Postcards from Baler- Getting Lost and Finding Myself Back

It was an impromptu decision on my part to join my officemates to a trip to Baler, Aurora. In fact, it was a quick one that I hardly had time to change my mind. I am not an impulsive person, especially on cases like this. I was trained to assess first prior to making any decisions. However, there is something about the idea of going off somewhere that was un-planned that made me say yes that instant. Maybe I just needed a break.

We left Manila slightly after midnight. I was slightly uncomfortable on my seat knowing that I’ll be travelling to unknown place, albeit I know the people I was travelling with. Luckily, I got few hours of sleep but that bumpy ride on the dead of the night left so much misgivings that I had to wake up several times. Before dawn, we arrived at our destination and the view of the rising sun greeted our still sleepy selves together with the century-old banyan tree.

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Our itinerary was full that day and it did not gave us time to rest. We took the city tour that morning and we visited several interesting places within the town proper. Baler prides itself on its simplicity that it showed in all aspects of the little town’s life. That simplicity of life had a certain innate beauty incomparable to others.

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We left the town by mid-morning to take on the more adventurous side of Baler. We are hyped for adventure that day that we did not care about how hard or how long would the trek be before we reached our destination. And finding ourselves entering the scenic and breathtaking views of what nature could offer us there was worth all the bodyache that we went through. I completely lost myself and I let my mind and spirit immersed into the grandeur and natural beauty of the places. Strange enough, I found a certain peace and solace to these places that I could not care less of who I am. I slept soundly that night.

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Baler was known for its high waves, and long stretch of beaches that make it one of the sought after surfing spots in the country. And the next day, even if our body still ached from the previous day’s adventure, we were determined to try out “riding the waves”. We rented surf boards and with the help of local instructors, we tried very hard to get up into our surf boards. For the whole hour, I rode, paddled, and crashed down on my rented board. As the waves slammed into my surf board, A self-realization had dawned into me that made me change on how I see myself as a person.

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For the last few years, I have been too busy making a career of my own, of proving my self-worth and to look for a brighter future. Little did I knew that I completely lost myself in the process. As the rushing waves came into me and slammed my body down to the water, I realized that I had too much burden within me that affected my being. Too many heartaches, unmet expectations and frustrations and rejections made me tough but then it also eroded some essence of my humanity. Every time I fell down on the board and let myself be carried underwater made me experience the turbulence that I long shunned and acknowledged. I realized that despite the success, I am somehow unhappy, discontented and depressed. The dark instinct is lurking behind me again that if left unchecked, I may not be able to know myself again. So I just let myself be carried by the waters, slammed my body by the waves, fell into the sea and scorched by the sun just so I could let go of all the burdens that I was carrying.

I would have loved to stay a little while but we need to go home after our surfing fun. But I can say that Baler did my spirit and whole being good. It changed my perspectives and I went home with contentment in my heart. I left the place I came back home a better person.

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The Long and Winding Benguet Road

It was a breathtaking view that welcomed me as we veered away from the busy streets of Baguio City to traverse the outskirts of the Benguet province. The mountainous beauty and the cool, fresh air invited me to turn off the car’s A/C and savor the freedom of breathing fresh air as I feasted my eyes on the long stretch of greens wherenever I turned my head. Seeing the stretch of the zigzag roads ahead of us and deep ravines beneath each turns, I wondered how one can endure the passage on this steep mountains without the fear of overshooting in a single mistake of the wheel. But then I thought, this adds up to the adventure of the roadtrip aside from the beautiful sceneries that makes it enjoyable.

We were making our ways to Atok, one of the towns of Benguet province that proved to have the one of the most exhilarating views of the vast mountains of this northern province. Atop this quiet town, lies the highest point of the Philippine Highway system. At its viewdeck, one can stare at majestic Mt. Pulag on the other side,providing a preview of its beauty to those who wishes to conquer the second highest peak in the country but yet needs to build the endurance to do so. This is the place where bottled drinks were serve straight out of the shelves but still remain cold to the taste. The food that the hospitable people of this town put on the dining table are always fresh and organic, knowing that they are freshly picked from the numerous “terraces” that are bountiful around the town. And this is where beautiful cut flowers which are so expensive to buy in the metro grows just like one of the decorative grasses beside the road.

