February 26, 2014

Fraternity of Strangers

Every journey I make shapes me into someone better.

That overnight hike to Pico de loro which I almost gave up on - it made me realized how I've been robbing myself of great achievements because of fear. That holy week in Siquijor - it taught me to be present in the moment - to stop glorifying my busyness with work. That solo trip in Tuguegarao- it forced me to be more trusting of the universe and of the people around me. That flight to Taipei - it showed me that understanding and friendship is possible despite differences in language, culture, and race.

All these journeys made a dent in my life, but the last trip I had... its dent was too deep that it snapped me back to reality.

"Is  the water cold?" Nathan asked.
"Freezing." I answered.
He plunged into the water and swam towards Kawasan falls. He came back a few minutes after. 
"Wasn't cold at all" He said.  
"To each his own." I explained.
Nathan agreed, then he introduced himself. He's from Holland; he's taking a few weeks off from work.
"How about you, don't you have work?" He inquired
"I resigned about five months ago, been going around since." I smiled.
We were silent for a few minutes until he continued with, "so what's going on?" - still referring to my resignation and going around status. 
"Quarterlife crisis." I said.
"Tell me about it." He replied.
I just shrugged. Then he ended up telling me about his quarterlife crisis instead. After he shared his story, he looked at me like I owe him my story.
"Quarterlife crisis isn't something that Filipinos normally go through" I gave in.
"What makes you so special then? Why do you experience it?" He said.
The question surprised me for a second. Maybe, it was the phrasing, "what makes you so special then?" The question trapped me. I grasped for words and mumbled unintelligibly until I managed something:
"I have choices - unlike most Filipinos who don't have the means to do so because they need to survive." It seemed like I was telling that to myself rather than to Nathan. 
"Ah, you're just lucky." He concluded.
There it is again! This stranger, describing me in simple, straightforward terms that makes me feel like a spoiled, ungrateful cheeseburger - whatever that means.  We parted ways that night, but his words remained deep in my thoughts all throughout that Cebu trip, and long after it was over.

The next day, I headed to Osmena Peak, the highest elevation in Cebu. There had been a storm warning, but I pushed through. I didn't care about the storm. What I cared about were my plans. It turned out to be a risky hike because of the strong wind, and muddy trail.

I made it on top. However there was nothing to see because of the storm, just the thick white fog.
I sat for a moment and chuckled.
"I'm such a fool. What in the world am I doing with my life? All I think of are my schedule, my plans, my enjoyment, myself." I let out a laugh and remembered a heated conversation with my boss before I resigned:
"You are making a big mistake, Arlet." He pointed.
"I'm willing to make this mistake right now, while I can still afford to." I declared.
Then I set off to various provinces, and there I was, sitting on a rock of Osmena Peak.
Days passed and my flight to Manila was fast approaching.
"We're going back to reality tomorrow. I'll get my nurse license and start applying for jobs. How about you?" My companion pressed.
 We both resigned months ago to live the life that we wanted. 
I  sighed, "I don't want to go back yet. I'd like to stay a bit longer. I still have some savings left."
"Stop running away from reality." She said in a scolding but compassionate tone.
"Fine." I retorted and walked towards Moalboal beach. 
To ease my mind, I ended up picking trashes around the beach. An old man saw me and told me that I was very nice. He said he disliked the area because it's barren and dead. He said he's here for vacation.

His name is Jim, a businessman from Ireland. He narrated how big the taxes are in Ireland, and then said that it is okay because their healthcare is good. He mentioned that there are lots of Filipino nurses there. He talked about his life and travels in Asia.

I asked him if travelers are running away from reality.
"Are you running away from reality?" Jim asked, with a look of concern in his face.
"HAHAHA, perhaps." I laughed, quite amused that he shot back my question.
 "But why does reality have to be so repulsive then?" I went on.
He smiled at me like an old grandfather and started his sermon:
"If you  run away from your problems, you will be running away forever.  You are an intelligent, kind, beautiful girl; you'll figure it out."
We stood up and continued picking trashes.

That trip in Cebu did not solve my "quarterlife crisis," but through the people I've encountered, that trip compelled  me to stop making excuses and start owning responsibilities. After all, the pieces of advice I got were from people who did not feel the need to protect my ego - people who did not sugarcoat the things I needed to hear (cough cough, Nathan! haha)

Perhaps, the "don't talk to strangers' advice should be thrown out of the window once you start traveling. You might be pleasantly surprised to know that the backpacker on the top bunk is actually your lifelong friend you just haven't made yet.

Needless to say, I still did not want to go back, but at least I did not dread it as much.

I am, after all, a "lucky, intelligent, kind, beautiful" girl. HAHAHA!

