“Wow,” I say as I stepped off the plane. I looked around. It was all trees everywhere except for that small establishment where the aircraft faced. I breathed and it was fresh air, a surprising change from the usual Manila air. I walked down the ramp and smiled at the huge sign that said “Puerto Princesa Airport” I was in Puerto Princesa. Alone. For the first time. 3 years ago, I didn’t know this experience would mold me to who I am today.
“Food’s here!” I yell, skipping across the carpeted floors of Linden Suites in barefoot. I don’t normally walk around without slippers, but with the thick carpet that layers the floor, it was a liberating feel for my usually-covered-with-thick-shoes feet. I dropped the food on the table, setting aside the adobo I had eaten earlier and the pandesal we had to quench my overwhelming hunger due to stress. It was early and there was only a few of us in the room. But it was okay. Within a few hours, our pajama party would officially start.
“Hey Brenna,” a co-volunteer says as I stepped on the edge of the shovel to deepen my pull of the damp soil. “Yeah?” I say, a little preoccupied. He approaches me, this weird, almost I’m-not-sure-what-to-do-I’m-panicking look on his face. “I think she’s hurt,” he tells me, a subtle signal to his left where the kids stood huddled in a little circle. I drop my shovel on the ground and walk towards the kids. As they parted, I saw Jingjing, the 5 year old in the middle. She looked up at me with her innocent dark eyes. And started to cry.
“Do you know how beautiful you are?” he says. I frown at him, forcing myself to look at him in the eyes, searching for the familiar “joke” or “game” that I would normally see. I laugh nervously, telling him he was just drunk. He shakes his head. “I’m not drunk,” he drawls in his sexy, Spanish accent. “I meant what I said,” he finishes. And I believe.
“My wife just gave birth to my son the day before,” he starts his story as he squeezed on his motor to zoom past a slow bike. He leaned over the enclosed wall of the tricycle as he sneaked looks at me. “Ohh,” I say softly, imagining everything that could’ve happened, and slightly paralyzed at the thought of his wife. “When it started moving, I thought it only happened in Tagbilaran. I was here, working. My wife was in Maribojoc.” “Was it strong? Did it take long? “Yes, my tricycle moved so hard I thought the ground was going to open up.” he says, slowing down as we caught up with a truck over a short bridge. We were driving to the All Hands base in Antequera from Tagbilaran Airport. Most of Tagbilaran was okay. But from this point we were in cracked, slightly rough roads. “My wife called me and told me it was shaking there too. I panicked. I got on my tricycle and drove so fast. But when we came to the bridge, it was already gone.” “What did you do?” I ask. “I jumped.”
It was a harsh yellow color, setting in the horizon. But it was pure and perfect. I sat on one of the comfy beach chairs at the corner of the cool, wooden restaurant/bar/party place of beautiful, nearly isolated Diniwid Beach. In one hand, I held onto a San Mig Light Beer, my favorite beer. And on the other, I held the hand of someone special. We looked back at the setting sun. Not speaking. Not doing anything, except for our entwined hands. And as the sun disappeared into the horizons and in its wake, a magnificent burst of colors in the sky, our lips touched. It was my perfect date.