I’m not sure how to write this, or even if I should right now, but it’s weighing heavily on my heart. Over the past year I’ve experienced the world in an entirely new fashion. I’ve always sought different avenues to live and embrace life; that has leaded me to various places where I’ve encountered a range of people with customs both similar and different to my own. I’ve experienced more generosity than I could ever imagine and found the greatest joys in the simplest moments.
Amongst these moments, traveling has taught me that it’s not about the thrill or excitement of the adventure (though that does add to it) but in breathing in the moment as it happens. I found myself with grandiose plans that were quickly simplified at the first sight of a market where I could take in the hustling mothers, the panoply of goods foreign to my eye, the taste of the freshest fruit and sweet pastries, listening to the daily clattering about of people moving with life, intention and drive. Everywhere I looked I found the happiest of people, content in their lives and eager to share a word in passing or over food.
This is where I found myself in May. I was traveling with my companion at the time and we were hanging out in Tacloban for three days. Unexpectedly, due to the election in mid-May, we had some extra time, crossed over from Tacloban, in northern Leyte, into Basey, a city in southern Samar, seeking to explore this remote gem known for it’s natural beauty and a park nearby. We’d read in our (un)trustworthy guides we might be able to do a tour for the day, and upon arrival quickly realized that wouldn’t happen.
Without dismay, we set out to explore the region, cameras in hand. People called out friendly greetings as we passed and, without a need to rush, we stopped and chatted with the locals, inquiring about their lives and sharing a few words. Throughout the day, we were offered their local coconut wine, bartered for baked goods, consumed too many mangos (because they are the best) and were even shown a weaving factory by an eager, talkative woman I quickly bonded with over our views on education and a shared, simple snack.
Passing by endless youth, playing the country’s favorite sport basketball, we joked and made our way onward. The afternoon still stands as one of my favorite life memories, and undoubtedly a memorable moment in the Philippines. We were within eye sight of the ocean, in fact many homes were built hovering above the water- and within seconds of being spotted we were ambushed with children who seemed to come out of the wood works at the site of our cameras.
Eagerly they ran- posing, laughing, and skipping without a care to be had. They each gave the other a run for the money, daring to be the star of the photo, to be in the spotlight, the center of attention, humbly showing their beautiful smiles, best poses, and ever present peace sign. I made my way around the concentric block and the persistent kids never gave up! They chanted in unison, ‘One more, one more!’ and just look at them- how could you not snap picture after picture?
It was clear to me that day that their life is simple, but it is full and rich in all the right things: happiness, laughter, love and pure joy. I was overwhelmed by their spirit and touched by the apparent community. I was there for barely a glimpse, but their lives were clear- the veracity of their happiness spoke for itself. To me, that day, their way of life was the definition of my favorite word in Tagalog, ‘maganda’ meaning beautiful.
Salamat-po for such a beautiful day.
My deepest regards go out to everyone there now, who is fighting to survive, struggling to make sense of the unbelievable disaster that has just taken place. It’s beyond devastating to see the aftermath of the storm, unfathomable to imagine so many lives lost. I don’t have the words to make sense of it right now, but amidst the disaster, death and horrific scenes I have seen in the news, I can’t help but remember the smiles and laughter from that day and hope for the best for their future.