While walking along the shoreline of a beach tucked in the western part of Palawan (but is actually quite near its commercial hub), I saw fishermen hauling nets full of something other than fish. I walked over to take a closer look. Lobsters. Lots of lobsters. The fishermen made a line and off they went to work on the tasty-looking, squirming, creatures. A lady would deftly grab one and dip it in ice cold water to “put it to sleep”, then pass it to on to a guy who quickly and neatly wrapped it in newspaper , then pass it to another fellow who would arrange them in neat rows in a cooler.. I asked a guy who was still dripping seawater, “How did you catch so many lobsters?” He said they went about it all night diving after them. I recalled that in one trip to Catanduanes off southeastern Luzon, I witnessed fishermen armed with spear guns who would dive deep into the ocean biting hoses connected to noisy compressors for air (they say the air they breathed out of it tasted like diesel). So I asked “Did you use compressors?”, He quickly looked at me and defensively said “No that’s against the law here”. I dropped the subject and asked him if he had caught any fish along with lobsters. He replied “oh, no, sir, around here, we ignore the fish. Lobsters sell better.”
I noticed that they would separate lobsters missing a limb or had an antenna broken. I asked what they were going to do with them. One of them said “they’re for the police”. I said “ah”. (I think I get the picture). I thought maybe I could have a nice lobster for lunch later if I could drive the price down to perhaps at least 300 pesos. I asked them how much they would charge me for one. The fisherman who did the most talking earlier looked thoughtful, and after a while said, “ah.. sir.. I’ll maybe sell it to you for 50 pesos”.
So off I went with my lobster and a big smile on my face.
I shared stories with the caretakers for the rest of the morning and they offered to cook my lobster for me as they set off with their daily activities.
The place was beautiful, and as the morning wore on, foreign tourists slowly trickled in; all their faces smiling in wonder and delighted awe of the peaceful charm of the place.
Some of them were solo acts. Even a couple of women.
I picked a spot with a nice sweeping view of the area and dozed off.
Perhaps because I am as graceful as a song in solitude’s beautiful wide open spaces, I may at times waltz like a bewildered bear in the company of people I’m not that familiar with. There have only been a few people who have tried peering beyond my unintentional veil to see what’s inside, and for them I’m deeply grateful. I have long since made a promise to myself that my friendship with these people shall ever abide. I am certain they are all heaven-sent, and perhaps by virtue of this, some of them are my biggest influences.
Needless to say, I count my family as my best friends. I genuinely feel that I have the best family anyone could ever have and they are a constant source of love and light in my life.
Though I’m no longer in contact with my first romance, what and how I am now is in large part because of her. She gave me my first taste of confidence, and it had opened up everything else for me long after the last time we ever held hands.. and the last words we ever uttered to each other. I will remain a friend to her echoing constantly from years past, though she may not hear.
I have found much inspiration from my conversations with a friend from college from the time we met until now. Though I had been much influenced by a lot of the things she would say, some of my most powerful and profound moments in her company were ones where she didn’t even say anything. She is the wisest person I know. Every after single talk we have, no matter how long, no matter the subject, I always come out of it a better person.
I have a friend who although her professional services would normally cost an arm and a leg, would gladly accept a live chicken or a hamburger for it. At times she would accept nothing at all. She keeps me from the oppressive temptation to embark on a wild goose chase for fulfillment by way of riches, glamour and vanity. She is one of the most accomplished people I know. Not only is she a healer of people, she is soothing balm to this ailing world.
A fellow from my childhood unknowingly taught me the blissful freedom simplicity and honesty can afford you. His unusual disregard for trappings and glitter is a constant reminder for me to keep things simple, and thereby focus on the truly important things.
Passion for life is the hallmark of another friend from way back. She is a pulsing, gleaming celebration of life. “Carpe Diem” might as well be something she originally coined.
I must have laughed two lifetimes worth of laughter with a fellow with whom I may have also downed enough alcohol to set a whole village on fire. So much mirth that if I never ever laughed again, it would probably be okay. I’ve been blessed with much more than my share already.
I owe my constant attempts to nurture a spiritual side to my mother. During my teenage years, when she had discovered that I had strayed from going to church, she emphatically gave me these unforgettable words of wisdom: “Magsimba ka! Unggoy!!” (Go to church, you fool!). This initiated me in a serious search for God and meaning in the world early in life. Though nowadays I no longer care much about which is which when it comes to religion and doctrine, I believe that this life was meant to be spent in kindness, truth and Love and not to be squandered chasing illusions or meekly succumbing to conformity.
These are but a few people among others that I ought to mention here, though they are the ones that stood out in my mind as I wrote. Writing about others seems to be a strange way of talking about myself, but right now it’s the only way I know how.
The first ever post I made was an offshoot of a conversation with a well-traveled poet- friend who had been all over the world as well as locally and had decided that if she were to keep travelling, she would probably forget about the rest of the world and keep exploring the Philippines instead. The subject of writing came up and a couple of weeks later, I clicked that enter key and sent a bunch of nonsense hurtling into cyberspace and have found it quite fulfilling.
My trips to places unspoiled and un-pressured by hype and my encounters with local folk are my most memorable, and consequently are the ones that have found their way in posts. My vacations in resorts and popular tourist spots are usually spent with friends and one of these days I hope to post something about these as well. I am scared of the day I grow tired travelling. I don’t know what I hope to get out of it. I’m not sure why I keep doing it. There is always that feeling that I’m off searching for something or someone whenever I haul my pack and make that first step out my door, though I’m not all that eager to find it or them, whatever it is or whoever they are. It’s the trip and the uncertainty that I find rewarding.
The lobster, by the way, was delicious!