Last trip

(Part 1)

From my place, we left at 2 in the morning on his 200cc Kawasaki motorcycle. We had a backpack that contained all the things we needed for our four-day sojourn. We took MacArthur Highway. We passed by the provinces of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Ifugao, and Mountain Province until we reached Kalinga, a day and a half after.

It was an epic journey of two men wanting to get a glimpse of the countryside, a culture they will not comprehend in this lifetime, an aspect of a culture they will never grasp fully, but they journeyed nonetheless because the experience has to be lived.

We took the National Highway going to San Miguel, Bulacan and had to stop at a motorist inn for a couple of hours to catch a nap. We woke up at 8 and head to Nueva Ecija for breakfast. At a McDonald’s in Gapan, he was beginning to show fatigue, and were not even 20 per cent of the whole trip. He suggested we find a bookstore to buy notebooks, pencils, coloring pens, and crayons for the Butbut children of Kalinga. These school supplies added an additional 6-7 kilos to our combined weight.

At noon, I told him to pull over so we could nap a little; it was a private mausoleum in Nueva Ecija that I chose to be our resting place. The sun was unforgiving. I found a shade near two above-ground burial. We did not talk to each other. His thoughts were somewhere; I was too exhausted to probe–I imagined he was doubly tired, but I did not dare ask.

After an hour, I told him it was time to go and suggested we have lunch at 3pm in Nueva Vizcaya. Despite the sun, the way to Santa Fe snakes on the side of the mountain–the wind was cool, diluting what could have been a very concentrated 1-pm sun. I held tight to him every time a truck approached our way. We stood no chance if he had made a mistake, lose control, sending us careening towards these monster trucks. But he was as dependable as the Kawasaki we’re riding.

At 3, I tapped him on the back and told him to stop at a nearby 7-eleven. My skin was five shades darker. His was red. He sat on a table and finished his yoghurt while I excused myself and went to a burger stand a hundred meters away. I was starving, but I also wanted to be away from him for a while. It was a bit too much being at that close a proximity from him with as little movement as possible for more than eight hours on a bike.

From across the road, after devouring two sandwiches that tasted similar to paper I used to chew when I was 8 years, walking toward him, I smiled at the fact that his was the most handsome face. I gave him a coy smile only an infatuated 14-year old could make. We had to get moving or we’d be driving on meandering roads in darkness, I declared. The front light of our motorcycle is angled too upward, lighting the trees along the way more than the road in front of us. This worried him, but this fact did not keep him from driving, what I thought, faster that what was safe.

At around 6 we reached Ifugao Province. The view looked more familiar. Young men in their 20s can be seen on the side of the road chewing and spitting moma. He told me to have dinner after we passed by Ifugao State University. He did not have appetite. I was more interested in the cat of the owner of the place than the food they served. He told me to focus on eating and to leave the cat alone.

After a 30-minute dinner (I eat too slowly he’d always complained) of igado, rice, and a very salty vegetable dish, he goaded me to hop on the bike to continue our journey. He still had not eaten anything.

We travelled for another two hours, the temperature dropped precipitously because he’s driving faster this time, and the water from the rain seeped into my thin windbreaker. Notwithstanding the helmets we’re both wearing, I whispered near his ears, “We’ve known each other for almost two years now, M.” He tapped my knee. He is never good at expressing emotions; that singular tap was for me sufficient.

At 8, I told him we spend a night in Banaue. We found a roadside inn after confirming with their caretaker who spoke perfect English that they have hot shower. The hotel looked like a setting of horror movie in the 90s – the hallway was dark and the wooden floor creaked. Standing from the balcony of our room, the lit houses standing on the mountains and below looked like faint stars on a cloudy night.

The next day, we went down to the town for breakfast. We ate at the place for breakfast, seated at the same table, and recalled the intensity of our arguments more than a year ago in that same spot.

At 9, we began our journey to Bontoc. Kalinga is four hours away of zigzagging roads from Banaue. The view was that of pine trees, vegetable gardens, farmers tilling the soil, small waterfalls that flowed onto the roads, months-old rockslides, and his face reflected in the side mirrors of the motorcycle.

