Astray

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I was going home. After track after track of rhythm and blues, I found myself unconsciously agreeing with the driver’s choice of music. Usually the jeepney drivers would be playing old love songs that had wailing choruses of devotion or party music that didn’t seem to agree with the city traffic’s own music consisting of curses and impatient beeps, along with the afternoon heat. This one was almost soothing, going well with the vehicle’s dim interior, covering the rumbles of the engine and the noise outside. If I closed my eyes I wouldn’t have known where I was – I would only know that I was moving, mercifully moving, and it would be enough. There need not be any destination, nor fear that I was going into the unknown.

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73 Days of Summer

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It’s the time of the year wherein we simultaneously become ingredients in God’s stew and enjoy doing so. It is also the time of the year in which we are gifted with a rare amount of freedom, and unless you’re part of the unlucky ones who have school and work during the months of summer, said days of freedom (I counted 73 until I am once again imprisoned in my education) are usually filled with adventure and leisure. And here, in all glory of documentation, are my own.
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Rationalizing My Bad Writing: Nature and Transition

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I help my mum out in writing sometimes. Not because I can do better than her – she has to spend at least a half hour editing each and every one of my feeble sentences – but because a.) I want to write something outside my emotional outbursts; b.) I feel like helping her and; c.) I really want to use the desktop. I’m attached to it, okay? The laptop gives me a stiff neck and my phone drops onto my face too much. This one is decent and polite with me.

Most of her writing is connected with freelancing, and she now just started contributing to an international travel blog. When I deduced that her butt must be sore from sitting that long in front of the computer, I offered to do research and write the next couple of posts down (and sneakily opened my email). At first, doing her article was okay. Until two hours into it I felt like sobbing and kicking our front door open, for me to rush out and run across the world.

It was one of her contributions to the travel blog, which was – uh, duh – about travel destinations (twenty kid-friendly ones, to be specific…), and while she had inserted a line or two (or three, or four…  Or a whole paragraph) about her personal experience, I had none. My paragraphs were stiff. Experience means first-hand knowledge. I was staring at my preferred adjectives like picturesque and magnificent, with phrases like thrilling experience and unforgettably beautiful, and then look back at Google images.

It’s not particularly concerning. I’m fifteen; there’s still plenty of time to wander about when I’ve reached a higher education, achieved a Nobel Prize, committed a crime, etc. Besides, I get dragged to some of the places she goes.

But the thing is, I don’t want to get dragged. I don’t want to wait until *insert life achievement here*. Scratch that, I don’t want to wait at all. And it’s nothing to do with wanting to grow up to be able to – I fear adulthood. Speaking of fears, however, this one gives way to my reasons: I fear change in nature. Though change embodies both sides of the coin, with nature, it only seems to get darker. Well, for us.

It’s just that human beings have got such a short visit on this planet, and the way things are going, I wouldn’t be able to visit the places as they are now. My mum used to tell me tales of undiscovered islands she wanted to take me to soon, but in a span of two years it is now full of tourists and establishments. She used to tell me the story of a place that went isolated during colonization; a town that looked like a secluded paradise, but now its citizens are never given a quiet moment with the amount of people arriving. How many more are out there?

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IF YOU LOVE ME LET ME GOOOOOOOOOO

Not that I don’t want these places to be discovered and enjoyed, but when they are, they’re usually exploited. They become crowded and littered. They lose the sheltered, otherworldly atmosphere; the peace that gives way to reflection and union of and with nature. I want to go right now, before everything transitions into something unrecognizable. I want to be able to tell my own stories about my own adventures. If I had the opportunities to go and preserve nature, I would – for the sake of sustenance and bedtime stories.

To The Islands of Calaguas, Camarines Norte

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[Photo credits to the people whom I was with on the trip but probably don’t know I took some of their pictures: Francis Balgos (the ones with the watermark “Pala-Lagaw”) and Yum Conwi (the somewhat dramatic pictorial by the rocks). Other pictures are from yours truly.]

Let’s start this off with a tiny rant and the story later.

After an 8 hour drive, a 2 hour boat ride, and my newly developed talent in keeping down the food in my intestines, I was expecting a serene and beautiful island upon arriving on Mahabang Buhangin (Long Sand, or maybe a less awkward and more appropriate translation, Long Beach), Calaguas. And it was beautiful.

But it definitely wasn’t serene.

From what I had heard and read, this island was supposed to be isolated and a virgin. Yet it seemed like we had stumbled upon a carbon copy of Boracay – a famous, go-to summer destination with crowds, loud music and parties, but deteriorating under the number of people visiting it. Late reports have shown high levels of bacteria in its waters, with visitors saying they’ve gone sick after the trip. It may be from human waste leaking out into the sand, until finally reaching the sea.

