Amidst the debauchery— an oversupply of alcohol and an indulgence in second-hand smoke— I smelt brine.
Barely sober, I heeded the smell and waded out of the Jungle Bar mosh pit and into the silence and darkness of the nearby beach. By the time midnight struck to herald 2016, seawater had already soaked the hem of the jumpsuit I wore for the night.
Water was my element, I was certain, despite the stars of my birth insisting it was Fire.
On January 1, 2016, I was partying in Gili Trawangan, an island off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia, on what felt like the start of a new lap after accomplishing a whole darn lot in the years before then.
The boylove was on my tail, generous with the space he was allowing me to brood in. We met at a New Year’s Eve Party too, some seven years ago. I was keeping him, I thought. For on days that my soul isn’t comforted by water, his skin becomes the hearth where my fire is able to burn the wildest.
With finding fixture, came true understanding of the ways of my own heart. I found out that humans will always yield to the gravity of moments, of micro-infinities. Often to the weight of the ones that got away. Sometimes, of the ones who never left.
My heart will always flutter to a lot of things. But true love is a shelf that sits over and above everything else. That’s where Jonathan is.
That firework-laden midnight in my favourite island in the world, kicked off what turned out to be a year of triumphs. For the first time in the history of my wayfaring, I felt no need to leave.
Rather, I found value in taking root; in finding marvel at the retelling of stories from revisited destinations. It was a year of knowing places better and loving people deeper.
Australia: The Joys of the Wilderness
The wilderness tapped on my fancy early on in the year. My husband and I have been privileged to have started our marriage in a beautiful home with splendid views of the lake. Also nearby was the ocean. In between were woodlands.
A long weekend at the foreshore of the neighbouring Patonga opened up a series of outdoor adventures. These adventures consequently led us to drive 4 hours south to Sanctuary Point and Jervis Bay on Easter Weekend, and 7 hours up the Snowy Mountains in the winter.
Successfully pitching a tent before nightfall and managing to stay dry despite an overnight downpour were but small victories. But through those tiny triumphs, the camping grounds have taught me an invaluable skill: sensitivity to the song of nature.
It was through this new-found understanding that amongst many other things, we got to find pleasure in starlit dinners of salmon and asparagus, cooked over single-burner camping stoves and served on tin picnic plates and disposable cutlery.
In 2017, we plan to go more off-the-grid: to Barrington Tops, if time would prove to be of a constraint. More of Kosciuszko, if the mountain would have us again. Or if nature will be truly kind to us, to Outback New South Wales.
Philippines: A Month-Long Family Roadtrip
After my mother triumphantly defeated the mortal threat of cancer, the whole family embarked on a month-long road trip around Visayas and Mindanao in the Philippines.
Travel had always been my redemption— my way of communing with the soul when the body had fought hard enough. As Mommy’s battle was ours too, I wanted us to have that victory trip together as a celebration of a life of countless second chances.
Test-driving a 7-seater monster that I recently bought for Daddy, we spent a weekend in a log cabin in Dahilayan, reunited with Mom’s side of the clan in Negros Occidental and retraced Dad’s roots in the mystic island of Siquijor. In between were stopovers in Malaybalay, Dumaguete, Mabinay and Dipolog.
My siblings and I went on to explore waterscapes in Surigao City, Bucas Grande, Siargao and Hinatuan. We still have the rest of our home island, Mindanao, to tick off our list. But it was a good enough start.
As for my parents, traveling led them to unwrap a lifetime’s worth of gifts at once: of youth, of strength, of possibilities and of life.
“YOLO!” my mom would quip, complete with rocker hand signs and her Eminem-ish post-chemo hairstyle.
Indonesia : A Life-changing Trip of Wonders
Up to this day, I didn’t know how my name ended up on the ministry’s shortlist. I am a mercurial, if not lazy, blogger. I write monologues, mostly. In this day and age of informative travel blogging, I offer nothing but personal introspections.
But Indonesia happened, and with it came the need to tell more stories. It was perplexing, as the experience also showed me the business side of what I only otherwise attribute to as passion. I was confronted with the challenges of Discipline and Consistency — traits that I have managed to dodge around with the hipster label as a shield.
Wonderful Indonesia was my peephole to an industry I would love to give my all to, to get in. But because the heart is at stake, it has to take time.
2017, I hope and pray, is my time.
Malaysia: A Tapestry of Cuisine and Culture
Nostalgia appeals to me like light to a moth. For many years, Malaysia— its street art, traffic, food and history— has given me nothing but good memories. In 2016, I revisited Kuala Lumpur and relearned its tales through food. Time also permitted for a short sojourn to Melaka, catalyst of poetry and cradle of somedays.
For many, Malaysia is a stop-over. For me, it is a touchstone. It is my Polaris; my arrow towards new adventures and my guide back home. That it is also a gastronomic wonderland, is a welcome bonus.
2016 had been a year of kindness. More than ever, it was a time when the universe proved its faithfulness to me. It held a promise, almost spoken, that 2017 will only hold better things.
What with love, family, and an ever-present sense of marvel, the
sky ocean is the limit!