No other way

Looking back at the life that’s already behind me, the only thing that really mattered was love. And looking ahead at the future before me, I know that I shall love as powerfully and passionately because there is no other way.

Fin.

I now finally admit that language has already lost its ability to translate my thoughts into words to help you understand me.

I will write down somewhere what I would have wanted to tell you, nonetheless, so that someday, when time has already done its usual work of making us forget that anything mattered, and I already have the luxury of hindsight, I’ll be able to truly forgive myself.

You shall have your peace back.

Please accept it as my parting gift.

Gracias mi amigo.

Longing

There were many things I missed about you:

You, our dinners together, the dishes you prepared for us, your scent, the sadness in your eyes, your voice, your sarcasm, the shadow you cast on the wall, myself when I am with you, your feigned indifference, your keen observations on the human condition, your sense of security in who you are. The security I feel when you’re around. Your funny jokes, the idiosyncrasies of your English, the grayness of your soul, the long silence that gives the stories you narrate a cadence I imagined our ancestors must have utilized to enthrall their listeners while they gathered around the storytellers, the tears that fall from your eyes for no apparent reason, your logic of seeing the world, your voice, your ready solutions to almost all problems we encounter.

Your love for life.

Abandoned

“ABANDONO” (By Gabriel Rolón)

They all left us one day. And when I say abandon, I don’t mean just an extraordinary act. Traumatic. No. It is simpler. But it hurts the same.

They all left us in the middle of a mess. At the beginning of a project. In the pleasure of achievement accomplished. In the least thoughtful moment. In the most anticipated moment.

Sometimes it happens, that you turn around and you have no one who joins your boogers, who taps you on the back, who winks at you when something went well and who cleans your knees when you went to the grass by mistake.

We all know the loneliness it feels when we feel alone. Because we were all abandoned one day.

And then, we found a very sad secret, a palliative act, to cover that well.

We see people who eat the anguish by swallowing a pack of cigarettes, the other who runs and runs like crazy to see if the wind in his face fills that hole in his chest.

People who eat their nails along with nerves and paralyzing anxiety.

Packets of cookies that are going to stop in the mouth without a notion that what they are trying to kill is not hunger.

Or at least, not that.

Guys that pierce the nose and veins, with the odd thing that happens to another reality for a couple of hours.

Other starts playing what he doesn’t have.

You will compulsively buy things you don’t need, to feel a little alive for a moment.

And I will watch a movie, which secretly enables me to cry looking outside, which I don’t feel I would like looking inside.

We screw ourselves that when we are worse, it is when we punish ourselves the most.

Because all that you eat, eats you.

It makes you worse.

It adds to the abandonment, the guilt of doing something that you know is not genuine.

That is not what you want.

You Don’t eat like this because of hunger.

You Do not run for sport, when you are cracking yourself.

You do not get intoxicated for pleasure.

You do not have sex with that person for love.

You hide.

Hide and seek.

You pull down the carpet.

You close your eyes.

You put on a muzzle and a pair of headphones to not hear your heart.

You are eating yourself.

And maybe, the secret is to stop.

About feeling, remembering, in that abandonment what you lack, is what you have to look for.

Maybe it’s time to ask for that hug.

To lie on your mom’s knees.

Call saying, yes, I swear I need you.

Is now. Not after. Now.

Go to that house. Talk to the person who listens to you. Cries. Shouts. Vomits.

Juggling, in the middle of the beating, has only one result. Result that will not heal the wound that bleeds you, because you are putting a band-aid.

And the band-aids do not heal.

The band-aids cover.

And you know very well that covered pain is not healed pain.

Stop a little. Look in the mirror of your soul.

Look at what you need and go out to find it where you think you can find it. But find it in Reality.

Don’t flutter like a fly on empty plates.

Ask for what you need if you see that you just can’t.

Because there is no worse abandonment than one that you are doing with yourself. Do not play with that. You have no right to abandon yourself.

—–

(Thank you for this poem.)