A new year has come, but memories of the past are still haunting me—memories of places that left traces, showing access to the state of trances. Every waking day mentally transports me to the places I’ve been to, places I’ve fallen in love with, and places I can’t get over with. Remembering is painful, but these chances are saving graces.
I was thinking about La Union yesterday. Its community, its energy, the grilled cheese sandwich in El Union, the family I adore so much, the sound of the wild waves, the reggae songs in Sandbar, 3D’s eargasmic voices on their year-end concert, Rico Blanco’s face, all the sunset I can’t chase, the forest trail to Tangadan Falls, the toned body and long brown hair of the surfers, the way surfers ride waves, the sea foam, how different walks of life found home in the surf town of San Juan, how people walk around in bikini, and how time slows down every time I sit by the beach. These chances are saving graces.
“But that is what islands are for; they are places where different destinies can meet and intersect in the full isolation of time.” -Lawrence Durrell, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus
I woke up missing Zamboanga today. I saw a film of it on Facebook, and I lost count on how many times I clicked the play button. You should’ve seen the excitement on my face when I saw the stretch of Cawa-cawa Boulevard on the film. That spot hits close to home and I don’t even know why. The crystal-clear bodies of water, the vibe in Sta. Cruz Island, the fear I felt when I saw walo-walo snakes, the colorful vintas, the way we sang American Pie in the car, the sauce of Alavar’s curacha, the smell of the sea in Vista del Mar, the blurry sighting of Basilan as we chatted over ice box chocolate cake, all the stomach pain I had because of too much laughter, and all the tears I shed in Fort Pilar and in the airport because I don’t want to leave Zamboanga. Later on, I was asked when I am going back to the city. It made me sad because no matter how much I want to, I can’t go back just yet. “Ewan ko ha, pero parang iba talaga yung Zamboanga,” said Jisa as we recalled our moments back in the day. Zamboanga is really different. The city that I thought would kill me made me feel most alive. What a beautiful irony. These chances are saving graces.
“Places that seem lovely at first glance may actually be sinister, but places that feel sinister seldom turn out to be lovely.” -Andrew Solomon, Far & Away: Places on the Brink of Change: Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years
I was dreaming about Batanes before and as I write this piece. I even booked a one-way and a roundtrip flight the other day, but I wasn’t able to pay for both because I am the poorest of the poor at the moment. The mix of emotions I had when I was about to deplane, the first breath of fresh air as I set foot on Batanes, its authenticity, the bursting flora and fauna on its thoroughfares, the impressive strength of the elderlies, the honesty of the locals, the sweet lobsters, the rolling hills, the church I want to get married in, the earthquake I felt while everyone else was asleep, the first motorcycle ride I’ve ever had, the scenic roadtrips, the spring water I drank in Spring of Youth, the towering pacific waves en route to Sabtang Island, the century-old stone houses, the notes I scribbled in the Blank Book Archive, the liberating feeling I had when I stood in Motchong Viewpoint, the way my new found friends and I laughed and waited for the sunset in Chawa Viewing Deck, and how I wanted to live there. These chances are saving graces.
I kept having Baguio conversations with my friends for the past weeks. I stayed there for four consecutive weekends in December 2016, and for some reasons, I just can’t ignore the call of the mountains. Its spine-chilling breeze, the intense leg works I did, the affordable cost of living, the reasonable excuse it gives to wear a denim jacket in a tropical country, the smell of pine trees, the refreshing sight of wild sunflowers, the freezing bath time moments, all the meals I devoured in Darlyn’s Transient House, every cover-up I thrifted in the night market, the kilig I felt when my crush unexpectedly sat beside our table in KFC, the moment I descended the mountain via horseback ride, how it made me appreciate the sun even more, and how it made me love cities and mountains. These chances are saving graces.
Ahhhh places. You see, like people, places have a character of their own. Like people, places cast magical moments that they alone can give. Like people, places make you overthink. Like people, places make you fall in love. Like people, places break your heart. Like people, places give you intense separation anxieties.
“Places, like people, are complex, and loving them isn’t simple.” -Kate Milford, Shadowhunters and Downworlders: A Mortal
But unlike people, places stay even if you go on another journey. They patiently wait for you no matter the season, and not knowing when to come back or if you will ever have the chance to come back to a place is one of the saddest and electrifying things in the world. Sure, I live in the moment, but there are inevitable times when I find myself completely lost in my reveries, thinking about the exact moments I was seizing when I was in La Union, Zamboanga, Batanes, and Baguio. Remembering is beautiful and painful at the same time—even more painful than forgetting because you can’t forget without remembering. It has a strong power that makes you forget how to forget. Memories are the traces that lead us back to places, and these are saving graces.
May we all get back to the places we have fallen in love with, physically and mentally. I’ll never forget.
World in my words,