There are plenty of things you realize once you start living by your own paychecks. One of them is that your treasure chest of future time is now leased to another. And you finally learn how time is really gold.
Almost two years after college and here is JKMP. Going strong, staying solid. Girls who share only our differences as common ground. The stray, the cynic, the fighter. The demure damsel. But we’ve managed, and we like it that way. We talk about life and tell stories, although these are different kinds of stories now. We feed friendship with these little tales. So, owing to the time that holidays and weekends graced us with, we took chat time to Oslob.
Oslob. Whale sharks. Mainstream. But this is our first far trip in a long while, and we sought submergence in the blue, in the cool and far, but still familiar. So we brought tickets, climbed aboard a non-air conditioned bus (because wind), and headed off to Ate Veny’s place. This is a familiar accommodation place for travelers seeking a homey ambiance in an unacquainted terrain. Ate Veny married a Korean War veteran and they have a very pretty (married now) daughter – ref. proud pictures on the wall, plus we stayed in her room. The place is just a house and they’re having the extra rooms rented to tourists. Three things that would harrow me back given another chance: Squirt, the blind black cat, the plants and the green yard, and the little cemetery near the sea wall.
I lugged two books with me because although I have plenty of time before the fun, there is a certain attraction to movement that keeps my eyes open and elusive to little naps. I wanted to savor as much as these once-in-a-blue-moon getaways as much as possible. So, through the sepia-blue gaze of my sunglasses, I read through Ronaldo Rindo’s Suburban Metaphysics, of old men pissing on rooftops and dandelions. I inhaled the fresh air, smelt the passing scents of ampaos and lechon, and recorded snippets of the journey to my hopefully adept memory. We arrived at Brgy. Tan-Awan at 12 noon. Checked in and went out again for lunch. There are scarce karinderias in the place, but thankfully there’s Brumini for a nice, chillax area to refresh after the three-hour butt-wrenching bus ride. We feasted over grilled pork, Jasmin’s humba and Pearl’s spaghetti.
Ate Veny negotiated habal-habal drivers for us going to Tumalog Falls, an infamous go-to place once in Oslob. Fare is 120 per head and 20 php for the entrance. We rode through fair weather with the azure seas on the side of the road. I stole a few seconds to outstretch my arm. Being the weekends after the holidays, we were greeted with a crowd in the area. We had to walk down because it’s a separate ride to the falls and we don’t want anymore paying. So, through nervous glances at the steep downway and some selfies, destination Tumalog was a success. It rained the morning earlier so the gush of water was just enough to accommodate the water-greedy tourists. And to voyeurs too, like me. I figured my maxi dress and my weaved slippers probably wouldn’t do well in the water, so I kept to the corner and contended myself with shooting JMP’s photos.
Voyeurism is a job I take seriously. 30% sarcasm involved.
We decided to go back to Ate Veny’s place to change. Then arranged rides once again going to the town’s Heritage Park. It was already 04:30 pm but no time could’ve been more perfect for a visit. It wasn’t hot, nor humid. The sky was a bit grey but not bleak. It was a park, alright. But it was the parkest park I’ve ever been to. The tourists, the locals, families, lovers, friends, children chasing each other in their bicycles. Occasional vendors. It was the perfect way to end a day. The breeze is reassuring, somehow telling of a would-be tomorrow. No. Not really. It was telling of here. Of fleeting moments. But of the present, nonetheless.
It was already six when we went to the market just outside the park perimeter to check out some local food. BBQ was an agreed choice and so we sad with locals kids over isaw and baboy and puso.
The night is young. So what do four tired girls do on a Saturday night? RH. Pulutan. And some random throw-your-cent-to-the-table kind of confession slash imperative storytelling ensued. I never get bored with these things. And when you have true people to confide with, everything always feels a bit light on your shoulder. I’m glad for late night conversations and crazy girls. Magding has gone over 30 selfies per hour on average already. Crazy girl. But then, who could disagree? Peace Ding.
That night, some news closed an otherwise flawless day. Death. Always lingering. The death of a close acquaintance always a reminder of our own frail existence. That night, I looked for stars to remind me that even grand fires crumble and lose their luster too.
Everyone has gone to bed when I went outside and finished Rindo’s anthology. Then I got started with James Salter’s Cassada. That’s when I met Squirt the black blind cat. He was very fat. He used to be a stray (look, I found a fellow!), says the couple. They took him in. I’ll look for him when I come back.
The following morning, it was hard to wake up. We were supposed to take a quick dip in the sea before heading back to the city. But morning weariness (and laziness) wrapped the three girls in their comforters. So I took the liberty of probing the sea wall side. And holla! I saw this:
I ventured the shoreline for some interesting stuff, though I never really expected to find anything there, until I stumbled upon these:
I talked with some of the local workers. They said they belong to an organization called TOWSFA (Tan-awan Oslob Whale Shark Fishing Association). They said they bring food to the butandings. They said I should join the mob (who are visible on a distant horizon like ants during a flood) to witness the gentle giants. I said, nah. I’ll reserve that for next time.
It’s nice talking to them. I do find thrill in talking to strangers. Strangers with stories. Theirs, a familiar one. Ah, that’s what they do. Ah, they’re the bottom line of some bogus political game. I kept the thought to my head and headed back inside. They were already dressed when I came back so I hurried through a hot shower for breakfast. There, we met Ate Veny’s husband. A nice, smiling man who talks about boats and girls and books. A 125 php meal turned out to be a lot – hot coffee, banana cake, buttered scrambled eggs, bacon and fried rice. Perfect for a long journey.
Then we said our goodbyes. To the couple. To Oslob. And to death – for now. It’s time for acceptance. It’s time for restarts. It’s time to come home.