A Filipino Feat of Fortitude

“Don’t worry, my love, we will have plenty of time”, had been the words that departed my arrogant smile as I calmly entered the bathroom. Cocksure that it would be the two of us on the pier with a tumble weed passing by awaiting the crowd that was to come. Alas, I was askew, as once we arrived in our carriage, known as a ‘tricycle’, all had long amassed. Accepting defeat, we passed through the check in before entering the tiny boat that was packed. I placed my bottoms on the seat that had been illuminated by sunlight. Like an over the top lit Christmas tree, I sat brightly in the sunshine. A bench of hot coals under me and a face glistening red from sweat produced by the searing hot, shining sun above. Perhaps now is a good time to apply sunscreen. Anxiety was resting on my shoulders, whispering in my ear how our bags would fall in that alluring, blue water would we place it down, as there was zero cover. Soon we would find a secure place for our luggage, however for now, we had to continue carrying the burden of the clump of fear stuck in the mind, displaying the event over and over. I have never been the same since the dive of my phone. I shook my head, as a fog of dizziness flew by. Winter, They said. It is winter.. Avoiding the sun had not been a task easy however. Thus, we awaited the commencement of the departure from El Nido to Coron as sweaty blobs, hoping the boat would turn from the sun.

El Nido had come after our perfect mash of serenity, scenery and indulgence, thus with the bars raised high, the town had been like the crumbles of a delicious pie we had feasted upon. The leftovers of Christmas. However, the crumbs where tiny, tasteful pies themselves, forming one of the best birthdays I could wish for. Although there was no cake of any sort on this special day, I had been rocking a ‘Bahama Mama’ after a dinner of crabs with the love of my life while watching the time calmly tick me into my 21’s. On the day itself, we had gone on a tour with the guide whose name shall never be forgotten as he had us repeat it numerous times. “Jason!! Jason!!”, the group chanted as the ego of the punmaster grew and grew. Wishing me a lovely birthday, the man had guided us to a couple of lagoons – small lagoon, big lagoon and a secret lagoon – where time passed flowing over the water on a kayak. The favourite activity of my beloved and I had been to peddle our way past the giant nature’s creations. Rock formations surrounding us, making us part of the captivating painting. No sound, but the sound of tiny splashes and muffled conversations far in the background. I let my fingers run along the flashy, yellow watercraft, dipped slightly into the clear water. So clear, that at all times the sandy ground had been visible, yet it was hard to tell as to how deep it really was. Forcefully pushing my pedal in, I had attempted to gauge the depth. Colourful coral was scattered all around. A school of tiny fishes swam past as we drifted along the rocky walls. The water surrounding my fingers had been warm, yet cool, a comfortable blanket that I craved to pull around me. Thus, telling my love to park the narrow boat, moments later my feet were gushing blood over the floor of Jason’s boat. Leave it up to Danny to be the only wounded from a ‘treacherous’ swim. Early in childhood, growing up and even now as a supposedly adult.

For lunch, our tiny group had amassed to dig into the giant fish displayed readily to be gobbled up. So were all the meats and fruits surrounding the colossal. After devouring enough meat to take down a single kidney and ample watermelon to clog my bladder for weeks, m’lady and I rested our feet in the water, overcoming the battle of food once again. Having gone out of my ‘grilled-sandwich & peanut butter toasts’ bubble once exiting the Netherlands had been one of the greatest choices of them all. Although at times I still cherish my moments with the grilled sandwiches and peanut butter toasts, Asia has gifted me with a whole new world of food. A world where rice is somehow edible. A world where every meal is a tingle for senses. About a week before that, Kath had ordered unlimited rice of which I made abundant use with my 2 sizzling pork sisigs, sneakily placing her order on my plate as the waiter repeatedly walked by scooping again and again until our tummies howled us to quit. Some meals have you drooling simply thinking of it. Perhaps it had been the lack of a proper meal that morning that had me slobbering at yesterday’s memories.

At last, the roaring engine rumbled and growled fierce with thundering sounds. Shakily, the raft slowly began diminishing the 127 kilometres that lay between us and Coron. A hellish ride to come. My girlfriend and I had moved to the wooden bench in between the toilets in the kitchen. It had been after moments of loud shouting between me and my love that I began to realise that the engine’s noise had not waned. No, the rumbling monster at my immediate side would be the sound filled in the salty air for the entirety of the ride. My belly joined the choir, as my better half and I had forgotten to indulge in a proper breakfast. Unless, of course, you count the oh-so healthy chips and chocolates bulging in Kath’s duffel-bag as a meal. Nauseous, sweaty and exhausted we faced one another, knowing we would have to endure another six hours and 50 minutes of this. Callous that the waves were, they bucked underneath us, whirling us round and round. At least, that is what it felt like. Water splashed, hitting the hull and wetting people near the windows. Packed like sardines or sheep on a truck, all seemed in a stupor, as if stuck in traffic, dead-eyes glared in front of them accepting all that came with the journey. Once more the boat rocked as it glucked another wave. Drowsy, the wall in front of me began to fade. Slowly my head nodded forward and then backwards a couple of times. Succumbing to the strength of gravity, calmly, my lids shut as I placed my head on the table.