Mahabang Buhangin had fine, powdery white sand and clear, blue water. Yet the shoreline seemed like a boat terminal, there was loud, party music, and you had to pay for just about every single action. The bathrooms were merely built just to say there were facilities and accommodate the amount of people arriving. Also, from what I had heard (I was in the cottage when it happened) our group had come into an argument with the locals and owner because they chose to place our tents somewhere far from the party that was going on. That place was by the sea, but had crossed over the dividing line (I still have no idea what that was about) and that it was their territory, and that we were only tourists, so you know, we had no right. Kind of beats the point of why they opened the island up and exploited it for money. It was all very interesting.

One theory is that it’s popular because of the media. The very same thing that happened to Anawangin (a scenic cove in Zambales), and Sagada (a fifth-class municipality in Mountain Province). I’d never get to see what those places meant for self-discovery actually looked like before the crowds started butting in, and I probably never will, along with the future generations. I’d only see it in pictures and in my imagination as my mom retells her adventures when they visited those places. I don’t think there’s nothing wrong per se about the media hype about these places; it’s just it has inspired a number of people that do not respect the places enough, as well as its exploitation.

Rant over. Here we go.

We still traveled ten hours, however, and made the most out of it. We had fun. It’s not all that bad, if you focus on the positive side enough. Still, when we woke up the next day, we stole a few hours in another island – and this time, it was what we expected. It was the best experience.

But that’s another story. Anyway.

From the boat ride, with the waves seemingly determined to play with our anxiety, and up until our last few moments on the island, the view was gorgeous and made up for the initial disappointment. The sea was vast and dark blue, with the ripples like mermaids swimming in synchronization underwater. We passed by a few islands until arriving at our destination. There, the dark water suddenly became light and clear. The sunshine was in a good mood in a way that it didn’t scorch your skin, and you can run barefoot on the sand without feeling tortured. There were tents pitched here and there (which you could rent if you haven’t got one of your own) and cottages, too. I didn’t notice at first, but apparently there was a distinct line from the cottage we spent the night in to the other ones to our left. There, the cottages were bigger, but apparently required payment around 3k or so. I can’t be sure on that one, as it may come along with a package of island hopping and a stay for about a week.c5

There’s a store to buy snacks from, and wandering vendors selling ice candies and balut – the famous Philippine delicacy, eaten as a fertilized duck egg There was another cottage set up to buy halo-halo from, which had all the ingredients you could ask for (except for ice cream, but they’ve got sliced up mangoes mixed in as a treat). We chose to have fun rather than spend most of the day cooking, and asked some of the locals to cook it for us – with payment, of course but it were all worth it since they could be chefs at some parallel universe. We had a piggy (he was very well cooked) come along with us to satisfy gastronomic desires as well.

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I didn’t get a chance to explore the beach much, but we wandered to where there were rocks encrusted with shells and whatnot (that really hurts to stand on, by the way, I don’t know why on earth we tortured ourselves and climbed them) and had a…. pictorial.

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My mum. And me, of course, dressed in all blue.

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The sunset was beautiful, only obscured by some clouds and the boats. By night, stars dotted the sky, and the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand was calming. I chose to sleep then (a teenager with a bunch of her mum’s friends; why would I choose to stay up), and fell asleep quickly,even with the initial discomfort of the uneven ground. Which, by the way, I did not understand, since we were on sand.

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(This is actually the sunrise; I took a picture of the sunset and yet my phone swam too so… This is a substitute.)

The next morning, we all packed up quickly and decided to go to another island, one that wasn’t as crowded. It was, if possible, more breath-taking than the previous one – with sea-green waters and thick forestry. There were three tents pitched on the beach (a small group of people were swimming) and behind the trees were huts. It was, apparently, a residential area. The sand was as fine as the previous island, only dotted with a number of shells and pebbles. The waves were so strong that they had me doing a full 360 when I tried to float by the shoreline (it wasn’t fun). It was also strangely deep. The island didn’t have as much facilities – only a store by the end of the beach – and we decided to ask for permission to use the residents’ bathrooms. The initial plan was to take a bath there, but after seeing that they had to pump water from only one water source, we decided to skip it and just take a bath back on the mainland. Seeing where they lived – a patched up hut – made me appreciate what I had back in the city.

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Squint – behind the trees is a visible hut among many others.

It was silent; after swimming, we pretty much just lay under a tree appreciating the view and the serenity. After a wash-up at the boatman’s house and snacks, it was another 10-hour trip back to the city. We had to go through roads with twists and turns that made my stomach do a lot of acrobatics, and we had a stopover at a fast food chain and dared take pictures there by the parking lot, but we got home safe and sound, with the memory of our trip to take back with us.

