Sunday, June 18, 2017

Le Coucher Du Soleil

I sat on the sand, digging my toes in it, as I watched the sky change colors from light blue to yellow orange to red orange to purple, with each shade becoming more and more intense until it finally becomes dark. And as the sun set, I felt melancholy wash over me. 

I have always loved watching sunsets because I love how beautiful they always are, regardless of where I'm watching it from. I also love how sunsets can bring out so many different emotions in me. If I was having a good day, then watching the sunset tends to bring out desolation in me as I would feel sorry to see that day end. If I was having a bad day, the sunset tends to make me feel relieved that the day is finally over. Sunsets also have that effect on me wherein I tend to reflect on what transpired the whole day. 

Sunsets are always bittersweet. For one, they symbolize endings. Endings to a day, a good one or otherwise. In my lifetime, the majority of goodbye's that I bid, temporary and permanent, happened as the sun was setting. Not that it was my intention as they were purely coincidences. And as sunsets happen, they bring out the darkness. Darkness, which symbolizes uncertainty and the unknown - something that humans commonly fear, whether they admit it or not. 

Sunsets are bittersweet because while they symbolize endings, they also signal the coming of another day - a new one. A new day for new chances and new opportunities. A new day for a fresh start. A new day to forget the previous day's mishaps and a promise to make this one better than the last. And quoting my favorite TV series, "new is always better".

But what I love the most about sunsets is that they give a whole new perspective on endings. The sunset is the universe's way of telling us that not all endings are sad, and that some endings can be beautiful too. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

In-Love

There are places that we cannot help but fall in love with. Those places that upon setting foot on their grounds, we know that it's a place we can call home. Those places that we never want to leave and when we do, we can't help but feel a pang in our hearts. Those places that we never tire of visiting and we keep coming back to.

In my case, La Union, was one of them. I don't exactly know what it is but there is something about eLyU, as it fondly called, that makes me hold it dear in my heart. 

No, it wasn't the beach there because it is only good for surfing and nothing else. I've been to several beaches in the Philippines alone and the beach there was easily not the most beautiful one I've visited. Whenever it is surfing season, the waves can get as high as six feet and the currents can be so strong which may be scary and dangerous at times. For non-surfers, you get the risk of getting hit by surfboards when frolicking near the shores. When the sea is flat, jellyfish flock the shallow waters which is also dangerous. I've seen lots of tourists who got stung by jellyfish and it ain't pretty. So no, it wasn't the beach.

No, it was also not the climate there because it is pretty much the same as the climate in Manila. Even if it is located in the Northern part of the country, it can get really hot there. But it gets worse. Because there were no tall buildings nor tall trees to provide some shade, it can be such a struggle to find refuge from the scorching sun. So no, it wan't the climate.

No, it was not the food there. Don't get me wrong, but I love food-tripping in eLyU but the restaurants there can get really pricey. If you want to spend little on food, you can eat at hole-in-the-wall type of food places but you get nothing special from their dishes. Just the typical Filipino or Ilocano home-cooked meals. So no, it wasn't the food.

Looking back at all my trips to eLyU, I realized that all the fun and memorable moments I had at that place were all with people that I have met there. That solo hike to Tangadan Falls with this guide who proudly told me that he was the guide when the local TV show Byahe ni Drew came to eLyU. Those two nights I spent having a conversation with this guy whom eventually became a good friend. Those surfing lessons with locals who welcomed me into their family and treated me as one of their own. That bonfire drinking session on the beach with a fellow tourist who told me about her opened up to me about her worries and insecurities. That weekend spent with a fellow female solo-traveler who has the same passion that I have for saving the environment and basically just doing some good in the world. Those nights partying with fellow tourists, some Filipinos and some foreigners, who, albeit our drunken states, shared their travel stories with me. It is the people that I have met there, both locals and tourists, that made me fall in love with eLyU. Because everyone who came there seems to have a story that they were all too willing to share, no matter how good or bad it was. Because everyone who came there seems to have done so for a reason, and the way I see it, it was either they were running away from something or they were chasing a dream that they have found there.

For me, it was both. When I first visited eLyU this year, I was running away from my life in the city. Not that I could run away from it forever. But it gave me a temporary escape. I quit my job because I was sick of it. I let go of some people in my life because I needed to. When I was there, my employment status, my responsibilities at home, my toxic relationships - all them seemed far away. All them didn't seem to matter. After that, I kept coming back to eLyU, but the trips that followed weren't to run away from my real life. It was to chase a dream. The dream of living near the ocean. The dream of waking up in the wee hours of the morning to catch some waves and to be able to do that every single day. The dream of finally being in a place that I could call home, because for me eLyU is home. Whenever I'm there, it was as if I'm living my dreams and my trips back to Manila where horrible wake-up calls. And then I'd end up spending the next days, or weeks, counting down until my next eLyU trip.

There are those places that we fall in love with. La Union, how can I un-love you?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tales from My Travels: Boatman

During my solo trip in Pangasinan, I went on a tour of the Hundred Islands National Park. For a solo traveler like me, tours like that were costly. They usually charge per boat and the more people there are in a group, the less you pay. I tried haggling but the fees where standard. At first, the tourism center offered that I could join a group if I wanted to spend less on the boat tour. I considered it at first but when I saw that the group was composed of mostly senior citizens, I had second thoughts. Not that I had something against old people, but I felt like they weren't the type who'd go on side activities. When the boatman in-charge of this group informed me that they only wanted to tour the islands, then I declined. I had a few activities in mind like cliff-jumping, snorkeling, and riding the zip line. So I ended up renting a boat on my own.

It was where I met kuya Ray. He was a middle-aged man who worked as a boatman or operator of one of those wooden bangkas that they use to tour travelers in the islands. He didn't speak much unless I would ask him questions. Being the chatty and talkative person that I am, I still did my best to chat him up. Eventually, he told me his story. I learned that operating the boat is his only means of earning and making a living for his family. It was his way of life. He didn't even own the boat. So whatever money that he'd make out of a boat tour, he still had to split it with the boat owner. He said that it wasn't much but he still manages. He has two daughters who are still in school. He said that life was difficult but he's getting by and that he is happy with what he does, being able to meet different people through the boat tours. 

There are people in this world who are making an honest living with whatever resources, skills, and talents that they have. There are still people in this world who would rather work hard than resort to stealing and other ways of making easy money. There are people in this world who are simply happy and content selling their craft, which probably took a lot of time and effort to make with the little profit that it gives. 

And this is why I no longer haggle. It is a way of helping them out. These are the people who choose to look at what they have, count them as blessings and be happy with it, rather than look at what they don't have and feel discontent. These are the people who know the value of hard work and diligence. These are the people who give you your money's worth, not because of what they sell, but because of the good vibes and optimism that they bring. 

Which is why when a kid on the streets tries to sell you something which you are interested in buying, do not haggle. Your money could buy him his first meal of the day or could be his baon for the next day. Do not haggle, because you'll never know. If you can give them a small tip, then better. :)