There are places we can easily forget…but there are places we will always remember because of how they made us feel.
It was around 11:30 in the evening when I woke up. It was warm inside the tent so I thought of going out. I crawled onto the front side of the tent and quietly unzipped it. The wind was gentle and cool. I quickly scanned the surroundings and then I looked at Krys who was soundly sleeping on his side. When I felt it was safe, I slipped out of the tent and decided to just leave it half-closed so he could breath some fresh air.
I knew it would take some time before I could return to sleep so I thought of heading to the beach. The sea was calm and the waves were rolling gently. The moon was nowhere to be seen and there were few stars in the sky. I carried my slippers and walked northward on bare feet.
Some resorts had their lights open which made the shore dim. I saw some groups of friends gathered in circles, drinking, and chatting. Several tents were pitched facing the sea. I paused for a moment and watched the waves.
Earlier in the day, Calaguas Island was wide-awake and stirring. We came ashore at close to noon, but we should have arrived earlier. We had to wait for two hours for the boat to park in Paracale. We were also required to listen to the quick tourist orientation delivered by the coastguard officer, who wished us luck instead of inviting us to enjoy the trip. Then, it took us another two hours to cross the sea between the coastal town of Paracale and Calaguas.
Fortunately, my waiting was never in vain. I was the happiest kid in the world the moment I saw Calaguas. It is amazingly beautiful!
It has a long and wide shoreline – the reason they call it Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach). The beach is fine and creamy white. From afar, it has a tone of beige under the bright sun. I was even more excited when I felt how soft the sand is under my soles. I could also tell how powdery it is because it sticks on my skin.
The water is refreshingly cool and crystal clear. There are shrubs along the beach and on the background, there is a range of green mountains.
After we ate our packed lunch, we went straight for swimming. Krys told me he went to enjoy snorkeling and he was able to capture stunning images of the corals.
At 2:00 pm, we hopped on the boat and went to Balagbag Island, which is less than an hour away from Calaguas.
The main attraction on this island is hiking the hills. The summit allows you to admire a post-card perfect view of the sea and nearby islands.
Tonight, I realized that Calaguas was different. Darkness has stolen such a wonderful beauty from the eyes that are trying to see beauty in everything. What if our eyes could not see in the dark?
I carried on until I saw the frame of a man. He seemed to be writing a word or two on the sand until the waves came to erase them. I stepped closer. He was wearing an orange beach shorts and was half-naked. He was repeating that process until he sensed that someone was watching him. He turned and moved to my direction. It did not take longer than few seconds before I recognized him, and I was not surprised to find him here.
Julio was also in Calaguas Island.
“Hey, it’s good to see you!” He said when he tapped my right shoulder. He walked past me and lay his back on the beach, eyes gazing at the cloudy sky.
“It’s good to see you, too!” I said when I sat beside him.
“I was hoping to watch the sunset, but obviously we’ve missed it,” he sighed, “I hope the sunrise could make up for it.”
“I don’t think so,” I replied, then I pulled my shirt and laid it on the sand before I lay on it. “Look how cloudy the sky is, and those few stars hint a slim chance of a perfect weather to watch the sunrise later.”
“Maybe you’re right.” He uttered softly and closed his eyes.
“So how are you?” I inquired, trying to start a conversation. “The last time we had a conversation, you were talking about suicide…”
“Romantic suicide,” he interjected.
“Oh yeah,” I recalled, “that stripping naked on the beach beneath the full moon and the bright stars, and then let the waves wash you away…until you disappear into oblivion.”
“I’m through it all,” he sat cross-legged, “that doesn’t make sense to me now.”
I sensed his wanting to dismiss the topic. “So, what were you writing on the sand?” I changed the subject.
“Promises.” He grabbed a small amount of sand. He threw the molded sand, but it was shattered into powdery pieces in the air before it even made it to the sea. “My broken promises!”
“Stop!” I said as I put my hand over my eyes to block the dust. The wind was blowing toward our direction.
