love the feel of sunlight on my closed eyes as water flows down my head.
Sunlight warm on my closed eyes, cool water down my back.
The sound of water cascading down my body.
Of water hitting the tile floors and splashing my toes…
In the morning I love the sight of my skin,
rectangular orange patterns visible in the semi-darkness of the washroom.
Faint orange sunlight coming in through the wooden splats of the small rectangular window just above.
Semi-blinding orange light peeking through green leaves, glimmering against the grayness of the sky.
Water coming down. Cool and welcoming. Not cold but cool.
Nothing like a bath in the right time of the morning.
What a way to go about starting the day.
Not smoking black coffee.
Not scrambled eggs and fried rice.
Not bread and butter or the day’s newspapers on the table –
but a cool semi-shower from the tabo in my hand that I hold right above my head in the semi-darkness of a washroom where warm orange sunlight shines in through the wooden splats of a rectangular window set high on the east wall.
Written August 16, 2005
This post first appeared here.
It is possible to be stressed anywhere, I thought, even as I sat quietly staring into the nothingness dotted by small lights out in the distance. I have always wished I could go to the beach any time I wanted, to listen to the waves gently crash on the beach and watch them, waves upon waves, in leisurely succession rush towards the shore..
Five days we were stuck within the confines of our house as torrents of rain lashed onto our tin roofs and heavy winds whipped branches about, blowing fallen dry leaves against our faces, past our doorsteps and into the house.
This morning, I was exultant to open my eyes to better weather conditions, knowing full well that for a change I am going somewhere else aside from the four or so corners of this house – I am going to work. And work I did. Earlier this evening, I went out to sit on a tree trunk by the shore and drowned myself in the sounds of waves and motors of boats going out to sea to fish. I lifted up my face, closed my eyes when a gentle breeze blew. When I opened my eyes, I saw nothing but the grayness of the starless sky …and yet…
The pain in my right temple throbbed persistently and yet…
I have always thought I would try giving up so much, just so I can live where the sea rushes in to meet dry land, thinking it would make me happy. And now in the stillness of the night and the tremors deep within my heart, I have my little piece of happiness.
Written August 8, 2005
I always forego writing anything, for lack of time. I am so busy. I am exhausted most of the time. I am always running after time and I barely have a moment to catch my breath. Today, I will take a moment â€“ just once in the freneticity of my days, to write down, after six months, pieces of my thoughts.
Two days ago, I came up the overpass to cross to where my village is, and looked up to see a glorious sunset. Much like my sunsets of old, my sunsets in El Nido – though less spectacular, glorious nonetheless. It was not as red, nor as pink, nor as deeply hued. I could not see the purples, violets, or fuchsias. It was a patch of colors in a sea of galvanized iron sheets.
I can hear the sound of waves coming one after the other; rushing to the shore, even as I lay in bed with my ear against the pillow. It is in my head. This sound of waves. This sound of the sea that Iâ€™ve always loved, even as a child.
Once or twice a week, I go out on a paddle boat to nearby coves. I now have this golden brown color, a far cry from the pale skin I had when I got here almost eight months ago (and I sometimes pretend Iâ€™m a surfer girl, though there is no surf whatsoever wherever near.)
My calloused hands are a small price for what I come out for. The brown skin or the muscles I am building are not the rewards; rather it is the rare moments I catch whenever I am out in the open. The simple overwhelming feelings of the small memories I gather and keep in the recesses of my mind. Those that are mine and mine alone. It is the stillness of the turquoise waters and the gentle swishing of my hands in it. The whispering kwssh sound of the paddle as it goes out of the water and water rushing against the outrigger. It is not getting to wherever we are going in the absence of any feeling of [rush]. It is feeling so right to just be still, to just be. It is resting my paddle and lying down to watch the clouds, with the boat unmoving, more tranquil than floating on my back in water.
It is watching big great waves rushing towards us, being in the midst of turmoil yet feeling unthreatened, safe with the knowledge that we are going to get home. It is the rushing of wind against my face, looking out into dark grey waters and dark grey clouds blowing away. When youâ€™re out there in the middle of billowing waves, feeling like youâ€™re alone and everything is so unsafe, yet feeling comforted.
No camera can capture the shimmering of the waters under the sun in the distance. It is only in my mind I can record how I sat in the sand under a flaming orange tree and felt so free and so happy to be witness to things as such.
The sound of hundreds of small fish swimming in the water, crackling, tingling.
