Julio’s spirit was soaring at the sight of the vast, pacific, and glittering seawater. He excitedly slipped off his shirt, wore his goggles, and waded slowly yonder. He wanted to test how well he could apply the swimming skills he learned from the pool to the open water. The submergent marine plants brushed on his feet, and through the crystal clear water, he saw them sway as he moved. He hastened his tread; he could not wait to get into the deep part of the sea to release his tensions and bubble them up to the surface. After a while, he noticed that the water has not even leveled his waist. What’s happening baby? He looked back and was surprised at how far he had been from the shore. Goodness! Low tide.
The small Island of Burot in Calatagan, Batangas received him with apologies when he came back to the shore. The beach he was walking on now was of brilliant tan color for the water receded about sixteen steps from the white sand. The generic appearance of the solitary shadow did not give a cue on what transpired on Julio’s face. His excitement suddenly faded away. How could nature conspire with fate to make me unhappy?
He was delighted that each of his steps left a print on the warm and pebbly sand underfoot. Pavements and high floors were gone…he was in direct contact with the earth, his ultimate destination after the time he would reckon with the sweetest tragedy of his life. The pricking heat of the sun penetrated his skin that has been kept away from sunlight on weekdays. He felt the lumps of cold conditioned air slowly bursting under the warm temperature. He pressed his knuckles against his back; his complaints of backaches disappeared.
Above, thin layer of clouds barely concealed the azure sky. In the air was the laughter of children building nondescript sand castles. Beyond, the sea and the sky were kissing each other in the infinite horizon. He saw black birds hovering untiringly beneath the April sky.
For a moment, Julio saw freedom from the hands of the world.
He has come a long way to escape Manila and he was not buying the idea of giving up on the chance of having a great beach experience. He decided to stroll the widening coastal strip. There must still be something interesting that he could do or witness anywhere in the island. Not lonely souls though that he would comfort for he would definitely turn away if he encounters one. Not even a chance of having a small friendly conversations with strangers.
He observed how this island was starting to suffer from human irresponsibility. Julio frowned at the sore sight of litters everywhere – empty liquor and soda bottles, thrash bags, sachets of toiletries, food packagings, and despisely more! It was Sunday afternoon and there were still so many people in the island. He could imagine how this treasured place could get even dirtier in the days to come. Why can’t we take care of our natural resources in the same way that we value our own possessions. We are supposed to be stewards of His creations.
He kept walking until he reached the far end of the island where the mangroves were. They have large roots protruding from the seabed and their thick foliage fanned a saline air when the wind began to strike. He peered on the water and noticed a circular formation of silvery mass around the stem of a mangrove seedling. Curious, he stepped onto the pellucid water, then he laughed like a crazy castaway. A school of startled fingerlings dispersed and delivered a tickling sensation on his feet. Clearly, he disturbed their afternoon siesta. The stampede was an amazing spectacle to watch.
By and by, he saw a brown dog emerged from the bushes before he heard it bark. Julio stood frozen and bit his tongue. He gauged the dog’s reaction before he could move. He assessed his legs and conceded that he was no match with the dog in a race if the latter decides that its next meal would be the fleshy calves of an inactive runner. The dog came forward and jumped onto a coral reef. The lolling of its tongue and the shaking of its body provided evidence of tiredness. It must have been lost and searching for something for its eyes and head moved on all directions.
He stared at the deep black eyes of the lonely man’s bestfriend; he saw them softened. Julio closed the gap between them and sat beside the dog. He gently caressed its back. It wagged its tail and licked his forearm in response. They held that intimate position for a moment while they looked away to the people across who were busy exploring what the sea has just bared to them. Julio turned his gaze back to his companion. It calmed down and about to fall asleep on his lap when it heard something snapped from behind. Its ears pricked and its neck craned to the smell of something it alone could recognized. Without any gesture of farewell, the dog barked and scampered back to the shrubs to reunite with its master.
Just as Julio was ready to go, he sighted a reddish starfish at the corner of a coral reef. It might have been pushed there by waves at high tide and left wanting for water when low tide took its turn. He kneeled and scooped the washed up creature and dropped it to an area that has more water. Its five arms made some slight swings, an indication that it was still alive. He hoped it would get through this until the next high tide would take it back to the sea.
Julio picked up a small sedimentary stone and hurled it to the shallow sea. The slapping sound was music to his ears. He was still fortunate to be standing amid the low and high tides that lapped him to different shores. Beaches, he thought, were not always pleasing to the sight. Sometimes they can be rough, stony surface you would not want to step your soles on. But a beautiful beach can also be defined as other than white and refined; it can be granular, shining in a deep tone of beige under the blazing sun…like Burot Island beach. The way the island presented itself knocked Julio’s regular expectation.
Longer strips of desert sand were now visible in the distance, a sign of lost hope for beach goers who would be staying only until sunset. But he has found reasons to smile and to leave the island without carrying a heavy heart. He has not fully accomplished his purpose, but he met three wonderful creatures that made him amend the way he sees things. His vision of reality was starting to clear out of his previously stricken mind.
Life’s joys can sometimes be found in small and simple things. The fingerlings made him laugh sincerely for the first time following his decision to start moving on. Life can be more rewarding if one would decentralize it from himself. The hound and the starfish proved that he could still be sensitive to others’ needs. With humans, it would be unjust for him to deny them of such sensitivity when he knew that he was the most accessible and capable person to respond.
Well, Henry Miller must be right when he said:
“One’s destination is not a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Tweet
When he returns to Manila, Julio would surely give a lot of things some second thoughts. He could be cautious, but he did not need to change the way he is.
The longest summer would be over soon!