The Lamentations Of A Traveler

Image source: www.123rf.com

Image source: http://www.123rf.com

The stars that dotted the sky are flirting with the buttery moon. The night seems so alive as the sea breeze play with your hair. The anticipation in your eyes are veiled by the shadows of the night. You have been dreading this trip and kept pushing it back, pretending that there are far more important things that needed to be dealt with. But just like the other things in your life, this journey had a way of coming up to the surface, confronting you with the reality that you need to face. There’s no delaying it. Despite the fear and the hesitation, you had to do it now.

Despite the lack of sleep and the fatigue from a day’s worth of traveling, you can feel joy well up from deep inside, a shadowy memory of a not-so-distant past, a watercolor of vague images on a summer afternoon. The faint whir of the boat jolts you back to the present. The slight swell of the waves holds a rhythm that is ever so comforting. From time to time, a whimsical spray of seawater teases your face. The almost black shadow of an island looming in front of you is getting bigger by the minute. The lights from a distance are either from other boats or from the houses near the sea. They bring warmth that soothes your weary bones. The sea at night is dark but littered with twinkling diamonds, glittery just like the tears that slowly fall down your face.

The things that you fear are those that can make you happy or sad or both. This is a bittersweet reunion for you, a homecoming you would rather just pencil indefinitely on your to-do list. As the outline of the huge shadow is becoming sharper and the sleepy homes near the shore becomes clearer, the memories wash over you: the good, the bad and the ones you have buried and pretended never existed. The past is a box of pictures you’d rather keep at the bottom of your closet, never to be opened again; yet the denial will keep haunting you until you have to stare at the photos again, be reminded of the people and stories behind their smile.

The crickets and the waves have replaced the sound of the motor. You have finally reached your destination. You got off the boat and when your toes dipped in the water, you were greeted by the mossy pebbles, probably not the same ones you played with when you were five. Nevertheless, they felt the same.

You are the daughter who had left but has now come back. The cold night air gave you goosebumps but you don’t feel cold at all. Instead, a slow-burning fire has ignited in your soul. The island has engulfed you in its arms, a mother overjoyed by the return of one of the children she lost to the sea.

The moon is still buttery yellow but is now slowly hiding beneath the clouds. The stars are still glittery, just like the tears you’re trying to hold back as it dawned on you, you are home.

Image source: iasminahampel.wordpress.com

Image source: iasminahampel.wordpress.com

*The author would like to write an ode to her hometown but she is lyrically challenged. Nonetheless, this is a tribute to her home, Maripipi.

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Maripipi: A Very Brief Reunion

After almost a decade of being away, I went home on the 27th, not exactly for a vacation but to attend a friend’s wedding, which was on the 28th. It was a really short stay at the island I miss the most but nonetheless, fun and refreshing.

On the 27th, at 9 a.m., I was aboard Seair on the way to Tacloban. Estimated length of travel is an hour and fifteen but we landed at Daniel Romualdez Airport approximately 45 hours after take-off. My friend Jomari met me at the airport and took me to Kuya Kent’s house for lunch.

After a home-cooked meal and a brief siesta, we went to the terminal of Van-Van’s to board a shuttle to Naval, which is the capital of Biliran, my province. It was a 2-hour ride.

Image source: biliran.boards.net

Image source: biliran.boards.net

The sun has set when we reached Naval, hence, there were no more motorboats bound for Maripipi, my hometown. We then took a tricycle to Kawayan, a town directly facing Maripipi. It was a short ride, about half an hour. It was already dark when we reached the port of Kawayan, but the sky was full of stars and the moon was bright, buttery yellow. It was a lovely sight.

Image source: biliranisland.com

Image source: biliranisland.com

Then it sunk on me, I was almost home. The sea wasn’t so rough when we crossed to Maripipi, just a mild swelling of the waves. It was a beautiful summer night. Van Gogh would have fallen in love with it.

If you want to know more about Maripipi, the size, population, livelihood, history and what have you, you can easily use Google and/or Wikipedia. I’m not going to detail those information for you. What you need to know is I grew up in this island and will always consider it home. The town has a close-knit community, and many of the people I love are from and/or here.

Image source: www.flickr.com

Image source: http://www.flickr.com

Recently, the island has become popular to  tourists. They fell in love with the blue waters, especially that of Sambawan.

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Since I started my trip back home at early morning, I was pretty beat when I got to the Zafico’s house. That’s where I stayed for the weekend. Polay and Jayby Zafico are my childhood friends, and their parents Nay Delia and Tay Pedring are one of the nicest people in the island, also close friends of my parents. After a dinner filled with catching-up, we headed straight to bed. The sea breeze, crickets and the sound of the waves lulled me to a deep sleep.

I woke up refreshed at around 6, without an alarm, which is kind of a rare thing for me back in the city. The house was already abuzz with the two kids, Dwayne and Jedric, playing at the yard; Nay Delia fixing breakfast; and Polay packing clothes for the beach wedding.

This was the scene directly from where I was sleeping.

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I eagerly took my tablet and went outside, circling the house and took shots. I was like a giddy tourist. This is the mainland of Biliran, a view from the back of the Zafico’s house.

Mainland Biliran

Mainland Biliran

The house stands on a cliff and surrounded with trees. Down below is the sea.

view from the bedroom

Bananas don’t come from the fruit aisle of the grocery. They come from a faraway place.

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Tay Pedring had just finished painting this table. Ain’t she pretty?

