A Bird Among Birds

What with the rain starting to soak everything, I'm acclimatizing myself again to living indoors. Acclimatizing to less wind and daylight, to the tiled or cemented floor, to walls and enclosed spaces, and to moving around hand-made furniture. Actually, I've been showering in the rain this morning before locking myself up in the house. Now that I think about it, staying indoors feels remote, alien, and even unnatural. Since I came back to El Nido from Coron, I've been living in a treescape with a killer bay view and been sleeping in a tent. The site sits on a hilltop bird sanctuary, where the door of my tent faces a sweeping view of the sea, the sunrise, and the moonrise. Other than waking up to the glowing sky, I'd wake up to the riotous sound of the forest, where more than a hundred species of birds live, play, and thrive. Today is the fourth day of rain, and sadly I have to relocate in the house. I have moved to sleeping in the balcony, where the owner of the place, Mike, used to sleep in. I invaded his favorite spot. It's mine now, my own little quiet and comfy space. Mike moved to the treehouse.

It's funny that I've already pictured this when I thought about moving to Palawan: that I will be living in a coastal village, and specifically, on the second floor balcony of a house, facing the sea and the sunrise. Then again, maybe it was a vision of a future, one year ahead in time. The things I pictured in my mindspace about a year ago came true. Ha. And not only did they come true, they're even better than that. Just living in a sanctuary in the shade of many trees, within an earshot to strange birds, and being 10 minutes away to the beach, just these little things make me feel really gewd. This hilltop campsite is my little Eden, my first real outdoor home. I have yet to document the hundreds of birds that live here, or fly here in passing to fertilize the soil. So far, the pretentious aviary expert in me is not familiar with all of them except for the Philippine eagle. With wings stretching longer than human arms spread wide open, the Philippine eagle would soar around the campsite in the morning as if protecting its young and scouting the forest for wild chickens or large mountain rats. After sighting the varieties of birds here, my favorite so far is colored bright aquablue. I've yet to know its name. All I know is when it flies, it flies as if it's clothed with the sea. A flying pocket of ocean.

Even when I was packing up the tent, I had to clean up its rain cover because it was painted with an artwork of bird droppings. White, cream, green, brown, black, the droppings came in a variety of hardened slingshots from the sky. I may have spent a whole afternoon wiping that shit. The owner of the campsite is a professional agriculturist, an ecclectic guy who knows everything about Palawan's local and endemic trees, fruits, plants, and flowers, and is at the same time a great cook, barman, and a drunk. Up here in the campsite, he's cleared the ground of weeds, only to retain the cashew trees, whose cashew apples serve as delectable breakfast to birds. He's also planted several other flowering and fruit-bearing trees to serve as buffet tables to year-round, migratory, and seasonal birds. Other curious residents of the campsite include a rooster, a lone skunk, and different species of squirrels, lizards, bees, butterflies, moths, termites, and ants. To date, we've cleared up some land where we'd soon plant organic brown rice and different sorts of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. We've long been waiting for the rain, and now that its season has arrived, I'll be changing my daily habits all over again.

Showering in the rain isn't so rare here, what with the lack of fresh water on site. Maybe we are nature-worshipping hippies like that, but the truth is, the communal water source is located about 15 minutes away, across the highway and the rice paddies. The rice paddies are like a maze; if you don't know the route, you'd encounter narrow trails broken away by waist-deep mud and then you'd have to retrace your steps to find a different route. I learned this the hard way: when I was feeling a bit adventurous the other day I risked taking a different route and ended up getting stuck in this rice fields out in the post-noon burn of the sun. The longer route, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes by foot and 10 minutes by motorcycle, that's where we ply on wheels to get water for the toilet and kitchen. (Fortunately, we have a toilet in the campsite!) We're drilling a deep well this year and hopefully I get to see this before I leave for Nepal. In the meantime, the daily skyshower is enough to rub the dirt off our skin.


Mike's rules in the campsite. He's a hippie and does not know it.


Alejo, trying to be sober. Above him is the balcony where I moved into.


Our neighboring gecko.


This pretty lizard just dropped on me.


The beach is just a few minutes away. This one was taken during sunrise.


Seascape from my new home.


My minimalist outdoor workspace.

// May 2017

I Wake Up Tentacular

In Coron, the weather is steadily feral and unaccommodating. Besides Mt. Tapyas, every ideal pretty place to hang out in and contemplate the apocalypse, every pretty place is a boat ride away. I've been renting a room at the foot of the mountain. And every morning, I go on a pilgrimage to hike, anticipate the sunrise, and draw the skyburn inside my eyes. To purge every molecule of shitty vibe absorbed from the day before. So I am clean for the day ahead. Then again, this is my own little religion, my everyday ritual, patterned after my sketchy vision of nature. I sweat out into poses later and climb a strangler tree to read a book, before heading back home for shower and writing work. Or I visit my favorite bar, talk to artists and musicians, and pretend to be interesting.

So far, I've been around El Nido and Coron. I guess my only favorite spot is eastern El Nido during Amihan season. Other than that, the heat reigns supreme. I'm darkly sunbaked from staying outdoors too long I can pass off as a tree. I am a tree. Currently in a relationship with a tree. The strangler tree, or balete tree, I climb it almost everyday. I talk to it, and it me. I love touching its heavy trunk, its sinuous, crawly branches, and cooling myself in the shade of its green leaves, cracked with soft sun. Giant red ants and pointy-beaked black birds live there too. And together we make up a small ecosystem of transient animals feeding off the tree's sacred spaces.

By Tuesday, I'm having my sidebelly inked with a huge octopus tattoo. In a recurring dream I wake up an animal. I wake up a ghastly octopus, gravitating in a dark and heavy, cold place. Deaf and blind, I grasp the world merely by tentacular feeling. My choice of weapon is black ink, my only mode of expression, drawn from the ancient juice of the ocean. Maybe the octopus is my personal inner beast. If I were born an animal, I must be tentacular.

