Alone, I traveled to Isla Reta. The usual direct ferry to the island was nowhere to be found. With the helpful guidance of crews in the wharf, I took a different route to get to my destination.
A woman in her forties with traces of wisdom written on the lines of her naturally tanned features beamed at me as she sat next to the window opening of the boat. There was a lightness about her and I immediately warmed up to her as we talked about life in general in Mindanao.
She was visiting the island to attend to family errands. We ended up sharing a habal-habal, the only transport on Samal Island, a motorcycle that can sit two passengers with an extended seat behind the driver without helmets. I have been avoiding this ride during my stay there, for I found it dangerous. I did it anyway and I was right. I held on, tightly, my heart leaped as the moped flew over bumps and raced down stony paths in narrow alleys. We said our goodbyes as they dropped me off at the gate of the beach resort.
After a reflective day at the beach, I walked through the same alley, lined with huts on either side, parallel to the shore. The boat leaves at 3PM, the last trip of the day. There were mostly men gathered together, or sleeping in their tiny porches on a Wednesday afternoon. The island is laid back and the charm of it is visible through its simplicity.
Aboard the boat, it was to my delight when I saw the same woman returning back to the city. I sat next to her and our chat continued. Three more local women joined in the discussion. Two of them are traveling merchants, selling pearl jewelry and the other lady is a businesswoman who seems to be well connected as her family is known locally.
I found myself in deep conversation with these women of varying backgrounds, age and religion. They speak the native language of the island. Beyond words came an understanding and connection. Our common bond lies in our shared philosophies; Our faith in the Divine, patience and sacrifice for the family, doing good to others, respecting the law of karma by choosing to do the right thing, in life and in business, and trusting in the goodness of people.
They openly shared their life stories. I nodded in agreement, teary-eyed. I controlled my tears from falling when I saw them bravely talking about their vulnerabilities and struggles, with grace and wisdom. I am humbled by how strong these women are. Something in this encounter made me realize what my cause is. My heart was struck and I was deeply moved.
Much as I wanted to share my own stories, I chose to listen. I dared ask questions like an inquisitive child. I felt a pang of guilt for not revealing too much of myself, an involuntary trait I'm used to when traveling alone. Somehow, I trust that if I were to meet all of them again, then it's meant for me to share my story. At that time, I became an observer and a lone traveler who have found new friends.
Was there ever a time, that an encounter struck a chord in you?
What were your memories of that time and how did it impact your life?