Stuck in paradise

by | Nov 3, 2014 | Island, Philippines, Thoughts, Volunteering in the Philippines | 0 comments

The arrival of november usually provokes mixed emotions in the minds of many people, including mine. Nature changes in its inscrutable ways. Trees drop their leaves to create the colourful patchwork on the ground that forms the romantic decor of autumn walks, the picture of which serves as a perfect cover photo for that slightly melancholic iPod playlist us contemplative souls listen to while staring at the ceiling of our bedrooms, rain tormenting the windows outside. Summer is definitely over now, except maybe for Valencia. In Valencia summer never really ends. November also means visiting the graves of late loved ones, people remember the end of the Great War, Americans look forward to thanksgiving and Philipinos continue counting down to Christmas. Only 53 days left, imagine.

For me, non of the above really applies at the moment. To the contrary. I’m halfway across the globe sitting on a tropical island that reminds me of something I read a long time ago. Jommeke maybe, or Alex Garland’s ‘The beach’. A welcome breeze naturally ventilates the open wooden building with thatched roof that serves as our dining hall. It’s 27 degrees outside and the white-sanded clear-watered oceanfront is only seconds away. In fact, I can sometimes hear the waves rolling ashore.

The island is Palaui island, one of the northernmost of the 7107 Islands that constitute the Philippines. Opposed to some other islands, no tourists are to be seen. In fact, no one is even allowed to live here permanently, although some Philipinos have a permit to reside. I have no idea what the difference is.

Yesterday we took a hike to an old abandoned lighthouse that is now the only remnant of the Spanish colonization from before. It bordered a beautiful and deserted bay, the kind you dream about ending up at after a shipwreck, the kind that makes you feel like Robinson Crusoe. We took off our soaked, sweaty t-shirts and hung them out to dry in the sun, got rid of our muddy flip flops that, above all expectations, survived the steep ups and downs of the jungle-like terrain that was our trajectory and we thoroughly enjoyed being at this point in space and time. We ate rice and fish, as usual. We swam among corals and small, shy fishes. My gopro and diving goggles made sure I won’t easily forget this place. A siesta next to te lighthouse made up for our sleep deficit caused by our determination to see the sunrise at 5am that morning. After all sunrises at tropical islands in the pacific tend to satisfy travellers with a YOLO mindset. We didn’t get disappointed.

Upon arriving at our lodging that night an hour-long full-body massage cured our tired and unaccustomed western bodies of the stiffness and tension that has piled up during our first month of work. Two by two we lay face-down and surrendered to surprisingly firm hands of tiny ladies who giggled when the booty massage was up next and whispered conspiringly in Tagalog, after explicitly asking us if we spoke any. We didn’t.

We were supposed to leave our paradise island today in order to start our final building project in Divilacan, a remote oceanside town on the east coast of Luzon, separated from the rest of the country by the Sierra Madre mountain chain. A developing typhoon above sea and the expectancy of 4,5m high waves are delaying our departure though, since Divilacan’s remoteness means it’s only accessible through an 8-hour boatride.

I have to say I don’t mind the delay. A couple of extra days on a tropical island are not the worst possible scenario, don’t you think? Besides, it gives me the opportunity to practice my slacklining :)

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