From One Island to Another

Consider me a true-blue island girl.

I was born in the Philippine island of Luzon, in a barrio surrounded by acres and acres of rich farmland. A few months later, my parents and I moved to the city of Baguio, a lush, pine-tree studded mountain paradise that I would be my perennial home for the next 20 odd years of my life. I still think of Baguio with much fondness, and occasionally, tears in my eyes.

1916556_204696754616_8305196_n.jpgGrowing up in Baguio was getting the best of both worlds – around you, a consistent cool temperature (a good eight degrees Celsius lower than anywhere else in the Philippines at any given point), but just an hour’s drive away, the seaside province of La Union, home to the Surfing Capital of Northern Philippines. La Union was my second home, a welcome escape from Baguio’s rainy spells. The most unforgettable nights of my late teens were spent camping on the beach with my best friends – no tents, only the back of a truck, packed to the brim with firewood, rice pots and marinaded meat. La Union during its usual tropical sunny days was a sight to behold, more so during typhoons. A hapless February day was spent escaping the famed Baguio Flower Festival crowd and traffic (the case being millions of tourists flocking to the city) only to find out that La Union was to be struck by a storm that very day. You can imagine our initial unease, to be followed by excitement upon realising that the storm only made the waves stronger … and crazier. Needless to say, that was a good day.

But not all days were good days, growing up in a tropical island. The Philippines is an archipelago situated close to the equator, and lies right smack in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

I was only ten months old when the great Luzon Earthquake of 1990 hit our city. Baguio, standing 5,000 feet above sea level, all but nearly crumbled to the ground. All access routes to the city, including the main vehicular route was shut down on account of landslides. For the first few days after the earthquake struck, the city was isolated from the rest of the country. I’ve been told that ten months is a bit too early to begin storing up childhood memories, but I swear that to this day, my stomach drops and I freeze in fear every time I experience an earthquake.

And so life “happened” – adolescence (eventually) fell behind, degrees were sought, post-graduate courses unashamedly left unfinished. Plans were made, careers pursued, relationships forged – and trust me, this all seems so hackneyed and mundane in writing, until you realise that this was your whole life … then it’s just sad! But not really. Well, hopefully not, if you believe that happiness is a choice, and decide to make that choice every day regardless of the outcome. Which is precisely how I ended up where I was I was a year ago: waiting outside the airport, packed and ready to leave the only place I wanted to call home.

I never thought the day would come when I would move away. I never wanted it to. I was completely happy in my best-of-all-worlds home, where the mountains met the sea. How I wanted nothing more than to stay and be at peace with doing so. But I knew I couldn’t do the former and have the latter. I had three connecting flights and I cried on all of them. Here’s a funny but sad side story: at first, I waited to nip to the toilets to do my “business” (crying), but after the first flight, I just flagrantly wept in my own seat. People understood. (Or at least I like to tell myself.)

P1050351.JPGFast forward to a year later, alack and alas, where do I even begin? If anything, it’s been a whirlwind. To be honest, I’ve found myself so caught up sometimes, I don’t even know if I’m moving forward, or backwards. But one thing remains – my loved ones will be glad to know that I have seen nothing but His goodness in the land of the living, Ps. 27:13. A promise I have held on to for dear life, time and time again. Amusingly, I still live in an island! Except now it’s one off the coast of Northern Scotland. It is home to the world’s most amazing wildlife – think puffins, seals, killer whales, at the very least! The Northern Lights are also familiar sight. In the summer, miles and miles of cliff side are just waiting to be explored. During winter, well, let’s not talk about winter. But kidding aside, have you ever seen a snow-capped island? I have, and it’s one of the most breathtaking views I have ever laid eyes on.

The island life is idyllic; it’s a legit (pardon my millennial jargon) small town where everyone knows everyone. I must admit though, it took me quite some time to adjust to the absence of a scurrying crowd everywhere I went. I struggled with this so much but I have come to terms with the fact that this new island home is the much-needed downhill following the endless strain of the city life. I am proud to say that I’ve now seen sheep during all its life stages – from scampering lambs to (sadly) wooly remains. I’ve also managed to snag a job that I enjoy doing, and met a good bunch of folk that I am favoured to call friends. Building a family is no picnic, but it is also the best thing that ever happened to me, and for me. I don’t say it enough but I am grateful that I said “yes” the most patient man I have ever met. Starting a life together is difficult enough in itself, add to that the adjustment of having to be away from my life support group, moving to a completely new environment, attempting to jump start a new career, and being a new wife. 

