By Karl Acepcion
If there’s anything that travel has taught me, it’s the reticence of being at home anywhere my feet takes me. My credo is to escape what’s worth coming home to and it controls the spontaneity of my itineraries.
Travel started off as a koan to my dull soul. Leaving my comfort zone for the unfamiliar fuelled my early trips. Unlike many young professionals who slept off their weekends, I had no qualms abandoning what I deemed to be worth forgetting for a couple of nights. The goal was to un-see the predictable from a terrible supervisor to a spineless underling at work. The reward was being able to leave in a huff.
|En route for Roxas City|
|Hiking in Abucay, Bataan|
I can’t remember how many times I fearlessly tore into an exotic grub or downed a kooky drink in a new town just to get a natural high. Add to that, the endless foray off-grid to experience not being able to tell the time of the day in my swimwear.
I also loved to mix it up. My itinerary, that is. One moment I’d be snug on a plush hotel bed. The next moment I’d be exposed to the elements down to my skivvies on some speck of an island.
Enjoying such contrasts that my trips afforded me meant that I could settle for a frosty canned beer at the last leg of my vacation after enjoying a digestif at a high-end bar the night prior. It didn’t matter if the day was balmy or sweltering. As long as the views seemed to be worth the escape, I was there.
|Partying with locals and tourists in Bacacay, Albay|
|Vacationing in Marinduque's Maniwaya Island with fellow bloggers Paula and Paulo|
It was after I quit my corporate drudgery that I figured in a different kind of escape. With a lot of freelance hours to burn, I embraced a subdued iteration of my previous getaways. The tight budget called for intrepid trips. Mornings were longer. Dusks were more noticeable. Meals were more exotic. It was totally different from my well-designed trips and I liked it for a moment.
I usually had to bear with long commutes on passenger boats and buses. Unfortunately, those led to forced introspections about how devoid I still felt after being in different places in the Philippines. It pained me to realise how my wanderlust couldn’t be satiated regardless of the destination.
It came to a point when I even went to Roxas City for the first time just to trace my roots. I arrived without a single local friend in Capiz and left a week after knowing a whole clan of relatives. It was to be the start of my attempt to connect with people more than the destination.
|Scoping the shoreline of Bani, Pangasinan|
|My getaway with my old folks|
The caveat to travelling, it turned out, is the traveller.
Don’t get me wrong. The resort vistas were fantastic, the hiking views were enthralling, and the local finds were remarkable. However, my feigned discontent always loomed over me after every trip. It was not something I could easily shake off even after going through a warren of attractions.
I felt more empty not knowing why I had to come home only to plot my next escape. Suddenly I couldn’t tell where I belonged because the trips compounded themselves into an endless meandering of the unknown.
|River-crossing in Dingalan, Aurora after Typhoon Lawin|
|Meeting Dumagat tribe members in General Nakar|
My recent trip to a Dumagat ancestral domain in General Nakar changed all that. It was when I accompanied a social worker friend of mine to a remote coast of Quezon Province when I realised that travel is not always about the next destination to tick off one’s bucket list. Sometimes, it’s about meeting a stranger in a new place and discovering that you have something in common.
We were halfway our long-week immersion when we had to transfer to Masanga, another tribal community which was roughly a two-hour boat ride away. It was a day after Typhoon Lawin had ravaged mainland Luzon. Reaching this part of the Sierra Madre meant numerous river-crossings in Aurora and enduring a Skull Island-esque boat ride to Lulumnan Beach.
My friend was there to teach the natives the trade of organic farming while I tagged along to see the sights. Along the way, I documented the trip including his discreet meetings with some tribe members. To our disappointment, the few crops being tendered by the natives were all destroyed, along with their rustic homes.
|The young Dumagat who hitched a boat ride with us|
The Young Dumagat Who Tagged Along
On our pump boat for our target destination was another tag-along – a young Dumagat. Looking weathered but hopeful, the kid hoped to reach his home the easier way than hiking more than five hours in the mountains which was how he ended up with us at the beachfront. It turned out he got stranded during the typhoon and had to wait it out with other distraught locals at the coast for a few days.
It didn’t concern him at all that he was hitching a boat ride with total strangers. He just felt relieved that he could finally go home after the ordeal. There was no turning back anyway. That boat ride was the only easy way out of the coast for the both of us. Suddenly, we were both travellers in a setting that neither of us could own.
As he jumped out of the boat and onto a rock expanse after more than an hour at sea, he knew that he was safe where everything was familiar again. He was home. Oddly enough, I felt the same sense of contentment in the middle of nowhere.
At that exact moment, my vicious cycle of escape also ceased. I finally made sense of what’s worth coming home to – knowing that I can be at home wherever I am.
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