The day before we had seen a colossal turtle while snorkelling. My head dipped under the water with the rest of my body and the tube guiding air to my mouth gallantly wavering on the surface of the beautifully clear, blue water. I glanced up at her, smiling. However, she urged me to quit waving my hand like an idiot and to focus my attention down below. A massively big turtle was calmly passing by, blithely deviating from his track as to cozen its pursuers. I jutted my arms out straight, as if I was near enough to pet it. Fervently, I followed the turtle with eyes gleaming. I was amazed by its size, something unexpected. When we had abandoned the stunning beach after a delicious meal, they had briefed us that we would search for this water dweller. However, I imagined the size of the slow-pokes swimming in a pond, similar to when my phone had chosen for a dip. Mistaken that I was, I was now staring at this, with my comparison, giant turtle. Amusingly, it hadn’t been the highlight of the day for everyone. It was the royal blue tang, well-known as “Dory” to most, that shook my beloved to excitement and had her let out a giggle. Enamoured of her adorable cackle, I could not help but chuckle myself. It had been a long day of snorkelling and hopping islands. Two baked buns, one more than the other, had little choice left but to crash into a deep sleep after a mojito or two.
As dawn had come, shimmering its light through the curtains leaving sun ripples on our blanket, after that deep night’s rest with praise to the generous bar-lady pouring rum as if she was overstocked that evening, we had set plans to hike in search of cascades. Once we overpowered the strong gravity on the blankets, and our bags were hike ready, we commenced. Given a short route description in Tagalog, we headed out with a boiling sun heating our necks. A lovely dog, named Doug by the enamoured couple, left his tiny paw prints along the track following and guiding us with pride and joy in his eyes. In reality, a second dog had been there, yet we do not speak of him. When approached by a threesome of puppers, the double-sized dog had frantically chosen the direction we had come from, nearly flying until it had gone passed a turn and not to be seen again. Not Doug. Our dear Doug, when exposed to a threat, whether the tiny Cerberus or a giant buffalo, filled with fear he stood his ground and made no sound.
The first cascade on the list had been the small one, as I had gathered from the Tagalog explanation. The water had a delightful cool touch, which had been gratefully welcomed on this hot winter day in the Philippines. Having viewed a many National Geographic shows, I had anxiously hopped over the tiny, brownish puddles worrisome to be struck by that nasty parasite to in a string of time be aired on an episode and have a new disease named after me. My brother got the Danniasis after his travels in Asia. Whilst hopping, I had made the decision to climb higher up for a more picturesque view. Watching the dog follow me, with ease both getting up and down, he seemed the perfect Assassin’s pet. Perhaps with their next release, which is bound to come. The four-legged stray pet seemed to be comfortable amongst humans. A blissful smile resting on the carefree canine. The beach-life truly does bring joy to all, it seems.
Upon reaching the main cascade, after having bought snacks off a young girl keeping a shop all by herself, we signed a log book. Guiding Doug to pass the creek, having small fears that our new, temporarily adopted dog may slip, we cross and prepare for the dip we had been waiting all day for. “It is cold”, are the words I mumble, as I dip my toes into the encroaching ripples. The water that engirdled my pale toes was clear, yet its descendants further in grew darker and darker, until it was pitch black. Imagining the grotesque creatures inhabiting the deeper, darker water, near the dead log, created for a complete different ambience. As the words had left my parched lips, she had already been deep in, ice cold water surrounding her gorgeous waist. With a playful smile, she splashed water upon me and jested me to grow some and enter. A lady known to take her showers cold out of preference did not shy away from diving into the freezing water that only had grip of my tiny toes. Doug was waddling with waggling tail behind me, as well dubious of whether to proceed to enter said frigid water. Yet, bearing the cells for the next kin, it came with the duty to be – or come across as, which I am most certain I am far too late for – manly and thus I did. I followed the lady with the beautiful smile Step after step I advanced. Until I stood beside her, writhing of cold, as well as basking in the release that had come from cooling my body on one of the many searing hot days that make for the Philippines.
Watching her feed the staunch dog that seemed bound to us, having followed us, now guiding us back, I could not help but smile. I reminisced back at the day I finally had gotten to see her in person. Shied away behind her father, she had shown to be smaller than I had expected. Lips arched into that gorgeous smile. Her hair curved around her head, the frame to the perfect picture. That very moment, I had not been anxious. All fears, nervosity and anxiety had disappeared like stars come dawn. Not a single trace left. It felt normal, yet special. The way it was supposed to be. For so long I had yearned to see her in person. Bound to be, but distanced, we fought each and every barrier to be there to hold one another. It hadn’t always been easy. Struggles, fights and aching. But now, at last, I was here. Holding her hand, watching her feed a stray dog that may or may not be dying by the hand of the leech on his ear and everything felt perfect. That, is how love is supposed to be. Perfect through its imperfections and difficulties. The woman who agitates the hell out of me, yet is the balance amid the chaos. The sunshine on the darkest of days merely by being present. She is a present indeed. Worth every single effort. She gave me a loving smile – mesmerising really, magical, capable of bringing joy on the gloomiest days – as she handed me the chips to give Doug a handful. Hungry that he must have been, politely he awaited without snarling or wheezing. He did not bite upon receiving the snack either. A stray canine with manners topping most pets. May Doug have won the fight against the leech.
Gazing at the horizon, viewing Filipino ships in the the clear, blue sea, I had a gluck of my nth mojito and thanked myself for the choices I have made. The choice to be happy, rather than stuck in a college dorm surrounded by walls seeping depression into the room. The choice to enjoy life as I find my place into the world. Thereafter I thanked my family for supporting me with every step that I took. Too often I had to listen to the phrase “If I was your parent I would never let you do this.”, yet here I was, from a South-African tour, to a cycle and hitchhike in Europe to a love in Asia and never had I been doubted or restrained by my amazing family. Then I thanked her, Kath, the lady that brought and brings strength and happiness into my life. Grateful for the life I lead, I must move forward. Once finished with the Philippines, I shall, however, that must come after the mojito. What is next? We shall see. See, we shall.