Again, my eyes had opened, pouring sunlight onto my unprepared pupils. Dazed I awoke from my 6th nap in the passing hour. Sitting dopey on the bench, my only choice was to vacantly gaze in front of me. That, or hoarsely shout at the lady beside me. Yet neither felt the need to do so. Both, we carried a grave expression, bearing through the crawling hours. Eye contact was made with the man that had at entrance seemed so energetic. Now, a gloom man sat down on the ground with his head in his hands, doing the exact same as everyone else. A face of exhaustion was made, followed by a nod of understanding by me. A woman galloped to the toilet, desperately making way. In my mind I painted a picture of that time I didn’t board the shouting, rocking boat on an empty stomach, pushing away the image of the woman chundering out her breakfast of the day. Stretching my legs, I had made my way to sit down on one of the sides outside.

It had simply been a different location for a nap. Some minutes was spent enjoying the view of the beaches and islands we passed by. Stupefied by sleepiness, I had moved like a sloth, joining the menagerie of people curled up on the wooden planks. Splashes of water landed on the foot of a hefty woman, whom twisted for a second in response. Yet she seemed to remain in her siesta. I joined the bunch, laying my slippers down for increased comfort before slamming my head against the hard steel of the bucket safely escorting us to the island. It could not be fast enough for me however. My mind began speaking to itself. No one else to talk to, as the engine had raged on unabated. Admittedly less loud outside, now the sun continued to boil my porcelain skin. The voice attempted to make the dragging hours go faster. Yet it was like asking a snail to hurry. Closing my eyes, I curved my thoughts away from the knot in my belly and visualised what the island might be like.

After a night in a mediocre hostel in the small town Coron, offering bountiful over the top delicious meals, my eyes had been locked on the accommodation to follow. It being the first December, and therefore the first New Year’s Eve, as well as the first month with the love of my life it could not be a celebration spend in mediocrity. For both, it had been a special moment and the beginning of something grand. A head in the clouds and a belly filled with butterflies introduced a perfect pick to create the ambience for said beginning. Leaving my bank puzzled as to how I managed to get by as my account slowly took a dive into the red zone, trickling closer to – and eventually into – the minus, the lady and I decided to splurge ourselves into a resort in Busuanga. Although it had mainly been my choice as my dearest frowned with a look of disapproval, both of us had the most splendid two nights in this amazing place. A perfect ending to a year that had been filled with all that I ever wanted and the beginning of a year that would be a grand leap to further my desires in life. Despite the days after being filled with a kick out of the same mediocre hostel due to poor managing skills and a flight and boat trip being missed as a storm was brewing, it did not take away the serenity we had experienced at Estancia, the resort.

As around the setting of the sun, we had once again been in the kayak, peddling around in the jellyfish-filled water. Viewing the setting of the sun in the open water with Kath was a picturesque moment which is forever stored in my brain. With a private beach and tours departing from the resort’s own personnel, we had chosen a wonderful resort to both be involved in activities – including wandering amongst other long-necks and more sunbathing on beaches – and have wine fuelled nights for the two of us. As others feasted upon on a roasted pig – of which we would nibble the remainders come dawn – we had crawled back into our own room counting down the minutes from our balcony with glasses lifted. As the final minute went, I could not help but wonder, what would this new year bring?

The movement of people had awakened me. It had not been long before the hectoring waves had forced us to leave. At orders of the captain I sauntered back to the table. Even here, we could no longer remain as the crew had begun the preparation of lunch. A cry of confusion howled from my tummy, puzzled regarding the meal. Uncertain whether I would be pleased or in queue with the lady of before. Sadly, Kath seemed to be of the latter, as she handed me the bowl when rushing off. Opting for hurling over the railing, I saw her gallantly leaning over as she spew out the sugary snacks from earlier. Watching her, I knew that all I could mean for her was my commiseration or a second stream of chunks. Focusing my eyes on the bowl in my hand, furrows where planted deeply into my face, keeping the acidic would-be vomit inside where it belongs. Another wave whomped against the tub as I winced swallowing the remaining food. Only 3 more hours to go… 

It had been as if a long storm cleared and a sun shone fierce. In reality, it had been the slight dimming of the heat that had been an improvement. My mind grew less foggy and the drowsiness wore off. Nausea had taken a leave and the dizziness faded. Waves turned from feisty to faint. Only the engine’s cackling had remained and his evil partner the sun had been replaced by a weaker version, that left safe havens in the form of shades. Hiding from both on deck with a view of spattering drops turning into mini-rainbows gave a feeling of calmness. Here, my dearest and I remained the final hour or two gorging on snacks and entertaining ourselves playing games on the phone. Using my incredible skills to flick a ball and break blocks, I managed to impress a 9 year old as I reached a level ten times grander than hers. Pity, for those who never believed in me.  Relief had been upon us, I imagine all, when land, the land we would soon be upon was finally in sight. Would the island be worth the journey? Or is the journey an experience itself?

WhatsApp Image 2018-06-02 at 19.32.15 (1)

2 thoughts on “A Filipino Feat of Fortitude

  • Wauw.

    Ik ben er stil van.
    Met ontroering en weer heel veel plezier gelezen . Ondanks dat ik dit nooit heb meegemaakt voelt het even alsof ik erbij was. Wat mooi.
    Veel liefs. En blijf schrijven alsjeblieft. Je kan dat heel goed.

    Liked by 1 person

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