Week 8 (April 24th-30th): Good Bye Hundred Islands, Hello First Hike

 

Monday April 25th: Good bye San Juan, Good Bye Hundred Islands
Today we are sitting on the bus on the way back to Manila from San Juan, La Union. I had planned on staying a few extra days at Hundred Islands, though in hindsight I probably would have been pretty bored on my own. It’s beautiful here on the small uninhabited island, but I would have been dependent on the boat man to transport me around. The main islands, while interesting don’t have a ton to offer. Anyway, I had an amazing extended weekend but am still glad to be on the way home. No regrets.

Yesterday Fred and I went kayaking. It was one of my favourite moments, especially the swim-in cave. It is the result of erosion off one side of this rocky island protruding out of the ocean. You could swim or paddle into this cave from the sea with stalagtites peering down from the large cathedral like rock ceiling. At the middle and apex of the said ceiling, the rock was been destroyed allowing the sun to peer through a 30 centimetre diameter hole, thus illuminating the whole cave and making the textured and sparkly rock visible as well as the not-so-shallow sea floor. We a kayaked into the said cave to watch children and their mother swimming together. On the opposite side of the cave from the entrance, there is a small passage big enough for one human at a time to swim through to the other side of the island’s rock formation and back out into the ocean. In our Kayak we could not go through but it was magical to paddle to the middle of the cave while the little family swam out. We then came back to our tent, enjoyed the cool sea water, and walked across to the island in front of Shell island, where we were camping. We walked around it’s shore to explore a second beach on the same island, on an other side of it. It was sad to see how much garbage was everywhere on the beach fronts.

After coming back from our little exploration, we made mac n cheese (sooo satisfying when camping) and drank hot tea while the hermit crabs came out and, as we had failed to notice the previous night, hoards of what looked like rats. They seemed curious about us but also kept a healthy distance.

This morning we packed up early and ate porridge as the sun rose slowly. Then, Macellano the boat man, came to pick us up.

Over the weekend I read The Bonesetters’ daughter. A pretty powerful story about a Chinese daughter who discovers the written personal history of her mother and she suddenly understands more and better about why her mother is the way she is. Through this process she also seems to better understand herself, where she comes from and why she does or believes certain things with such conviction. I really appreciated the writing style and the powerful reminder to be gentle with yourself and your parents. It also made me think about my own Oma who is getting older and who is not as robust as she had been until a few years ago. I am preparing myself to her death, which may even come as I am so far away across the globe. That part is the hardest: the notion that I could not see her again before she dies.

April 26th: Urban culture shock, writing stories

Yesterday I encountered a bit of an edge. It was probably mostly due to fatigue, a long weekend and the slight “culture shock” of being back in an urban setting after camping on a tiny mostly unvisited island for three days. Essentially, after cleaning out all our gear while Fred worked and dealing with astounding amounts of sand incrusted in every possible crevice of our stuff and my own body, I realized that I had been invited to a low key movie screening by the mountaineering crew I went up mount Manalmon with. I was suddenly enthused at the prospect on going on an outing with people I definitely see as potential friends. I got all dressed up and ready to go, only to have my Uber app fail me and the taxi driver I flagged down have no idea of the place I was wanting to go. By the time all that was said and done, it was too late for me to go back and look up alternate public transportation options. Needless to say that after complaining so much about my need to gain some independence and figure my own way around, I was feeling kind of depressed about the failed movie plans. I lost perspective there for about half an hour after coming back to the apartment, feeling sorry for myself, moping around and thinking about how much I fail at orienting myself in cities and nature alike. Eventually the thing that aided me in getting a grip was remembering to breathe and lean into this pain I was feeling, to both be kind to myself in taking my feelings at face value, while also exercising detachment. Once I got to that place, I could just let go but not from a place of denial. Thank god for yoga!
Before leaving for Hundred Islands I started working on a story that I am thinking I will get around to working on again today. It’s essentially the telling of my experience with Derek, his cancer diagnosis, the significance of our unusual friendship in my life and ultimately the testimony of a wonderful young man who died so young and loved me dearly. I am excited and at the same time scared to go back to it (the story). I wrote two pages in one sitting almost in a stream of consciousness manor so I am weary of reading it and discovering it is crap. Deep down though I know that the story comes from a hungry place inside of me, a hunger for this story to be told, which is where my best work always comes from.

Saturday April 30:Minalungao national park

Today I am with the P.A.C.K.E.R.S Mountaineering Club, one of the hiking groups who’s Facebook page I had joined a while back. It is turning out to be a pretty magical outing, actually. Some of the trip was a bit frustrating with really a lot more travelling time then I would have foreseen. On the other hand, now that we have made it to camp, I am mostly feeling like it was worth the long day of sitting in a hot car smothered between fellow campers: we are on an island , in the Pacific Ocean with roaring cliffs, lush greenery and beautiful katamarans floating by. I am watching the sun go down in all it’s pink and orange glory while children play on the beach. It’s breath taking. For supper we are having Shrimp Sinigang and it is the first time I will be having this traditional meal.

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