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At the end of the day, I am a true-blue island girl, and I’m glad. If my life or life’s work were to be turned into a film (and yes, I do daydream about this) it would be something like
Punch Drunk Love meets Lord of the Rings. An unlikely combination but now that I think of it … you know that part in the movies that are always left open ended? Where couple walks off into the sunset, or where family is reunited at long last? I feel like I’m filling out that part of the story. And I must say, it is as challenging as it is exciting. Maybe Surely this season will give birth to new stories. How could it not? So much of me has already come alive.

10957723_10153115637979617_7085067900401456928_n.jpgI still can’t help that every now and again, especially on long winter nights such as these, my mind drifts and takes six thousand-mile trip, away to a sunny island in the Pacific Ocean. Because let’s face it, even castles and cliffs couldn’t trump home. They come very close, but they don’t. I said to myself before I left that nothing would change, I would still be me – just married and living away. But who was I kidding? I feel like a different person. Maybe I am.

But then again, such is wife.  

 

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2015 in Thankfulness

Pursuant of my most recent post, Grateful, here’s a recap of 2015, with a thankful twist.

From being engaged last December 2014, to getting married in April 2015, to moving to another continent in December – the past year has posed the biggest changes in my life. I’m keeping these milestones as a reminder of how grace and faithfulness abound, not only in “spectacular nows,” but also in the moments in between.

I am thankful:

JanuaryFor the chance to forever begin.

FebruaryFor perfect love that casts out fear.

March For finally finding home, always and only in your arms.

AprilFor our “finally”: a story worth a thousand telling.

MayFor strength that transcends constraints brought about by geography.

JuneFor a pleasant surprise. ❤

JulyFor love that comes to me in fire and blood.

AugustFor the love of a different kind of family.

SeptemberFor the gift of life!

OctoberFor the fulfilling of a promise.

NovemberFor the possession of something that makes it so hard to say goodbye.

DecemberFor new eyes by which to see life, and a new heart for which to live it well.

For finding love and family, wherever I go.

 


CHEERS TO 2016!


My Dearest Readers and Followers,

Yet again, you never fail to surprise me, with you surges of support through comments or contact form replies. I hope that all of you have had a blast celebrating the coming of the New Year, in your own special way.

My husband and I celebrated New Year’s eve at a local cafe in town, together with my in-laws and a few friends. We’ve not established any family traditions for the holidays (this being our first Christmas/New Year as a married couple), but I would love to know about you and your family’s particular holiday traditions – anything from the (relatively) “customary” to anything quirky.

Any ideas for holiday traditions would be very much welcome, either in the comments box or contact form! Thank you and I hope you’ve had a great 2016 so far!

Cheers,

 



Grateful

I learned (and am still learning) that the amount of love the human heart can hold is essentially inexhaustible. This means that the love I have for one person doesn’t necessarily deplete the love I have for others.

There lies the problem: that I would have to leave so much behind.

Given my convictions, it’s a no-brainer, of course. The commandment is to cleave.

But here’s another problem: when it comes to dealing with feelings, logic provides very little consolation. Such is the case with grief, loss, heartbreak, and any intersections between the three.

Tonight my siblings and I visited the Christmas Village. They enjoyed nibbling on cheap candy canes, reveling in fake snow and watching Disney characters dancing to Top 40 dance hits.

When Santa asked my younger brother what he wanted for Christmas, he looked my way and replied, “I wish that my Ate (older sister) didn’t have to go.”

I felt sick to my stomach.

No, this isn’t just an anecdote to prove a point, my siblings are really sweet to me. The significant age gap allows for that. My sister and I have a 14-year gap, while my brother and I have a whopping 18-year age gap. Most of the time, they are mistaken to be my children. I don’t mind. They’re great kids. The honor is all mine.