See you around!


  1. true, filipinos can barely afford to have a quarterly life crisis...

    what??? the beach of moalboal is barren? he hasn't snorkeled at the reef drop then...

    that's a great insight; stop making excuses and owning responsibilities. i should start doing that. or maybe later. hehehehe

    1. Jim didn't like the whole of Cebu because according to him, the place was very poor. But probably his word choice was affected by his limited vocabulary. I told him to go to Boracay instead since it's wealthier and livelier as a tourist spot.

      Hey! I hope you're all right after your recent extreme adventure!

    2. oohhh he wanted a rich place. di nalang sana xa pumunta dito sa pilipinas, hehehehe...

      thanks! ok naman aketch, meron nang mga ugly scars. actually di na xa recent, it was 2 years ago. ^_^

    3. HAHAHAHA ganun ata talaga kapag lakwatsera, madaming sugat. Andami ko na ding peklat simula nung nagstart ako umalis alis.

      Hopefully I can meet you on the road someday! Cheers!

  2. Wow, this was a very insightful post.

    Quarterlife crisis. On one hand, it feels awesome to tick off those things that can't be done when we didn't have the means. On the other, proper adulthood looms. And in the middle, we worry about how much time we have left.

    Eh, whatever. What do I know.

    1. I think you are also a gen Y like me, but I find your thoughts more sync with the baby boomer generation which is for me insightful (because my thoughts rarely sync with the baby boomers')

      I tried hard to follow your advice before (if you remember) on use your work as a means to pursue your passion (means to an end rather than end in itself) because it makes sense, but it was hard for me to follow long term. At any rate, I like your thought process! (because it is usually different from what I'd initially think)

  3. Oh, beautiful images! The composition is very nice. The colors also please me. Visit my blog.

    1. Thanks Diogo! Your sketches are really nice by the way. (Am I talking to a bot?)

  4. great ! very life changing story, Go for the Gold Idol, this is a post with a substance , sana ikaw manalo

    1. Thanks, Jonathan! HAHAHA well sana nga mapasabit ako dun, but writing and finishing this post was already enjoyable for me - so all is well. See you around!

    2. Hello Amazing Post

      Wow, great story, I loved way
      How a person you met in middle of the road gave you thoose words, Parang Pick up line lang . Im just wondering, nung time ba na yun, kinilig ka?, hehehe ask lang sana. or nainlove ng sandali , hehehe ... wag ka magalit maam

      Keep on posting inspiring stories... I will follow you and add you in my roll Hope to meet you someday and travel simultaneously. I love meeting people with same interest

    3. Hello, Jonathan! Thanks for visiting again. HAHAHAHA simple answer is no, hindi ako madaling makafeel ng kilig or something similar, because I tend to analyze things first and then decide what feelings are appropriate to feel.

      Thanks! And yep, see you around :)

  5. Perhaps, the "don't talk to strangers' advice should be thrown out of the window once you start traveling without chaperone. <--- Yes! Throw it away as far as you can! And good luck with finding whatever it is you need to find. I am past quarterlife but I am still in crisis. Dang.

    1. HAHAHA the crisis never ends, it just gets replaced by others. Yes, thank you. See you on the road, Mustachio!

  6. When I bump into fellow travel bloggers, I usually float the question of 'whether they see traveling as just another phase in their lives.' But deep inside, it is a question that I also wanted to ask myself every time I head to this exotic destination or climb that towering peak. Do I travel just to escape a 'repulsive' reality? Or just to take photos to parade to my FB friends? Or do I have to arm myself a selfless reason every time?

    My first time here. Do keep on searching, traveling and everything else in between.
    Baktin Corporation

    1. Hi, Brennan! Thanks fro dropping by. I was waiting for you to answer the questions you posted because I honestly don't know the answers. Why do YOU travel then? Is it everything in between?

      I will, but hopefully the search will finish so I can do more living (rather than grasping for some abstract answers) - however that plays to be. See you on the road!

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  8. Hi, Arlet. I really hope that more Filipinos could travel right after college graduation to see a broader Philippines or if you have the means, a wider world.

    Traveling is an enrichment class under the roof of the world. Well, our resources limit our reach, though and I can't express enough how frustrating that is.

    Everyone in their early (well, even late) 20's must be clueless about what they really want to do in life. Luckily, it's the best phase of our life when we can freely explore the options available.

    I wonder how I could've missed reading this thought-provoking post.

    Good luck on your journey, Arlet. And as they say in my hometown, don't forget to be awesome.

    1. Hi Carissa! Thanks for dropping by, and leaving such a thoughtful comment. Your hometown seems to be a very exciting place - where might it be? and I'd love to meet you on the road someday.



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