When Saturday brought us together, it was a bundle of energy and excitement. It knew just how much we were all looking forward to spending the day with old friends. Saturday was all about catching up with each other, sometimes laughing, sometimes serious, sometimes pondering, always underscored by genuine love, concern and mutual respect. Conversations punctuated with mmms and aaahhs as we kept on eating and eating – just a little more cake, some more of those chips, or one more buffalo wing – always more.
Caught in an endless moment of friendship, we didn’t notice as Saturday quietly slipped into Sunday. It tiptoed its way; the faint sound of its light footsteps easily drowned by our stories and laughter. Before we knew it, the sun was peeking out and it was time to answer the last question, reminisce that last anecdote, and take that mandatory group picture for those who couldn’t make it.
Seeing our hearts filled, Sunday lovingly ushered us home. Our hearts were quiet, joyful, and content within the bonds of the strongest of friendships.
(That’s me and our guide. Photo taken by Mars with a Blackberry cellphone camera.)
Mars has always subscribed to the flow of the universe; it is never wrong even when everything looks bad from our perspective. There are bigger things beyond whatever plans that I try to painstakingly lay down but go awry anyway. Sometimes I need to be reminded of this. Sometimes I need to reconnect.
Our trip to Kalinga holds meaning to me at different levels. It marks our celebration for Mars’ birthday. It is one of the trips that we enter as a couple, just the two of us, and we leave stronger – as a couple. It has always been our goal to travel across the Philippines together. To discover things together and in the process discover who we are as a couple, who we are individually. It was a break from the daily grind where a million things vie for our attention all at once. It allowed us to focus on ourselves and on each other.
It was the time for me to leave everything behind and soak in the universe. Sure, I often travel for work but these journeys are always too short, too hurried (and harried) and too packed for me to connect with the pocket of the universe I am visiting. This trip to Kalinga was different. It was for us. It was for me.
It was a loose end finally tied. I’ve long decided to have a tattoo. I’ve long decided that I will only get a tattoo from Apo Fang Od. But for the longest time, I couldn’t decide on a design that I will not outgrow nor regret having. Now, I know. I found what would endure forever. I have decided more than a year ago. This is just the physical manifestation. Things all came together perfectly during this trip – with a satisfying tak tak tak tak. Here now is the fulfilment of that decision.
I will try to write about our trip to Kalinga in several parts, as I digest everything that this trip meant and means to me now. I will take it slowly to let the experience brew to the dark, strong, exquisite cup of Kalinga coffee that Apo Fang Od’s daughter in law welcomed us with. But I will also treat this as urgently as I can. Just like my tattoo, I want to capture the trip while it is still fresh, inflamed in my mind, before it melds and fades into the skin of my everyday life.