In a split second, I counted all the birthdays, Christmas/New Year’s eves, graduations, school performances, weekend movie marathons, take-out pizza dinners, how-was-your-day reports and pre-bedtime cuddles I would miss.

Too much.

Then there were also these guys.

I am one of the first in my group of friends to get married. I know chances are that they secretly hate me for it, but these are the people who have seen me at my best and my worst, yet have embraced me without any hint of condemnation, only grace and love.

More on friendship, perhaps, in another post.

How I managed to muster up enough extrovert-power to have this many friends is beyond me. But I am grateful for them.

Which brings me to today, the day that calls for open acknowledgement of things that one can be thankful for, in my case, the day an adult realizes that the answer to one of life’s challenges can be found by returning to the words of a certain fictional anthropomorphic teddy bear.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
– A.A. Milne

I am grateful for the yearnings I have to be with my family, because it means that we have an indispensable place in each other’s hearts.

Promise: Love bears all things and endures all things.

I am grateful for nostalgia for the “good old days,” because it means that I have come across true friendship – something that is so difficult, if not impossible, to come across in this age of relationship-consumerism.

Promise: A friend loves at all times.

I am grateful not only for my roots in this soil, but more so for the agonizing process of uprooting, because it means that I have grown deeper.

Promise: To everything there is a season.

A friend once told me that the cure for depression is gratitude. To be honest, I feel both. To be very honest, on most days, I feel depression more than gratitude.

However, I won’t let the former get in the way of the latter.

Easier said than done? Absolutely. But then again, such is the duty of wife.


P.S.

Dear Followers,

It’s easy to be thankful for things that bring joy or fulfillment. This year’s challenge was for me to find breaking points and see how they call attention to areas in my life that I can be grateful for.

I’d love to know if you have anything special that you are thankful for this year.

Cheers,
C

P.P.S.

Since we are, after all, taking a step back and taking time to be grateful, I would like to thank each and every one of you for following Such Is Wife. Two posts up and already I’ve received a huge surge of followers. What’s up with that? No idea. But, thanks. 😉 I am now under greater pressure to regulate what I think, and consequently write about – it’s great practice for my marriage!

Palawan in Stories: Arrival + Crocodile Farm

We arrived far too early at the airport – 2:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. flight.

That being the case, we did our best to cozy up to the hard, cold airport seats. I’d like to think that I did a pretty good job of it. Sprawled out on the benches with my duffel bag as my pillow, I got at least five hours of sleep while waiting to check-in and board. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my fiancé (now husband), Phil, and our friend, Richard.

I would wake up sometimes to check that Phil was still okay, to find him staring at me – weary eyes, strained back, every inch of him wanting to cuddle up next to me – if only.

Later on, he admitted that he was then jealous of my uncanny ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime.

“A blessing,” he called it.

“And a curse,” I added.

“Agreed.”

Our Air Asia flight went as scheduled. Uneventful, mostly. It took as good two hours – from boarding the plane in NAIA Terminal 4 to stepping out of the plane, into the promised land of Palawan.

We were ecstatic, of course. (Read: Photo below) We had been consumed with wedding plans, both legal and logistic, that we were barely able to squeeze any “adventure time” in between meetings, errands, seminars, and other matrimonial entanglements.

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Baguio to Manila was a six-hour bus ride and the airport downtime was seven hours. Needless to say, we were exhausted beyond all exhaustion.

None of that mattered anymore, though. Simply because this:

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This was the view from our Puerto Princesa accommodation, Sommer Beach House, a quaint home set around 50 meters from the beach. A good friend of hooked us up with Miss Joy, the owner of Sommer Beach House, and she happily arranged the whole of our Palawan trip.

I would usually be up and about, researching, planning the nitty-gritty details of the trip. However, let’s just say that I was indisposed, doing my very best to keep it together, despite the fact that, you know, I was getting married in two weeks.

No big deal.

The six-day schedule that we opted for was nothing short of jam-packed. From the moment we stepped foot in Puerto Princesa, it felt as if we were constantly running around, going on tour after tour, visiting site upon site.

I can’t be one to complain, though. I had a whole week to spend in the world’s most beautiful island and I was in the company of the love of my life, whom I would be married to in two weeks’ time. Let’s just say that things could have been worse.

