We took the first trip out to the next city to catch the first boat that sails to the island, hoping for a final excursion for the summer. At 2:55 am the bus struggled to pick up speed as it followed a steep path. Up ahead appeared five rugged-looking men, standing close to the junction just before the bus could turn right and manage a craggy road.
Each man raised an arm and faced our direction with clenched fists. What could they be doing at this part of the highway at such an ungodly hour? My mind raced the very minute I saw the suspicious lot round the shadows. They all appeared dead-set at stopping us. This ghastly sight reminded me of the revolutionary fighters known to permeate the mountainous region we now crossed. One of the men in a mackinaw jacket seemed to be uttering something, eyes glaring, but I just could not make out what he was trying to say. Are these men fighting for a just cause? Or worse, are they extremists? He seems to be shouting, “Down with the republic!” Or, could this be a highway robbery? Jesus Christ!
No sooner than the bus had halted did I finally hear what the jacketed man was saying. “Kapyot ra mi, bai!” They now repeated in chorus with hands raised to mean they’ll be taking the trip standing up, holding on to the rails. They were running late, determined to get a ride to make it to the mining site on time for work even without a vacant seat. At this point I realized I’ve been watching too many movies, or spending too much time on social media, with a hyperactive imagination.
By eight o’clock I was already standing at the terrace facing the sea. It felt like reading a massive book of my own life through a huge magnifying glass where everything seemed to be so vibrant and fresh with renewed vitality. I haven’t slept all night, but I wasn’t lethargic at all. Just two days ago I had met my long-time friends at the high school reunion for the first time in twenty five years. We all assumed a generally shy attitude at the start. Some attendees felt discomfited and thought of leaving the hall until the booze started to flow, and we all danced to the tune of Boogie Wonderland. One of my girl friends, who used to be bullied back in the day, had been sullen all along until right before the dance. Now she lifted her skirt to do the Running Man dance step, and another one of my classmates turned to me and said “Now, what in the world…”
It didn’t take me long to accept that my physique isn’t built for surfing. I still love to do it anyway. I enjoyed paddling against the waves early in the morning. It reminded me of when I was just a child trying to crawl my way in bed up to my father’s heaving belly to wake him. My trainer caught me smiling at this train of thought as my board glided up the wave and he said, “You sure love to surf…” I was afraid he was going to say, “You go, girl!” and cringed at the thought of such cliched phrase.
We headed to Magpupungko Beach and Sugba Lagoon on our third day in the island. I had my first drink of coconut juice before breakfast. As the tide started to ebb we walked toward the flats where I stared down the bottom of the water, again, as if through a magnifying glass, peering deep into the hinterland of my soul. I thought of my family. I thought of my friends and wondered if I still belong… Summer has ended. Life goes on. I listened to the waves boom and thought of the dance.