For some reason, I would always feel as if I owned the place I am currently at, especially when there was no one else around. What does it matter who owned the title or rights to the property. I’m there. They’re not. So for the few hours that I spend in any magnificent place, it’s absolutely mine for as long as I’m there, even more so than the legal owners who aren’t even around at the moment to enjoy it.
The past two days, I have so far owned a couple of hectares of beach property and a piece of forest with a waterfall. And looking further back I have been the owner of several mountains, countless coves, caves, forests, islands, coral gardens, lakes, rivers and a few houses. If you think of it, no possession is permanent anyway. You will most certainly have to part even with your legal possessions one way or another. By virtue of what others would probably consider a delusion, I’m therefore one of the wealthiest people I know. Mere pieces of paper are no match against the deep-seated sense of ownership I would feel over a place. My feelings are my proof of ownership.
I don’t know how long I had been staring at what looked like a Begonia which had grown from a rock moistened by perpetual spray when I was dislodged from my reverie by a bird announcing itself with a wild call that sounded more like the howling of a monkey in heat.
It’s just as well. It was time to move on.
Back to the road.
I have grown used to the curious looks I get from other riders, which I’m sure are on account of the conspicuous armor over my legs, arms and hands, which look inordinately paranoid in provincial outskirts where a lot of riders don’t even bother to wear helmets, and where you would often see a family of four in a motorcycle (sometimes with one of them clutching a dog or a couple of chickens). I owe all of it to my rather memorable introduction to the motorcycle years ago…
“These are the brakes. This is how you change gears, try it..”, The tricycle driver demonstrated. He owed me driving lessons. After all, this was all his idea. He hurriedly drove to this motorcycle rental before I could say anything; And I never said I knew how to drive a motorcycle.
“Ok, try driving a few blocks”, said the tricycle driver. My motorcycle lurched like a startled horse and I drove in circles in front of them in quick hiccups of uncertainty as I kept squeezing on the breaks to make sure they’re working and to keep my speed down. The tricycle driver and the attendant watched me with expressionless faces.
“Will you be able to manage to drive all the way to Sabang, Sir?”, asked the tricycle driver.
“Sure”, I replied, with all the confidence I could manage to feign.
The following day, I returned the motorcycle badly broken and scratched; And although the damage were for the most part cosmetic, involving side mirrors mudguards and paint, I still shelled out at least 1,000 pesos to compensate the owner. “Sir, ano nangyari sa inyo? Ok lang kayo?” I was glad that the attendant seemed genuinely more concerned with how I looked than how their motorcycle did. I had a severely bruised knee under my muddy jeans. My grotesquely skinned palm was hidden under a bloodied handkerchief tied around it, and I had abrasions and gashes over my arms. I had crashed in every possible way over the course of my trip. I crashed when my bike stalled uphill, causing my big bag to drag me sideways, making me hit the pavement with my right knee bearing most of the brunt of the fall. I picked myself up and performed a Jim Carrey-esque little dance on account of the pain before I walked the bike to the side of the road and give myself time to contemplate how utterly stupid I must have looked. In another instance I hit the front breaks while speeding over gravel, sending me and my bike sliding side by side over the road for a few meters on my arse and one hand, bloodying my right palm. Several kids who witnessed the whole thing, rushed to me and made an excited inventory of the damages incurred by my bike. “Hey, look, the side mirror is broken.” “Hey, look, the mudguard is broken”. “Hey, look, this footrest is bent”, and so on and so forth... “Ang galing!”, one of them exclaimed. In my mind, I was like,” Ano kaya magaling dun? Dagukan ko kayo isa isa dyan e.”
I could more than hear their recounting of the spectacular accident while I picked minute rocks that have embedded themselves all over my bleeding palm.
These were just a couple of incidents among several, involving a couple of shallow ditches, and the need to remind myself in ensuring I’m already ON the motorcycle BEFORE starting and hitting the gas, if I don’t want to be dragged by the arms by a lurching bike without me on it and look like an absolute idiot in front of people (although they seemed to find it quite hilarious and entertaining). I decided against the initial impulse to take a bow before my delighted audience after picking my bike and myself off the ground at a food and souvenir area at Sabang.
And so I will endure a thousand stares and looks elicited by my outfit if it will keep my blood inside my body where it belongs, and save me a trip to the hospital or the morgue.
After riding over dirt roads gently winding through forests, I’m back on the main road. I noticed a tarpaulin sign offering ‘Firefly Watching’ and ‘Mangrove Tours’. I severely doubted if I would see a single firefly under the blazing sun, but I had always enjoyed riding on small boats , and I desperately needed distraction from my growing hunger.
According to my local guide, these snakes are called Binturan. They ate small bats and lizard eggs. My stomach groaned at his passing reference to diet and nutrition.
I said, “It sure looks tasty. Can I eat it?”
(To be continued)