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Nay Delia still prefers using a traditional stove for cooking meals in their dirty kitchen rather than the gas-operated one they have inside.

Old school

Old school

After breakfast, we were off to town to board Ma. Lourdes (motorboat), which would take us to Sambawan where the wedding will be held.
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Sambawan is a group of islets, which has white sand and pristine blue waters, home to a diverse marine life. This was recently developed and has been made more accessible to tourists.

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Although, personally, I was disappointed with how they’ve run the development and of their new policies, I’m still grateful to have visited Sambawan again. The last time I was there, I was still in my early teens.

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After the reception and fully enjoying the waters despite the unforgiving heat of the sun, we headed and boarded a motor banca. I was shocked when they initially asked for a 700-peso fee. That was just outrageous. 300 is the usual amount. This is what tourism brings to some people, capitalism and greed. Polay haggled with the banca operator and they agreed on Php 400.

After a quick shower to wash off the salt, Polay and I went back to town. I wanted to visit the church and light candles. It is tradition to do so plus I wanted to offer prayers of thanksgiving that I was able to visit the island again.

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This is the St. Michael Archangel parish church. It stands on a hill directly facing the sea.

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The islanders believe that St. Michael watches over and protects the whole town from natural disasters, pirates and all sorts of bad things.

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I grew up in this church and I love the stained glass windows. I wish I could get married in this church, if only because when you go out of the front door, you’d be facing the sea.

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Early Monday morning, I was aboard Ma. Lourdes again to take me to the mainland. After a short reunion with my island town, I was again on the road back to the city.  While I was on the boat, the sun had exploded into a beautiful array of colors, and so then I started slowly counting the days when I’ll be back.

early morning

The Girl Who Loved Obituaries

Photo courtesy of 123rf.com

Photo courtesy of 123rf.com

Kim looks at people and imagine what their obituary would read as. When she was a little girl, she had feared death and all things related to it. She was afraid to look at pictures of dead people. She could not look at coffins. When her mom would take her to the cemetery, she would try not to read the names on the tombstones. When she became an adult, she decided to do something about her fear. She started reading obituaries. That’s how she turned into the girl who reaches first to the obituary page of the Sunday paper.

She has written her own obituary, and it’s unlike what you usually read on the newspapers. Kim thinks it’s a pity that your last announcement in this world would just include the name of the funeral house, the date of the interment and the people who have survived you. Instead of a tearful eulogy, she wants to make sure she has a well-written obituary.

Five days a week, she answers email queries about an apparently problematic online payment system. Most of the queries have templates for answers. She oftentimes imagine what the person is like behind the email address. Is he a burly old guy who will have a funny, half-page obituary? Maybe a retired banker who will have a no-nonsense obituary, 3 or 4 lines approximately. Or it could be the old lady everyone is fond of who will have a family member write a heartwarming obituary full of recounting of her character.

On weekends, Kim tries to spend as much time with her boyfriend who works as a college instructor. He hates Kim’s obsession with obituaries because he once read a short story about a girl who reads obituaries in the bathroom when she’s menstruating because she was molested when she was a child. Kim tries to assure him she was not molested but he remains doubtful.

They had been together for almost a year. There’s nothing magical about their relationship. What they have is a comfortable companionship that lacks growth and maturity. Despite the seemingly monotonous context, Kim likes being with him. He has not had any declarations of love and has not talked about marriage plans. Kim sometimes wish he would but most of the time, she’s just content to lay in his arms listening to his deep, evenly spaced breathing.

One Sunday morning while having breakfast, they had a row when he saw Kim reading intently the obituary page.

Will you please not read that while we’re eating? Or in front of me?

Why not?

Of course, she knows quite well why not but she’s tired of defending herself.

Because it’s all about death. I think you’re getting more and more obsessed with death.

No, I’m not. Besides the headlines are full of death. How’s that different from the obituary?

It’s different and you know that. You don’t even know those dead people. Why do you care about them?

He then got up, leaving his unfinished food and went to their bedroom.

They rarely fight and she hates it when they do. She followed him to the bedroom. He was staring out the window.

I was not molested when I was a kid. I had a normal childhood. I was just really afraid of dead people. Why don’t you believe me?

I believe you. It’s just unsettling when you read those things. Why can’t you just have a hobby like normal people do?

So now you’re saying I’m not normal?

He laughed but it didn’t reach his eyes. Kim is starting to feel there was something he was not telling her. She does not like surprises and that’s why she likes him because he is predictable. He likes toast and eggs for breakfast, pizza on Fridays, classical music when he’s checking test papers and white underpants. There is definitely comfort in routine. But right now, Kim is scared that something is about to change. He could see it in his eyes.

Death is about pain and letting go. No matter how much people say it’s beautiful, you can never convince the bereaved family of that.

I’d like to think of obituaries as happy endings.

No matter how happy they are, they’re endings. I don’t want you fixated on endings. We’re still young. We’re barely starting. There’s a lot of things we haven’t done yet.

Are you breaking up with me?

She didn’t mean to say it out loud but she fears it’s what he was trying to say.

No, silly. I want us to get married.

As relief flooded through Kim, she couldn’t stop her tears.

You really shouldn’t cry. It’s not like someone died.

She hugged him hard.

You’re well aware marrying you means I get to write your obituary, right?

He smiled as he slid the ring on her finger.

I guess so.

Photo courtesy of glamour.com

Photo courtesy of glamour.com