The reckoning took place in 2002, on the summit of Mt. Agad-Agad, Iligan’s highest peak. Jopet Pee, the only decent looking boy in my block, smelt of onion halfway through the ascent. Up to this day, I am uncertain if it was his packed corned beef for lunch or his armpits. Either way, all hopes of me falling headlong in love with him dashed into pieces.
But perhaps it was the best turn of event in my life so far. Because over the years, all the men I have sworn undying love to have long since disappeared. But Jopet stuck through, even if most of the time, we got into each other’s nerves.
You see, our compatibility was very unlikely. I was this odd girl who wore tribal-printed pajamas to school and wrote poetry with euphemisms that were incomprehensible to the sane. He was an ordinary (boring) boy who did ordinary (boring) things. But he adored how my heart was of the colors of the rainbow. The longevity of our friendship rested in that; in the fact that we are each other’s walking contradiction.
In 2007, half a decade after that day of reckoning in the summit of Agad-Agad, he took a leave off work to pay me a visit to Cebu. But I too, was burnt out with corporate whoring and needed a break. So after a taxi conversation from Pier Uno to Ramos, we decided to escape to Bohol that night.
Coincidentally, fellow wordsmith and wayfarer, Tey, was in town and was bound for Tagbilaran that night as well. He offered for us to stay in his flat in Baclayon for the weekend and we could tour the countryside on his motorcycle.
Tey and Jopet stood on the either ends of my friendship spectrum in terms of personality and having both of them in the same square meter that night wasn’t really the most favorable situation. Tey was kindred, and Jopet’s indifference to “my kind” was something that took me years to overcome. Tey wasn’t to learn that in one night.
True enough, the 3-4 hour ferry trip to Tagbilaran turned into a monologue courtesy of Tey’s inquisitions and Jopet’s obvious intimidation. Exhausted from Jopet’s cluelessness, Tey turned to me with a look that said, “How the hell did you even become friends?”
GETTING LOST IN BACLAYON
We reached the port of Tagbilaran at midnight and off we hired a tricycle to Baclayon. Jopet didn’t only fear the tryke, he didn’t want to surf in Tey’s place too. His idea of a Bohol Trip you see, was a private coach transfer to one of the posh resorts in Panglao. I told him that Tey lived just at the back of the historic Baclayon church hoping to sow interest, but he only shrugged and made me promise that as long as we’d go to Panglao the next day, he’d be okay.
We woke up early the next morning armed with the tourist-y itinerary Jopet fished from his Friendster friends, only to find out that Tey already made arrangements for us, the wayfarer way. Reasoning that we’d gonna drive up to Cesar Montano’s mansion, we have successfully convinced Jopet to ride Tey’s Honda XRM. We drove up the hills of Baclayon to the little communities that Tey served as part of his NGO involvements, with Jopet still oblivious to the fact that we were nowhere near the Montano mansion.
But karma favored the innocent. After a few turns in a limestone-paved road, every thing started to look the same. At that point, Tey kept glancing at the gas meter, calculating how much more we could spare before we find the right turn. When we realized that we could no longer waste any more gas, we stopped. I expected a tantrum, but surprisingly so, Jopet wasn’t at all affected when I confessed the truth to him. Apparently, he enjoyed the motorcycle ride so much he no longer cared if our real route wasn’t really to Cesar and Sunshine.
“The bliss of ignorance,” Tey quipped, as Jopet and I took pictures of each other, unmindful of the looming threat that we may not be able to find our way back.
Eventually, it paid to loosen up. Jopet threw some more shallow jokes our way until he finally made Tey laugh. We drove again with a knowing knowledge that sometimes, it just wasn’t depth and intellect who could save the day: sense of humor, too.
When we finally reached Tey’s friend’s hillside villa, we knew straight away why it had to be the first on his itinerary. Who would have thought we’d found an abode nestled in a forest, overlooking the arresting Bohol sea? Not only did Carrie, a Malaysian national who owned the villa, made use of indigenous materials, she also employed many of the area’s locals to look after the place. To top that off, she even commissioned a Boholano architect to design the masterpiece.
THE TOURIST LANE
Still on our motorcycle but out of Baclayon, Jopet queried if we could at least play “tourist” for a while and go to the places people expect everyone to go to when in Bohol. Tey and I looked at each other with mixed amusement and annoyance. We eventually gave in to Jopet with respect to the fact that 90% of the country’s population, sadly, shared his views. But not without ground rules. Tey made Jopet swear to (1) not have the overpriced buffet lunch in one of those floating restaurants in Loboc and (2) not have those broom-riding photos in the Chocolate hills. It was painful of course for Jopet who had hoped that he’d have exactly those showcased in his Friendster albums. But in the end, he agreed.
Over lunch at a carinderia outside the tarsier sanctuary in Loboc, Tey continued his, albeit less hostile, endless inquiries to Jopet. He still couldn’t believe how someone, in his words, “without poetry could live through all twenty-five years without succumbing to depression or some sort of suicidal tendencies.” Had he said that to me, I could have eaten him alive. But he said that to Jopet, who never took offense of whatever people said to him because he was happy how he was.
In between mouthfuls of tinolang manok, he quipped, “When life gets complicated, I stop thinking. I just let things unfold. Then I try to live with what is unfolding.” At that stage, I was smiling, because his totoong tao reasoning was exactly what made him who he was in my life. Then he continued, “I envy how the two of you think and live. I wish I can be half as good, but I’m aware that I’m not, so I make do with what I have, what I can.”
