A much needed trip back to the Philippines to visit my family gave me an unhealthy dose of reality and a gentle reminder that there is more to life than tube commutes and sales targets… sometimes…
In the cities, capitalist malls stand proudly next to abject poverty, brand new Navarra’s pull up next to battered Jeepney’s carrying 50 passengers cross country, so sometimes it’s nice to get out to the coast and away from consumerism in the oddest form.
My grasp of the Filipino dialects is pretty lousy but I get by enough to order food and ask for directions. But without the inside knowledge of a local, my family, I would get pretty lost trying to find the little paradises I have been lucky enough to visit over the years. After a family reunion celebrating my grandmother’s 80th birthday, my next stop was Siquijor, an island renown for its ghosts and witches. My family warned me not to drink the water, not because it wasn’t clean, but rather that it was going to be cursed. Great. Good start as always.
A bumpy, non-air-conditioned six-hour bus ride, that could rival some of the more tragic bus journeys taken around Indonesia, and a 40-minute ferry and I was happily on the witch island. If witches lived like this, then I could get used to it. I settled for Coco Groves, slightly more resort-y than I’m used to but I wasn’t about to turn down a private beach and floating bar a few hundred meters out in the ocean.
After a couple of days at the beach rolling around the sand like a whale, I found myself searching for somewhere a bit different. On recommendation from my tricycle driver I chose U.Story, an almost Buddhist retreat with a small cove and about five small thatched huts. No wifi, no service, no fuss. It was blissful. I spent days reading my book, practicing yoga and falling asleep watching the sun set on a spotless ocean, and of course gorging myself on fresh fish and fresh fruit. If you ever get the chance, Filipino mangoes are edible gold.
With a mind finally cut off from the usual Western distractions I was able to think, or really, not think. Blissful, if rather short lived. Removing our everyday “essentials” we strip ourselves down to our bare minimum, perhaps, our real selves. What do we really think about when we’re alone; what are the things that really matter to us when we don’t have Twitter or Cosmo or even Honest Burgers. I thought about a lot of things, including whether I would rather be caught in a zombie apocalypse or a natural disaster, amongst more serious things of course. An idyllic haze settled upon my little brain and I felt nothing but good vibes about life. Sometimes we need an escape from tube maps and angry commuters to remind us about what is important to us. Family, happiness, and of course, Filipino mangoes.