|Photo by Mel Spencer Sucgang|
“All journeys have a secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
Palaboy. Wanderer. This is what my grandmother would always quote when she sees me violently scratching my foot. Even though I know this was all part of her superstition I would always be amazed as to why, when I am always confined to the safety of my room fiddling with the pencils I treasured so dearly.
Only recently have I realized that I have been so all my life. I have been to places that people would rarely dare go either because of financial restriction, of comfort, and/or of opportunities. I have been to slums, to islands, the rural areas, ate buffet in five-star hotels, feasted on bagoong and boiled fish at barrios, climbed a mountain, visited provinces, islands, puzzled with our native dialects, and found myself in places drunk in awe from the setting suns. All of these simple things I deemed so unique. These were the marvels of travel.
However, these feats accomplished have not always been a credit from my solitary escapes but, those that mattered, was shared with other individuals, when I am part of a group. One of them, I have bonded with yet again for another adventure.
For three straight days we have explored the hidden wonders of the Ilocos region: Vigan, Laoag and Pagudpud. We were all bedazzled by the pristine beauty of the places. As we drove further up north one could feel the essence of the places imprinted on the sceneries that unfold before us. It was breathtaking. The people we encountered—most hospitable; this must be the Filipino hospitality one describes in textbooks. We were even invited to a graduation party by our friend’s relative and were welcomed with open arms, as if we were all part of the family.
As I was counting time, nearly a decade has gone by since we have been introduced (at my count 8 years have already passed). It was in that huge hall in the Lasallian auditorium were students from various colleges gathered—thirty to fifty in number—to join a volunteer organization called SERVE. The hall was filled with many faces: bored, curious, tantalizing, the dumbfounded, and almost all of the faces represented by Yahoo’s smileys—yes, even the drooling, the alien and the clown. Yet from fifty the members (the active ones) got less and less in number. No matter what convincing one does there is no stopping the unwilling. But with that uncertain period, our bonds were unknowingly shaped in that unheard-of room in the University.
The old mangy veranda in the then SBC building was like a haven to us volunteers. We call it the Workroom. But really, it is more like a home to us. It is our sanctuary. No rules! No D.O.s! We are simply there. Free to do what we want to do. But because we are free to be who we are, the relationship that we have were all minus the mask. And with this strong alloy that sealed us, we were able to go into the communities and trust each others’ gut. We could sense each other and know where to butt in and/or walk away. It was a mutual respect of space and personalities that integrated us and that is why I believe our work has been effective all throughout. Sure there were trials. Sure there were fights and subgroups. But at the end of the day we could all laugh it out and raise our bottles to a toast.
Recounting on our Ilocandia trip, this sense of affinity I ascribe to our group is ever present. No mold. No rust. And because of this, as a proof, we could always be ourselves without erecting bastions of defenses protecting pride and ego. We do not need to piss higher than the other for there was no use at all. Medals, salaries, licenses, diplomas did not matter. Every one could just come as they are.
Perhaps this trip was not only a road in which we had moved forward, but also a mirror that plunged us back in time when we shared meals and fares, tears and laughter, jokes and heartaches. Those collegiate years that are still alive in memories were brought forth again in the short span of time we have spent.
Boldly, I could say that the greatest comfort that one could get will not be from the posh accommodations or fancy hotel rooms but from the people you are with. It is your fellow travelers which are the greatest luxuries one could have. They become rare treasures during a nebulous voyage where you are cold and clueless on what to find—they are certainties in an often uncertain journey which you could always turn to. And this is mostly true in travels and in life.