Staring into the water to gaze upon clumps upon clumps of corals brown against the white sand, and the green waters with gleaming white stripes of the sunshine on the surface of the water.
The butterflies flying with the wind, across kilometers of water.
It is swaying in a hammock under the shade of a tree and a purple sarong billowing in the wind.
It is falling asleep with the wind in my face, the sun in my closed eyes, curled in the sand.
Written January 23, 2006
Originally posted here.
I climbed higher up the hill, pausing each time to look back and take in the sight of the sea from way up. The sky was overcast but the zephyr kept my heart light. I spotted a hammock tied between two thin tall trees, swaying gently with the wind. I was delighted, but shortly disappointed to see that it was wet after I came running towards it. I then walked slowly towards the narra bench, dry and gleaming. I sat on it, untied my hair and let the wind blew it across my face. My hand in my hair, my elbow on the bench, one foot tucked underneath me and one dangling loosely to the ground, I stared at the boats dotting the sea in the distance. The sun was trying to peek through the thick gray clouds. I stretched my full length on the bench and stared at the rays of sunlight coming through the leaves overhead. It was a bit too bright. I flipped onto my stomach, rested my chin on my arm, and looked through the strands of hair over my eyes towards the trees, hoping to see wild monkeys playing somewhere in the woods. I saw none. I heard a bird shrilly call out but it was cleverly hidden in the trees. I flipped onto my back again. I was rolling on the smooth bench over and over again, I have no doubt I must have swept it clean.
I am lonely.
Just then, as I was looking through my splayed fingers, into the bright rays coming in through the leaves, the wind gently blowing my hair falling to almost touch the ground, my neck cool against the shiny, smooth narra wood, it suddenly came to me. That gnawing realization, the thought that suddenly comes into your mind from out of nowhere, like sudden inspiration, coming to you as if it is some important clue to a very essential puzzle that has been haunting you for life.
It is easier to find men to love you than to find a man to love.
Written September 11, 2005
I woke up this morning with this thought, I am giving you up. Not for any reason but that. I woke up this morning feeling and thinking I am giving you up. Not because last night you said you do not want me anymore not once, but three times with complete conviction. Not because you said you have always wanted to break up with me, that you had wanted to for an entire year, that you wanted to let me leave on that airplane knowing full well that there isn’t any you I am coming back to and it hurt like hell, but because this morning I woke up thinking and feeling I am giving you up. Not I should give you up, but I am.
This afternoon right about one in the afternoon, the wind picked up, and blew and howled. I stood firmly on the ground as the wind whipped stray fine hairs into my eyes and I watched gray heavy clouds drift swiftly past above the densely green hills. A thousand tiny knives borne out of the loneliness of my heart, surged and pricked me in a thousand sundry ways as deliberate diffident tears escaped from the pools I collected from the corners of my eyes. The leaves rustled, twigs flew, branches were broken and torn, tumbled down the bleakness of the grass bowed low. The wind commiserating with the turbulence in the depths of my heart roared silently. I know this sadness. I have felt it over and over again countless times. It is as familiar as my smile, the smell of my skin, and the feel of my hand against my cheek. In the grayness of early afternoon, something was sticking out tenaciously against the willful wind, vivid still – one lone crape myrtle flower, that gave me hope, gave me joy.. Just as in the past, there was you, now there is only this purple flower, now there is only me. No one else but me. Steadfast. Resolute. And as I always have been, will always be, stubborn though weak.
The rain fell in torrents tonight, unfalteringly wicked. It fell on the tin roof, spit-spattering like Morse code, and made me wonder if somehow it was trying to send a message across that I because of ignorance just couldn’t get. Somehow I will know, sometime. I am slowly, painfully learning, though crawling through bit by bit.
So this is how coming home really means, my coming home to me. There is no one to come home to anymore but me. In this island far from home, far from the people I loved most, cherished the most, treasured the most and the things I deemed most important, I found me. Beautiful and ugly in more ways than two or three or even ten, but decidedly real.
Written August 9, 2005
He’s taking too long and she couldn’t wait anymore, so she slung on her backpack, tied a sweater to her neck and got out the door, into the cool of the night. Walking nonchalantly in the semi-darkness, with only a faint light coming from the only two lamp posts that illuminated the long street, she kept her eyes on the street corner. The neighborhood dogs never bark at her, she thinks it is because they think of her as kin. She saw him walking in a surprisingly leisurely pace, a second after the light from the sari-sari store right in front of the town’s only waiting shed hit his dark face. She continued walking, waiting if he will recognize her face in the darkness. He does, and she laughs.
