Friday, May 25


     In Iligan, an empty bus terminal at 9 in the evening. There is rain, but indecisive. It is pitch dark. I consider knocking on random doors nearby, to mutter a half-hearted Visayan phrase asking for directions to MSU (or maybe a spare room for the night). I consider sighing and walking in the rain. I consider sitting on the wet pavement and waiting (this fortnight's grandest lesson). My bags are heavy with clothes and books, all useless to ward off the croaking of frogs, or to rally the night, its sluggish completeness.

     In Allen, a playlist featuring songs from The Carpenters commences in the bus. Top of the World. We've Only Just Begun. A Song For You. Rainy Days and Mondays. The view, lit amber by 8 o'clock sun, alternates between mountains and the sea. The road sometimes zigzags. The trip nearing the one-day mark, some body parts are grumbling for respite; my stomach, my butt, my back. Uprooted from Luzon, I sit back and take a lungful of air. I had needed this distance. Wide awake, I think of opening a book to read.

     In Ormoc, we think of these plains being covered in water and mud once. We joke about the word "landslide" being taboo here. We sit by the seawall, buy too many packets of peanuts from kids idling away the last rays of sunlight. In the distance, possibly Cebu, possibly some uninhabited island. The port is gray under the clouds. From the plaza, from speakers as big as a credenza, a tune from a life that now seems so distant. "I heard / that you're settled down, and you've / found a man and you're married now --"

     In Bacolod, I sit on the foot of the bed and watch him sleep. I consider planting a kiss on his right cheek as my way of saying good morning and welcome to this day, to this beginning. Welcome, and I hope you will enjoy your stay. In Silay, we walk the empty streets an hour after finding out we had missed our flight. He calms me down, and we sip coffee and watch the late night news. Protests against an upcoming concert, an oil price rollback, a truckload of bananas abandoned on the side of a road.

     Somewhere in the Sibuyan Sea, he jokes about this trajectory - of so many joys, so many little joys - having rom-com potential. At the end of the ship's duty, when Manila's leaden panorama - derricks, clouds - slowly sweeps into view, we hold hands and watch the scenery unfold from one of the ship's rectangular windows. Under our feet, the floor continues to grumble, almost imperceptibly. There is talk of books to read, movies to see, places to go, eventually; can I wish instead for a moment's infinity?

     In Dumaguete, "We asked so little of the world. We understood / the offense of advice, of holding forth. We checked ourselves: / we were correct, we were silent. / But we could not cure ourselves of desire, not completely. / Our hands, folded, reeked of it." (Louise Glück, Arboretum)