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.


The tent where I used to sleep in, now birdshit-free.


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


Our neighboring gecko.


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

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