“You couldn’t wait anymore?” he asks.
“Well, yeah,” she says with that hearty little girl laugh she has.
And they walk together back.
“What path did you take on the way here? Here? Here? Or there?” motioning to him with her chin.
He answers her with a “Here” right after the two of them turned the corner. Here was a long dark, flooded when rainy, path right by a humble but pretty resort named after the Palawan pheasant, and it is the path they almost always take to go the beach to swim or to go to the hill. There was the path that winded through nipa huts and grazing land that they are forced to take when the tide is high or the other path between the never-been used but already falling apart from neglect and disrepair Japanese-owned 15-million resort and the only DTI-accredited resort in the town proper and the only one listed in the Lonely Planet travel guide too.
He lets her walk in front of him, lighting her way with his flashlight. She has none of her own. The sea breeze and the sighing surf greeted her face as she emerged from the path with a jump on the sand. She ties her sweater closer to her body as they continue to tread the beach. They come to a big boat tied on the shore blocking their way.
“Wuuh, the water’s cold!” she say, laughing ever so softly as she waded in ankle-deep water to get to the other side. He ran to the other end of the boat and squeezed himself through.
“I can’t wade in the water. I have a wound,” he says apologetically after they both come around.
“Is the water deep over by the bridge?” she asks knowing that they are almost about to reach the bridge.
“It is about waist-deep if you wade in the water. I crossed the bridge on my way,” he answers. Most of the time the water is ankle-deep, and there are stone steps one can use to cross it. She finds it disgusting sometimes to wade in the water, as it is the canal water coming from the hills, rushing towards the sea. The bridge is two coconut trunks laid onto two concrete slabs two meters apart, with no handles.
They come to the bridge and she sees that wading is out of the question, but climbing up the bridge is also difficult since her knee is weak. He senses her dilemma and climbs first. Standing over her, he holds the lamp flashlight in one hand and holds out the other to her. She looks up at his big hand, almost black in the darkness, and places her hand in it. His hand is warm and soft, and hers is small, delicate and smooth. For three seconds, they both feel this union of hands, soft but firm, and it seemed to them both that the whole world was but those two hands. It has been a long time, she thinks, choking a little sob at the back of her throat. He lets her hand go and walks in front of her, holding the lamp at his back to light her path. She gingerly treads her way on the planks. At the end of the bridge, she sees that it is too high for her to jump on her own in her weak knees. He is already on the sandy ground, looking up. She pauses. He holds out his hand again, and she takes it before jumping, landing firmly on her two feet on the sandy ground a meter below. Two seconds of soft warmth. Only in two instances will one ever feel this kind of tingling sensation brought about by a million tiny nerve endings stimulated, neurons jumping one after the other, faster than the speed of light. The meeting of two tentative lips, and the meeting of two trembling hands.
He lets her hand go, if hesitatingly, it was hard to tell. Maybe he let it drop, or maybe he just lost touch, but her hand fell to her sides. She walks on, smiling slightly in the darkness, and skips cheerily on the soft gray sand. He walks behind. The path is still long, and winding. They share a long silent walk.
At the bottom of the hill, he opens the gate for her. She walks in and walks past the bar door that leads into the workshop and heads straight to the wooden staircase and climbs up. The wide expanse of verandah greets her, a sungka is set atop the wooden table in the middle of the verandah. A bamboo seat is leaning on the wall right next to the door. Amidst the rustling of the coconut palm fronds, a gentle breeze caresses her face warmly.
He comes out of the door from the kitchen carrying a tray with two cups of steaming jasmine tea, sets it in the middle of the chair where at the right far end she is now sitting and leaning comfortably, staring into the sea, and he takes his place on the far left side. She takes a cup and utters her soft, childish thanks which he immensely loves and often imitates. She sips from her cup just as he brings up his to his lips. They both stare into the darkness of the sea.
“Where did we go wrong?” she asks.
“It was wrong from the very start,” he says ever so softly.
“Well, I thought it was rather cute…” she says with hurt in her voice, staring into the darkness where the sea is.
“Don’t you think?” she asks, almost in afterthought. As if she had suddenly decided that it mattered that he shared her thought.
Cute. She used the word cute. He looks at her profile in the darkness as he ponders on the word that she had used to refer to the night they first went out. It was far from cute, he inaudibly mumbles, just to himself, only to himself.
Written September 12, 2005