Thursday, March 29, 2012
thoughts from places: banaue
"Saan ka galing?" asks one of the girls at the Banaue public market. Like many of the children we met over the course of the three-day trip, she was round-faced and apple-cheeked, with bright brown eyes.
"Malayong-malayo," I reply. It's probably one of the truest things I've ever said. For one thing, it's difficult to explain where I've been in the past few months. And for another thing, the journey from Manila to Banaue took approximately 18 hours - from Manila to Baguio, 8 hours, and from Baguio to Banaue, a journey that came close to 10 hours on the road.
Now don't get me wrong - I love road trips. There is nothing else I love more than moving from one place to another, watching the open road unfurl in front of me like a ribbon that winds around towns and cities and mountains and shorelines. And I love seeing new places and moving from one sight to another, to watching the way people live and love and work and dream. And this trip reminded me how much I've missed in terms of traveling. (And a reminder, perhaps, from the universe, that I should never let anyone else control my life, overtly or otherwise.)
And it helped that I had an awesome travel companion. Even though I had only met Nyel on the bus - we were assigned to cover Banaue together - she was one of those people that was incredibly easy to get along with, and one of the kindest and most generous travel companions that I've had. And even during the times when I was already being stubborn and recalcitrant, or at the very least hesitant about going beyond the beaten track, she was the one who would give me a gentle push which, in the end, made the trip worth it. And as I watched her charm and converse with the Banaue residents, coaxing them to tell her their stories, I knew that it was always a good thing that the universe was kind enough to provide me with a partner that reminded me what a good thing it was to meet other people and to learn everyone else's stories.
And the mountains, oh goodness, the mountains. Trust me, the trip was worth a sore backside and stiff knees and the dirt and grime of the open road. The Cordilleras dominated the horizon, with the mountains looming over everything and everyone. I remember, when I woke up on the last morning (we stayed there for two nights and three days), with the rice terraces spread across the vista like steps towards the sky. Houses and buildings, their corrugated roofs bright red with rust, seems small and insignificant compared to the greens and browns of the mountainside. And as the sun curved across the horizon, the play of light and shadow across the surface of the world reminded me that the universe, at its core, champions beauty.
And there's a part of me that feels incredibly lucky that I live in a country where there is still beauty. I mean, I love living in the city, but sometimes I need to leave the concrete and steel and asphalt and just remember that I am living in a place where ancient monuments and places and a way of life steeped in history and beauty is still being practiced. And I just feel amazed and pleased and, yes, thankful that I can go to places like Banaue and Baguio and have the opportunity to find myself at that junction between history and modernity, and to be able to look back as well as look forward to things yet to come.