My skin was burning. They had warned me about staying up top for so long. But who cares? It wasn’t everyday one got to sit atop a yacht like this. My big straw hat would help a little anyway. The wind was taking us from a small island called Apo Island. We had spent a beautiful day there snorkeling in the turquoise waters off the beach and then discovering old paths to a tiny lighthouse. Hundreds of little steps lead us to the top. The view was awe inspiring. I don’t have the stamina to climb mountains, to journey to some Himalayan trek, but this, this I could do. Standing up there was a feeling like no other. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it” commented a European traveler. “Stunning” I agreed as we made our way back down to the beach.
Reveling in the present mood atop this yacht, I close my eyes, the wind feels so refreshing, my soul feels light as if it is floating within me, light water sprinkles my face. Looking down, the water almost transparent, reveals colorful corals teaming with life. My mother looks back and smiles at me, we have a silent understanding of just how wonderful this day really is.
“This is a parao” our boatman tells us, the name they give these sail-like boats or traditional sailing boats here in the Philippines. It gains much speed as we hit the wind in the center. “Can I stand?” my sister asks. She grabs hold of the white wooden planks in the center that make up the mast of the Parao. “It’s going to get rough, do you think you can handle it?” the boatman smiles cheekily. We are journeying closer to our next destination. I see the tall coconut trees swaying gently in the breeze, almost welcoming us to the resort.
“Have you been to Siquijor before?” asks the friendly looking lady whom I had noticed had been sunbathing on the beach in Apo before we had left. “You could say that…”I reply. I lean down slightly to my left and let my hand drift in the water. It feels so invigorating. “We’re almost there, you can dive in if you’d like” the boatman says while letting down the sails. Perfect, I dive right on in. Reaching the beach, I decide to linger in the water. The small grains of sand sift through my hands. I feel like a child again, content to sit there, basking in the warmth of the sun as I play with the sand. “Welcome back home chummy” my brother-in-law greets us with that big smile of his. The rest of the groups from the paraos have now made their ascent to the beach. “Is that lechon manok?” my sister asks. We can see the barbeques set up along the beach, unobtrusive in their bamboo and leaf coverings. “Mmm it smells delicious” I reply. We are given banana leafs as plates, and rice wrapped up called ‘puto’. Along with the Lechon Manok (barbeque chicken) lies an assortment of fruits and local delicacies. “How long have you been gone?” asks the same boatman from before. I do not recognize him, he must be new here. We sit down on the beach. “Almost 4 years” I reluctantly admit. “Too long” he replies. I am silent. It feels unreal. Why has it been so long? What keeps me from being here?
The alarm wakes me up. I open my eyes and I am most certainly not there in Siquijor. 07:30 reads the clock. Time to get ready for work. As I get up and walk to the shower, I don’t notice the sand falling off of my feet.