 

Pinto Art Museum

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Man. Art. Nature. In the Pinto Art Museum at Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines, the three are merged into one in what one might see as some sort of paradise with their gardens and sculptures, present in every gallery intriguing the fickle mind.

We arrived around 8 AM, in enough time to catch the first guided tour for the day. Outside, the museum itself didn’t seem like much. It was simple, and I was caught unprepared once we had started the tour itself.

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Inside, however, we were already greeted by a few sculptures and the garden. It was more impressive, with the garden sprawling in front of us, and the pieces of art by the wall. There’s the museum shop to our side, where people are to register, along with a few paintings.

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After a short while, we and a few other visitors were led into the gardens towards the museum by Andy Orencio, who, at first sight, seemed like one of the regular staff in the museum. He talked about gardening, giving us the history of a few of the tall, thick trees surrounding us, and the history of Pinto Art Museum. He introduced us to the chapel, and the garden dedicated to Leonor Rivera and Jose Rizal – though he emphasizes that the museum isn’t related to them. It just so happens, he said, that they house the letters Leonor Rivera wrote for Jose Rizal back in the 18th century.

Before going into the museum itself, he points out various sculptures in the gardens – Gaea, or Mother Earth, the sign of fertility, and Narcissus, gazing into a pond.

Narcissus.

The first gallery was what we may call the “essence” of the whole museum and its exhibits. Every painting he discussed in the later galleries reverts back to The Carnival, a large, colorful painting portraying a freak show, where various Philippine symbols are seen. One may look at it and see it as delightful at first, but then, as it’s meaning was further explained, it strikes you dumbfounded.

The Carnival portrays the state of Philippine society and culture nowadays. In one part of the painting, a man sits in a room with a drink in his hand, sipping it as a shelf filled with figurines of Filipinos dressed in the national costumes topple over. To the left is Darna, in her superhero stance, and to the right is Clark Kent, symbolizing the colonial mentality and our patriarchal society. It shows a spinning creature with four arms pointing at all directions. It shows illusions and distorted reality, as well as the levitation of a woman, pertaining once again to the degradation of culture and women in the Philippines – and yet, no one is responsible. We keep putting the blame on others and passing it on, and in the end, nothing’s done about the problem itself.

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The other paintings depict the daily lives of Filipinos, a woman in a mask victimized by the friars, Jesus on the cross and pastors and priests crowding around him, posing, the latter showing that nowadays, our religion is for selfish gain.

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In the next exhibit, most of the paintings show the slums and the homeless in the city. They depict survival more than suffering. There are the handicapped making  a living, two brothers sharing a table as a bed, and a familiar painting of a boy in an over-sized shirt, looking out of the painting in a defensive manner.

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The next gallery showed the sinking morals of the nation. There’s the painting Future Violence no.1, pertaining to the future of the youth. There’s a sculpture of a sinking church, paintings showing injustice and social gap, and depictions of the misery that haunts us. By the end of the gallery, there is a bench you could sit on, either facing Christ or the various paintings predicting the worst that is yet to come.

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“You get to pick your perspective,” Andy Orencio said. “I say ‘sinking’ because it can still be saved, but it matters on where you turn your attention to – the failure or the Savior.”

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There’s an erotica gallery, and yes, I have no idea why a fourteen-year-old was allowed in, but it is still art, after all, and Andy insists that the mindset nowadays from the word erotica is exploited – which was not the gallery’s concept.

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The paintings were intriguing as well as disturbing. I have to admit the latter. It shows another side of human nature and a high level of passion; the dangerous side of love that crumbles morals. It was easy to get fascinated but at the same time, wanting to take a step back.

There was also a “Forest” room. It’s dark and cool inside, with simulated sounds of birds and crickets. There are tall bamboos stretching out to the ceiling – which didn’t look like it existed. I felt small, looking up to see where they ended and only finding the darkness in which they seemed to disappear into.

At the end of the guided tour, Andy Orencio introduced himself as one of the artists, but also a gardener. The owner is a doctor and an artist at the same time. They offer painting classes in the summer for ten sessions, usually lasting three hours for all ages.

There were a lot of gardens to stroll by, various beds here and there in them, cozy tables and a pool. Though I didn’t get to eat there (there was an eat-all-you-can close by), some of us did, and apparently, the food had small servings and too much of a price on them.

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All in all, it was an enlightening experience, as well as an inspiring one. Their art forces you to open your eyes. You take one look at their paintings and you’re handed a brush to paint your way out in the world they made you see. It’s more than just artwork; more than just depiction. It’s a warning. A call. Their meanings linger, making you carry around a restless heart and leave with a changed perspective.