Tey, tactless as he can sometimes be, blurted out, “Amazing. I’ve quit school and have ran away from home trying to find myself. And even after all that I’ve proven through the years, I still feel that I’m a failure. And here you are, also 25, and you haven’t even done anything, haven’t gone anywhere. Yet, you’re happy. Amazing.”
But before the plot could change into drama, I stood up, paid for lunch and together, we headed to our next stop.
Like any other tourist to Bohol, Jopet’s ultimate dream destination was the Chocolate Hills. When we reached there, he disappeared with a throng of Chinese Excursionists, who, like him, were having the time of their lives. He attempted to push his luck with the broom-riding pictures but Tey threatened that he’d have to find his own transport back to the city if he embarrass us any further. So he was left with no choice but to content himself by taking pictures of himself with the chocolate hills in the background.
After the Chocolate Hills, we headed off to Panglao for some beach loving. Jopet and I sang jukebox along the way, ignoring Tey’s plea for alternate drivers. We kept taking pictures of ourselves and were moving a lot. That while Tey, who was driving, were cursing us under his breath; shocked that I could actually be as thoughtless and mundane. It wasn’t everyday that I was mababaw and magaslaw, so I understood my butterfly friend’s disbelief. But I was with Jopet and admittedly, the guy couldn’t understand had I started harping about how the roadtrip reminded me Che Guevarra’s Motorcycle Diaries.
I wasn’t sure if Tey pulled a prank on us or the mishap was legit, but our motorcycle died halfway through. Jopet, ever smiling even in the face of adversity, suggested we do some more camwhoring while Tey (pretended to) repair the thingy. Suddenly, the glass of buko juice I drank on the Chocolate Hills was taking its toll and I needed to pee. Great. We were in a middle of an empty highway surrounded by rice paddocks. Our motorcycle was (playing) dead. I was left with no choice but to squat in the middle of the field and trust that the two men I was with won’t play peeping Toms.
After some time, Tey found a way to make the scooter work. We then made our way to one of Panglao’s coastal barrios, where Tey had fostered friendships in many of his community immersions. Jopet was screaming Alona the whole time, echoing the default destination of his tourist friends.
BOCA DEL CIELO
It felt like homecoming. Tey said he discovered that beach. It didn’t have a name so he called it Boca del Cielo. Unlike most of Panglao, Boca del Cielo was unassuming. Kids littered the shore. They gathered around us with veneration akin to that of fans and superstars. One of them finally said they wanted to pose for us, and so we obliged.
I also made Jopet sport a pair of Batik pants we purchased back in Cebu. He had earlier expressed his desire to dress like us but wasn’t sure if he could pull it off. Tey argued that in order to pull off a look, one must first have the attitude. So while waiting for sunset, Tey gave him a crash course on projection and the difference between Photography and Picture taking. Although looking at the pictures after the shoot, It didn’t appear that he learned. (<-insert evil laugh->)
At the end of the day, though, it was apparent that Tey and I have successfully gotten the message across to Jopet. The latter kept gushing about how fun-filled that day had been even if we never really splurged on anything except food and fuel. He also chuckled on the realization that we weren’t really the unreachable stars we seemed to be in our blogs– that he had more money than us but we rocked more because we exercised our brains and flaunted our art more than the average Joe and Jane.
And just when I was having a good time being appreciated, in the signature Jopet bluntness, he said to me, ” You sure do know how to juggle hotness and coolness. I now know why you get all the best-looking guys even if you aren’t really that pretty.”
THE RED HORSE EFFECT
Jopet and I may differed in a lot of stuff. But if there was one thing we clicked on so well, it was Red Horse.
Later that night, Tey brought us to Martin’s Restobar in downtown Tagbilaran. It was an old house converted into an acoustic bar. We feasted over Red Horse, sisig, and a playlist of Pinoy acoustic. I fell for the vocalist and his protruding cheekbones. We laughed a lot.
Tey and I took off our we-are-fierce-and-fearless masks and whined on us being too tired to be deemed strong and responsible all the time. Artsyfartsy drama, y’know. We poured pain and angst over memories of broken hearts. But then, you know, we were with somebody with so much apathy he couldn’t relate. So we shut up.
Tey talked about Tagbilaran being the keeper of his dreams; Jopet, about the whole trip being an awakening; And me, about a memory a decade ago, on the port of Jagna, and how it influenced the battles I’ve fought through the years.
The Red Horse effect. A drunken night that spoke of sober hearts.
MY BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
I have never been to Bohol since. Half a year after that trip, I migrated to New Zealand. Jopet went on to work as a theater nurse before he migrated to Bahamas last year. We are now earning enough to afford a London Olympics 2012 reunion. That, or celebrate Jopet’s birthday in Hongkong Disneyland in May. But we always know deep inside, nothing could topple over that weekend in Bohol more than four years ago. Because then, when we were overworked and underpaid, we clung on to each other and made the most of whatever we were blessed with.
I taught Jopet how to brave life according to the will of the spirit, no matter how odd, mad and unpopular my choices were. He taught me how it was alright to blend in sometimes and fare through life as happy as one can be; that ordinary people are also just as capable to experience life extraordinarily.
This post is for that one boy who have turned his back from a very sheltered upbringing to travel with me the poor-girl-mad-writer way. I have gone to so many places since, but when the chance to write a “journey” came, nothing came close to how this one particular journey was different to all the rest because you were there.
As I always tweet in many of my travels, WISH YOU WERE HERE, other BESTFRIEND.
Theme: The Journey is the Destination | Hosted by: Kara Santos