My 12 Most Unforgettable Journeys Around the Philippines / A Philippine Independence Day Special Feature / Part 1

11:30:00 AM Jerik De Guzman 0 Comments

It is true that freedom may mean a lot of things to many people. 

The real essence of freedom for me is choosing one's own destiny, knowing one can make a difference to other people, and that one can ultimately change for the better.  

Since i started traveling almost eight years ago, and up until now, the freedom that i am proud to have has lead me to discover the beauty of my own country. The freedom to discover the unexplored will always be the true nature of my passion to travel. And that freedom is one thing that i will always be proud of.

And with every journey that i take, i am blessed to either have met an inspiring person or experienced a life-changing situation. I wish to share these unforgettable stories with you to help you get inspired to find your own freedom. You may choose to start traveling or finally shut the idea of it. Let it be known that whatever you decide upon; it is your choice, your own life, and the destiny is yours to keep. 

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1. Drinking Tuba with the Locals in Cabil-An Group of Islands, Dinagat Islands

He left for Manila about a year ago to pursue greener pastures. A year later he came back, shot once, robbed twice and ridiculed by his peers in the security force. He was drinking “tuba” and he offered me a shot. I didn’t refuse and we drank in the same glass. He’s about five feet, two inches tall. His hair was swept to the side and his eyes were that of a tiger – hungry and fierce. He spoke of words even quite unfamiliar to a typical Visayan dialect. He asked if he could bum a cigarette, he asked one more for his 12 year old nephew. 

We were all under the shade of coconut trees, laughing our asses off because of his funny stories, and manning the shot. A few minutes later, more people came from the barangay to join us. The small wooden boat I arrived with was parked in front of this vast expanse of sand off the coast of Surigao straight, and that prompted the villagers to check out who just came. I gazed at their faces, burnt from the sun. Their hands showed signs of endless farming, and their eyes were that of a little kid.

I checked the time, and the tide is about to get high again. I needed to leave soon. He offered me a night’s rest but it was three hours up in the mountain. The villagers also caught a wild boar, and it would be the dinner for the night. They wanted me to join them but i needed to leave soon.

Spending an afternoon in the far out Cabil-an Group of Islands was an unforgettable experience, one that I could tell my children and my children’s children. Suddenly, the two plane rides, one ferry boat ride, two motorcycle rides and a small wooden canoe ride was well worth it. The country’s newest province just reinforced my reason why I travel solo in the first place. 



2. Finding the Real HiStory in Butuan City, Agusan Del Norte

One cannot deny the disappointment in Manong Bong's face when we parted ways. I am pretty sure it was painful for him to have spent all morning navigating the broken roads and little alleyways around Butuan City's outskirts finding my destination, only to find out we're not where we are supposed to be. To be honest, it was even more painful for me to have hurt Manong Bong because i refused to give him the amount of money that we agreed upon. Earlier that day, he assured me that he knows Bood Pormontory. That is why i said yes, hand shook and agreed on the price for the ride. An hour and a half later, i was taken to Masao. Masao is where Magellan landed in Butuan City, and is an hour away from where i should be, at Bood Pormontory. 

I politely asked him to take me back to the hotel where i was staying, just so i could plan out what to do next. When i arrived back at the hotel, he became aggressive, and started cursing me in local dialect. Although i was getting mad at what was happening, i talked to him calmly. I paid him the amount that i know i should give him, given that he didn't bring me to my destination in the first place. Still, he was asking me for more money. 

I was taking too long arguing with Manong Bong. An hour wasted on the bumpy and winding tricycle ride, and again, another hour trying to explain myself when he wouldn't listen to me, was more than enough ridicule for me for the day.

If you think that simply giving him the money that we initially agreed upon would have solved the problem in the first place, is actually a good idea. A hundred more pesos would have made the man happy that day. But he would be frowned for life when he continues his work, taking people to wrong places. I cannot fathom the day that he meets a rude and angry person with the same circumstances. 

I will never be mad at Manong Bong. I actually understood where he was coming from. But as the more mature person in the picture, i realized he was my responsibility. And i decided that during that moment, correcting his mistake would provide him more opportunity to learn for his future than simply showing him compassion.



3. Celebrating ReBirth in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras

Simply put. I was heart-broken, then. But looking at the brighter side of things, i never knew that i had it in me, to write nonchalantly about a place I've always loved, as if she was my destiny. Truth be told. 

"The days I spent where days of solitude. I remember walking the steps leading to the Virgin Mary. I prayed in isolation for a life well-lived. I often recall asking for something I couldn't figure out myself. I remember asking why life can be sometimes too difficult? I asked Her how much more pain can a man take? If it’s love that’s breaking my heart, why let it happen? I asked so many things that later on I lost count. I slept wondering and hoping."

"It’s been one thousand four hundred sixty days of waiting for me. I couldn't let myself run away from you again, My Love.  If I had the moment to leave this all behind me, I would. I couldn't any more live another day, another hour, another minute apart from you. The days I spend here far away from your embrace were days of longing, of yearning, of desire."