I met an artist in town, who is similarly a nomad. He said the best place he's ever lived in the country is in Sagada. Ideal. Maybe I will move there soon. In the meantime my quest of a writing sanctuary (and home) continues.

// Apr 2017

Hello there, Coron


I may be slowly turning into a sunworshipper. Eek.


Awesome spot to practice kriyas daily.

// Apr 2017

Darkling

As night drops from the edge of dawn,
his silhouette rolls out from the sea,
curling in the surf across the horizon,
ripping blue water from cold sky free.

Kite-strung, he is the primeval child
tamed of brutal wind and ocean rush,
breathing in salt, drinking in the wild
sea spray, feeding on swells and hush.

And as things catch that divine hour,
night shade warms slowly into gold,
like a fine man growing ever younger
the more the world turns a new day old.

Gently thickening, his wind-forged body
bottles in the stars and escaping night;
with sun-bared skin he is starkly darkly
in the milky foam and the rising firelight.

Toes sunk deep in the sand, I am stunned
that half the earth rests on an empty vault
until my darkling spills his purpling band
of a thousand starry grains of salt.

// Mar 2017

Chasing Bliss

I'm diving into a new experiment: living without money. While I'm not yet completely moneyless (I still have an ATM and a credit card, and still spend on rent and food), I've been slowly easing my way out of The System, The Soul-Sucking Workforce, and The Suicidal Consumerist Economy. Along the way I'm discovering a different kind of fix, one that fattens my spirit and nothing else. None of the following things can ever be bought or commercialized, and yet they're far more intoxicating than the everyday, store-bought paperbag of happiness. With little writing work and so much free time in my hands, I've been chasing bliss towards wherever it leads me.

  1. Exploring a new island on my own. Solo traveling is just as intimate as curling up with an impressionistic book. But unlike imagining scenes, you're launched into a 3D, HD-quality type of story.
  2. Meeting local and foreign nationals. This is probably the biggest spice I have of traveling alone. Also, I've met my muse, my surf-riding darkling.
  3. Feeling the ocean breeze. Some days I just while the time away on a hammock by the beach, shutting my eyes and feeling the ocean breathing on my skin.
  4. Biking on the open road. Freewheeling and baked in the sun, I go wherever I feel like it and end up in surprising places locals themselves don't even know about.
  5. Reading a book. Gave away my entire library and have either been reading on my tablet or borrowing books from hotels. Travelers from the world over leave plenty of good books behind.
  6. Swimming far out in the sea. Purging, healing, revitalizing, swimming in the sea pulls me back into the aqueous womb of the earth.
  7. Petting baby animals along the road. To replace my addiction to watching youtube vids of cuddly animals. XD
  8. Getting stoked on the sunrise everyday. I haven't missed a sunrise since January! Light is my new alarm clock.
  9. Birdwatching. Sighting plenty of various bird species is an everyday occurrence.
  10. Experimenting with one less thing one at a time. Going towards ultralight, I'm shaving off one thing at a time from my backpack. Everything I own is now under 10 kg.
  11. Helping people out. Currently lending a hand to an archaeologist setting up a museum in El Nido, among others.
  12. Drinking coconut juice. My favorite refreshment next to plain old water. You just yank it off a tree and hack the top off. Yum!
  13. Having a nap or picnic in the shade of trees. My room is just where I dump my stuff. Everything I do is outdoors, even my office.
  14. Hitchhiking to remote beaches. Aw, the joys of hitchhiking! Every driver I meet on the road is swelling with a generous heart.
  15. Sharing my spoils of the day (mostly food) with my neighbors. Just because they give me plenty of free food, mostly harvested produce or just picked from our backyard.
  16. Brewing lemongrass tea. The grass I just pull out from the earth, wash the dirt off, and steep in hot water.
  17. Soaking up in the view of islands and the ocean from a mountaintop. Something I can never have but have already stashed away in my memory.
  18. Listening to eclectic music. My new digs come from other nomads on the road.
  19. Gazing at the spray of the milky way in the black night. The universe is one deep monstrous cavern and we are but one trifling sparkle. And yet we sparkle.
  20. Building daily habits towards zero waste. Because I'm devoted to saving the environment and eventually being an activist.
  21. Watching kiteboarders surf and defy the forces of nature. Most afternoons I just sit back on the east coast and watch these junkies soar in between wind and water.
  22. Fishing in the calm and clear sea under a bright, full moon. I don't eat fish anymore, but I hitch on fishermen's boats just to hang out and watch.
  23. Immersing in Cuyonon culture. Not only am I immersing myself in this but helping out in their cultural programs.
  24. Getting high on the scent of tree blossoms. My landlady's choice of drug are flowers. I don't even have to stop and smell these things. They're everywhere!
  25. Shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables. Since there is no fridge (not to mention electricity!) where I live, I buy fresh produce everyday.
  26. Eating cheap and yummy vegan food. March marks my first vegan anniversary. The transition has been hellish and lonely but definitely worth every effort.
  27. Listening to the sound of a typhoon. On my first night in eastern El Nido, I thought there was a storm outside, what with the sound of downpour and the thrashing of trees. But nooo, it was only Amihan mimicking the onslaught of a typhoon.
  28. Cranking into yoga poses on the beach. I used to despise yoga, but now my body cannot be booted into a new day without breathing fire into gratifyingly painful poses.
  29. Writing my first novel. Ah, art. Possibly the only thing I can't live without next to air.
  30. Inhaling the deliciously clean ocean air. This is what I left the city for: to breathe and be seduced once again into the simplicity of being alive.

// Mar 2017

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