Amid each twist and turn of the road, pine trees grow tall all over town. But the most fantastic view to watch are the vast mountain terraces, a legacy of the olden times passed to the new generation and continue to be the center of the agricultural lives of the people. We’ve always talked about the Banaue Rice Terraces of the Mountain Province, but to experience the view of these terraces, one cannot help to wonder that these people have great tradition and are very grateful to keep it that way. These stairways winding around the tall mountains are the testament of tradition withstanding the new world, a statement of pride to the decendants of the culture and the love and pride of these people to the natural God-given beauty to this place.

Going down the mountain at early evening where fog started to cover your view and the chilly winds started to creep into the human body was a very humbling experience. In the midst of the dark road, you can see people coming down from the mountains to the road, walking quietly and unmindful of the darkness that surrounds the place. I have wondered so much of how great is the trust of these people to their surroundings that they were able to be at peace with the darkness where they can walk within it with confidence, without fear of the dark elements associated with it. And I deduced that the place has given its people a sense of contentment that they do not feel threatened of the outside world.

Atok left a big empression on me. Somehow, somewhere amidst the tall mountains, I have learned a great lesson in life. Happiness is not about being in the limelight but being at peace with yourself.

Coming Home

Source: Flickr Author; Shubert Ciencia

There is a little known fact on this place called Candelaria. The place where I grew up, made friends, and had a happy childhood. The place where I had been withdrawn for so long.

Candelaria is one of the towns in the coastal province of Zambales. People live a simple life, go about their business with little effort and worry little of the unbeknownst. Almost everyone knows each other and overall there is a peaceful co-existence on the community. Unlike the big cities, it does not have shopping malls, towering buidings or big parks to go to. It does not have heavy traffic and  no air pollution. The town is almost quiet at early evening, having only few young revelers to meet if you walk down the streets. People are delighted to watch basketball game in the plaza if there is one or attend traditional pre-wedding dance outs where you will find people, young and old, mingling together to celebrate. Overall, life is so laid-back into my hometown.

I have been living in the metro for nearly a decade now.  For those years that I was so busy making a living, I seldom stayed long to take time out from the hustle and bustle of the city. I grew accustomed to the fast- paced world that I have been living for nearly ten years that at times, I neglect to appreciate the charm of this place that cradled me when I was a little girl. It seems that the good old memories of my childhood was long forgotten and was replaced by the worries of petty things. In the long run, I almost lost the sense of belonging to this tiny weeny town.

But the circumstances led me back to this place where I grew up and re-opened my consciousness to this beautiful placid place that molded me to what I am now. It beckons me to come home, stay for a while and drink to its simplicity and beauty, unparalleled to what other place can offer. It encourages me to stop for a while, re-think of my directions and focus to what is more important to me- my family, my friends and my life. Most importantly, it teaches me that life is too short not to enjoy.

Everytime I approach the bridge that connects Candelaria to the rest of the world, I feel my heart skip a bit. Knowing that I will be coming home to a place where everything falls perfectly into place makes me exhilarated with joy. Seeing familiar faces of people whom I knew from the old days makes me feel the reconnection that I have lost. Exploring the once -favorite places once again- strolling into its quiet streets, watching the young ones play in the plaza, buying your childhood favorite food, watching the sun sets into its beautiful beaches- and simply letting myself immersed into its laid back beauty restores my sanity. Most of all, coming home to the little child who taught me to take a step back and live a life, who loves me unconditionally and with such innocence, rekindles my ties to my little hometown.

And Candelaria will live on to nurture more children into good people that by time it will relinquish them to the world its fervent hope is that the town will never be forgotten.