In pure joy, not allowing even armpits to contain my happiness.
In total anxiety, not sure what else to do when I forget how to read/write/be happy.
In surrender, not doubting that clenched fists compel a small life.
Books anchor what I carry from Pennsylvania to the Philippines, a travel guide not included. The woman from the credit card company who I call to report my impending travels to Manila, lives in Manila. She recommends visiting a beach described in travel guides (that I google at 3am in a dingy hotel in Manila) as a hideout for drunken, elderly expats who put themselves to bed before nine. But sleepless, overly air-conditioned, honk-littered, early morning hours solidify that my body is on an archipelago of 7,107 islands which requires I do something to find water, sand, trees. So I put myself on a bus pointed toward the expats. I have no plan, hands straight up in the air.
There are four of us on the bus, three who know where they are going. One of these three has a given name from Dennis the Menace and her common name, April, conferred by a sister who loved the ninja turtles. She helps operate an adventure tour company and is off to scout a new route, and I’m off with her.
We miss the first ferry and wait in an air-conditioned 7-11 for hours, less the 30 minutes in the Port superintendent’s office who has a map and a little more air conditioning. He assures us that if we ever have a cargo container that he’ll discount the shipping price. I wonder how many mangos fit in such a container? The ferry unloads in Abra de Ilog, Mindoro, miles from expats and infrastructure that would make an intrusion comfortable. I intrude regardless. A banka, small canoe with a motor and wings, skips over the water to a white beach buttressed by mountains. We mistakenly hike with our bags until reaching the comfortable Resort Tuko which is feet from the beach. Sleep is chaperoned by noisy lizards calling to the new moon.
I know now that Mindoro has seven indigenous tribes called the Mangyans who live in the interior of the island. Mundo is roped into guiding us into the highlands with a bag of canned food and corn-derived snacks on his shoulders. 6 kilometers of single-track trails that wind through mountains and valleys lead to a small tribal village with rice terraces that are likened to the famed terraces I’ll visit in several weeks. The community grows heirloom varieties without chemical inputs or foreign markets. The sprigs of grass heavy with seeds waver stiffly under heat fenced by green coconut and palm trees. A new harvest is spread on the basketball court. The long, off-white grains are raked in straight patterns across half-court. I tentatively scatter rice with a young woman and in exchange she takes pictures, panning over the fields and homes that constitute a world, changed perhaps by the electronic screen. Rice is cooked over an open flame and served with tuna and wild onions; all settles well with fresh coconut. My steps down the mountain accentuated by blisters and the surprise to find I am in this world. Hands straight up in the air, arm pits fully exposed, heart too.
|Intrepid Adventure(rer) April|
|Drying rice, Mindoro|
|Drying heirloom rice, Mindoro|
|Rice terraces, Mindoro|