“I’m sorry.” He tried to reach out to help remove the dust on my face, but I said I was all right. “I’m on a spiritual journey…and I feel I’m falling short of what I’m expected to be,” he continued.
“I know. I get it. Sometimes, we feel so empowered. There is a moment when we feel like we can do everything our mind can think of. We can change. We can be a whole new, different person. We swear our promises to Him. We write them on the sand. Then, those waves would come in rage and erase our promises. Those waves are like temptations that find their way in us. You shouldn’t be writing on the sand. Do you know of a better place to have them written down?”
“In my heart,” he declared, “I should write my promises to Him in my heart. I should keep His promises in my heart, too.”
“But even when I write them in my heart, I still forget them.”
“Then, they must be written somewhere else where the enemy can easily steal them. They must be in your mind, and when they are there they can easily be taken away by worries, troubles…uncertainties. I learned that one of the ways to keep God’s words is to remember how they made you feel [Tweet]. Remember how His words spoke of healing when you were fixing your broken heart. Remember how His words gave an assurance when you lost your job and worried about your future. Remember how His words encouraged patience when you felt like you’ve been waiting for so long for nothing. Remember how His words directed your path when you’ve gone astray. Remember how His words commanded life and resurrection when you were trapped in the valley and you saw nothing but dry bones. Remember how His words brought you back to the company of people who truly care.”
“Thank you! That was great to hear.” He leaned forward and looked at me in the eyes. “You sound different. The last time we had a talk, you were just listening to me. You were never talking these much. Has something changed?”
I shook my head.
“Have you met someone interesting…lately?”
I laughed out loud. “I’m not one of those who would go to Calaguas and hope to find someone interesting who would make me happy and inspire me to say things like these!”
“I didn’t say you are.” He smiled. “I know your motto in life and I repeat it for the people of Calaguas – don’t attempt to make your life happier by finding someone; find happiness first and then find someone to share it with.”
“Wow! It sounds like you remember it by heart.” I was still laughing, but his expression became serious.
“Jays, what if it is the other way around? What if you need to find someone first, and then you two will find happiness together? What if finding someone first is necessary to find happiness?
“What if it is not? What if what I’m holding on to is true. That happiness can be circumstantial. I don’t believe in soulmates. I also don’t believe in a better half. I don’t feel incomplete.”
“You don’t prefer a half…”
“You prefer a better whole…and she’s coming at the right time?”
“Correct.” I said confidently.
“So, what are you now? An advocate of being single?” He chuckled.
“Yeah, you can say that.” I rose and offered him a hand to pull him up. “Let’s walk. I need to return to sleep.”
We walked side by side, feeling the softness of the sand under our feet. We were halfway to where our camp was when he spoke again.
“If you have millions of dollars, will you live in Calaguas and turn it into a paradise?”
“No, I don’t think I would. Calaguas is already a paradise. I won’t change the beauty that nature has presented us. Besides, Calaguas does not belong to me. It belongs to them.” I glanced at the souvenir shop. The light at the front of the store was still on, but the windows were already closed. “To the locals.”
“That makes a lot of social sense,” he said. “Till we see each other again!” Julio disappeared in the darkness. I have no idea when I will be seeing him again. Perhaps, in another beach, in another island.
It was 3:30 am when I came back in the tent and managed to return to sleep.
It was already bright outside when I woke up. We were told to have breakfast and pack our things afterwards. We have to leave the island early. There was a gale warning and we might get stranded in the island.
I looked at the beach. Some have their bags already covered in plastic and waiting to be picked up by the boatmen. Others were struggling to climb up the boat. People were leaving. Then, I looked at the sea. The waves were strong and high. I swallowed my fear once, twice…three times.
Calaguas Island was beginning to tell a different story.
My trip to Calaguas Island happened on March 31 to April 2 and it was organized by GalaPH. I really enjoyed the trip and overall, I was satisfied with their service. Like their Facebook page and join them as they roam around the beautiful destinations in the Philippines.