"You have to believe me that even though I’ve traveled miles away from you, and have met others, I still couldn't see myself having a far more great love than what I have for you. I remember the days that you were with me, and those days I want to feel like they’re just yesterday. I hope my letter reaches you in time before someone else takes my place in your heart. If someone else catches your heart more than I, hush, for it's been forgiven. I still have a lifetime ahead of me to find out, if ever I should forget you, will I then be able to live the days of my life? I don’t want another you, you see."

Read the rest of my story by clicking here


4. Facing Death in Biri Island, Northern Samar

I was looking at the horizon, the depth of the wave began to thicken. I was walking slowly to face away from the ocean daggers. The rush of the ocean came for me. I was slipping away. Until i couldn't hold it any longer. I was strongly pressing my hands towards this lone rock to keep me alive. I was beginning to fade away. My eyes were watered down, and slowly, all the most recent experiences i had came back to me, one by one. It dawned on me that i could lose it today and that i will never ever go back. I reckon, if this was the last day of the rest of my life, i wasn't ready.

I left Biri, on board the motorbike and the long tail boat as it speeds away, fresh blood was oozing from the left blanket of my ankle. I didn't even bother to look at the Virgin Mary looking down upon us, earth people. I was shocked.

On my way back to safety, i closed my eyes and prayed. I thank God for giving me another day, another month, another year, another lifetime to explore this vast earth. I also talked to the guards of Biri. I told her how unfortunate it is that i almost lost my life in her palms, knowing i had the best intentions to share with the world how beautiful it is there. I couldn't think of any word to describe how simply amazing it is to travel by foot and cross the waters. 

Read the rest of my story by clicking here


5. Saying Thank You in Dapitan, Zamboanga Del Norte

Two little kids started walking pass by me. The little boy was accompanied by his older sister. Their faces, burnt too from the heat of the day. They're obviously from a poor family, stricken by poverty. Their tattered shirts must have been overused and ready to retire, still, they wear it proudly like it's their Sunday's best. The little boy started to come closer to where i was. He was looking at my little camera hugged tightly by a chest strap. I smiled and looked at this little boy whose amazement cannot be contained. I wanted to take a photo of him and show him how powerful this gadget is. His sister looked at me, emotionless, and tucked her little brother to her shoulder. 

As the two of them slowly fade away from where my eyes could see, i begin to wonder what their actions meant. I could ponder that these two kids were actually too shy to ask for a few pennies. Maybe, they're hesitant because i could be a con man and i would hurt them. A few minutes later, i saw the sister grabbing a few spare coins from her pocket and bought her little brother a cone of ice cream. They continued to walk.

This a real story from real people. I figured, right at that moment, i was destined to be sitting where i was. I could be somewhere else, and doing all the extreme stunts an adventurous soul would do, yet, i sat in that concrete bench where i could see, hear, and feel. The story isn't about the highest mountains or the deepest sea. 

I could have written something wild, adventurous and wacky. But i felt, i had to relieve this particular story here. All of a sudden, the outstanding view of Aliguay Island became nothing compared to that afternoon spent along Rizal Boulevard in Dapitan.

I could fly, trek, be held by extreme adventure but my mind will always be wandering and pondering on the real essence of life. That, i think is the reason why i am destined to travel.

Read the rest of my story by clicking here


6. Watching the Sunset in Dalton Pass, Nueva Vizcaya

I've passed by Dalton Pass countless number of times, as the bus zig zags towards the highway going up to Northern Luzon. After a day of exploring vast Nueva Ecija, it was a sweet idea to finally jump out of the full packed bus and cross the border between Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya. 

Located not far from the busy border crossing, lies Dalton Pass. I arrived at around five o'clock in the afternoon. I was so delighted to find out that i arrived just before dusk. Eager to watch the sunset from above 2000 meters, i waited, and waited more patiently. In between staring at the gloomy sky, and the abundant rice fields tucked in between towering mountains, i finally realized that my dream of watching sunset here from this side of the Philippines was becoming impossible. Yet, i stayed and slowly watched as the pleasant view in front of me turn into pitch dark. Sadly disappointed, i stopped at the only eatery open. Together with a couple of military personnel, i sipped a cup of hot chocolate as i now try to brave the adjacent wind coming right in front of me. An hour later, i was already waiting for a bus heading towards Bayombong. But there was none. 

I asked myself, what did i do to deserve this bad luck. Relatively clueless how to get to point B from A, i managed to ask around. Luckily, a few teenagers were waiting for a jeepney to go to the next baranggay. Another hour has passed, and a number of trucks carrying from vegetables to live pig passed by me. I was getting worried and helpless when one standing-room only bus bound for Solano arrived. I knew i had to ride on this one. 

Sitting on the floor, and shamelessly arching my knee to the next passenger, i was on this lone sad bus. braving the darkness of the night. I was thankful I arrived at the next city safely. When i arrived, i realized i was actually very lucky. After a hearty meal, i tucked myself to sleep. It was an eventful day, most peeps of mine would never experience. 

PART 1 I PART 2

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