By Kaitlyn Cheung
During the past week, I’ve discovered a handful of new things. The first of which was that my new favorite mode of transportation was no longer Phuket’s light up party tuk tuks. I’ve traded those for the top seat on the roof of a Guimaras jeepney.
You may think its trivial—what’s so great about riding on the roof of an old dusty jeepney that you have to dedicate a good paragraph to it? But let me explain, there is something about the no-seatbelt-no-seat-could-fall-off-at-anytime-and-die situation that gives you one of the most breathtaking views of the luscious island. Imagine sitting in a convertible car on the Pacific Coast Highway. Now elevate that car by about 2 meters. Then get rid of the seats, the cup holders, the machinery, and the entire extravagant enclosure that makes up a car altogether. Then proceed to move at 40 miles per hour. Imagine the open air at your fingertips, endless green passing by as if in a movie reel—except its all real before your eyes. Don’t get too excited though…when the driver brakes hard if you don’t hold on tight you might fall off, crash into and break the windshield. Here’s the best part: its completely legal (I think?) and one ride only costs 14 pesos. You’re also welcome to latch yourself onto the back of the jeepney (even as its starting to move). My favorite thing about the jeepneys on the island is that the maximum passenger capacity is highly open to interpretation:
No frills no thrills? I beg to disagree.
I always saw death as something solemn and mournful, yet accepted its dismalness since it was inevitably so human. Last night we were invited to a death anniversary party down the road. We initially planned to just take a stroll down the road and check out the scene since we were all stuffed from the bountiful Father’s Day dinner at our house. You can imagine the surprise on our faces when we showed to four giant speakers blasting pop hits outdoors, a crowd already dancing on the makeshift sand dance floor, and free flow cold beers. We ended up staying for almost three hours when we had only planned on staying for “a bit”. I admire the locals attitudes towards the passing of a loved one into another realm. Velina mentioned that it has something to do with their religious piety, as they do believe that with passing one goes to heaven. True, why mourn when you can celebrate? Despite being non-religious, the party lead me to re-evaluate my attitude towards death.
On an eventful journey back home from San Miguel to Cabano last week, I also discovered that lightening is one of the most terrifyingly beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. I also learned that sometimes I put myself in insane situations and I should probably stop. But some good things do come out of wild unexpected events. They also make good stories.
At half past six last Wednesday, I parted with Amy whom I had met up with at San Miguel. I waited for the driver that I had arranged to take me back home in front of Southern Cafe, our agreed upon destination for a bit. It was getting late and all I could think about was making it back in time for nanay’s delicious cooking. Maybe I had missed him during that five minute interval I walked Amy to her jeepney or perhaps I had simply misremembered his face and motorcycle. Regardless, I couldn’t find him so I approached a group of motorcycle and tricycle drivers on the side of the road looking for someone who could take me back to the countryside of Cabano.
All was well until the the sun went down and we were alone on the highway that I realized it was my first time traveling alone in the evening. Just as I was innerly hyperventilating over how potentially dangerous this could be, a flash of white light illuminated the clouds above. I looked up as the motorcycle sped through the empty highway. Hidden behind the clouds, each bolt of lightening illuminated the sky with a powerful yet soft white glow. At that moment I was torn between being scared and alone with a stranger after dusk and silently admiring the unreplicable beauty that Mother Nature had bestowed upon the earth.
My worries eased when I could make out some windmills in the distance. The driver was obviously taking me in the right direction and I was somewhere in San Lorenzo, as the windmills were the area’s trademark. We turned off the main road and hit one of the many rocky paths that run through the plains. After swerving and bouncing down a relatively steep hill, the driver stopped and muttered that he had gotten a flat tire. There was no one to be seen around us, no house within the nearest 100 meters, and we were alone on a dirt path for a good five minutes as he evaluated the damage. I turned on the flashlight of my phone and nervously waited for some miracle to happen, as if he somehow had a spare tire in his right pocket.
A family of four eventually drove by and directed us to the nearest car repair shop. Shining my flashlight on the pitch black road as the driver pushed the motorbike, we walked ten minutes to the shop, where a group of men were drinking. The driver approached them and immediately begin to make friendly conversation with them as if they had known each other their entire lives. When he later made a phone call (which I assume was to his family), I could make out from a few words and gestures towards the others that he was not from San Lorenzo at all, and probably seldom came here. Yet the men at the tire shop treated him like an old friend, offered me a chair, and even a drink.
I would love to write more and elaborate but my precious time with wifi is ending. There is something about living in the countryside of Guimaras that puts one at ease, that makes one forget all their worries and woes, or simply reduces them to a trifling of nothing. Perhaps it is simply in the air that we breathe, the warmth of it by morning and the chilly comfort that blankets us by night.