Our first stop, the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (also known as the Crocodile Farm), was a good 20 minutes away from the Puerto Princesa central business district. Prior to our flight, Miss Joy had arranged for our tours and sent us a copy of the itinerary for approval.

The tour van picked us up from Sommer Beach House after lunch, and drove us straight to the site.

A charming signage and string of stalls welcomes the weary tourist upon arrival. While waiting for our tour to begin (make sure you come on time for the prescribed schedules), we were able to take photos and take a breather from the non-stop commuting.

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The tour begins with a background of the farm, its highlights and other attractions.

Copyright Notice: Please do not use any of the photos below, or in this blog, without permission. You may contact me through the form at the end of this blog post.

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Though the facility’s main attraction were the crocs, we also enjoyed the mini-zoo situated at the back of the farm.

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Then there was the canvas that allowed for photo ops with a young crocodile, which of course, Richard loved.

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Phil, on the other hand, preferred the stone croc for his photo op.

Let’s just say he’s more of a monkey-man.

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While the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center is a great side trip, travelers who are accustomed to more physically demanding nature trips may find the facility commonplace, with its fixed tour schedules and sections.

Overall, the Crocodile Farm can be considered fairly well-maintained, as compared to similar facilities in the country. The site is a great place for the all members of the family. Kids, in particular, will enjoy the up-close encounter with the crocs and other animals.

But don’t take my word for it! I did a bit of digging and came across the following posts about the Crocodile Farm in Palawan:

Trip Advisor
Lakas ng Trip
Adrenaline Romance
Benson Kua’s Blog
Yannah the Wanderer
The Palawenya Explorer
Free-Spirited Vixen

The highlight of my Crocodile Farm trip was the chance to just stop and behold the crocs, that is, without the slightest fear of being attacked at any point in time.

Here are some of my favorite shots.

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Those who know me well can attest to the fact that I am a big nature docu lover. I don’t own a television set, let alone have a cable subscription, but I do enjoy documentaries on marine biology. I watch for new documentaries like sports bar patrons watch for Monday night football.

I can’t be entirely sure if this is the reason why, but prior to finally deciding on a degree in the humanities, I was in pre-med (Biology) for two years. I didn’t care much for Botany, but I fell in love with Zoology. I was sold on learning about creatures and their secret lives – what they ate, where they lived, how they behaved. For me, it was simply fascinating to know how they were wired – how they were so much like us.

Or is it how we are so much like them?

“I’m a monster,” said the shadow of the Marquess suddenly. “Everyone says so.”

The Minotaur glanced up at her. “So are we all, dear,” said the Minotaur kindly. “The thing to decide is what kind of monster to be. The kind who builds towns or the kind who breaks them.”

– Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

What kind of monster are you? I’d love to be able to claim to be the former, but then that would be a flat-out lie. I frequently vacillate between the two, my husband often taking the brunt of the transition. Thankfully, his forbearance is vast and gracious enough to embrace my monstrosities, and love me no less.

Every day is a mindful effort to do the same for him. Such is the joy of wife. 

 


If you are looking to travel in Puerto Princesa, Palawan anytime soon and need help scoring trustworthy contacts (tour, accommodations, etc.) in the area, feel free to drop a comment/question on this post, or through the contact form below. I was clueless as regards our trip to begin with, but fortunately found people to help me along the way. Think of this as paying it forward.

What’s Past is Prologue

We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again,
And by that destiny to perform an act
Whereof what’s past is prologue, what to come
In yours and my discharge.
– Antonio in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”

The phrase “what’s past is prologue,” uttered by Antonio from Act 2, Scene I perfectly sums up the essence of this blog.

To understand this better, here’s a little bit of backstory for you: Antonio, in his speech, was trying to convince Sebastian to kill his sleeping father so that Sebastian could then take his place as king.

“What’s past is prologue” meant that everything that happened before, served to lead up to that very moment for them, and, if they came through with that deed (evil as it may be) the possibilities that awaited them, would then be endless.

While I am not the biggest Shakespeare reader, and I must admit that most of his works that I read, I did so for school or for work, I beg to disagree with claims that he is overrated as a writer.

Sure, the guy has had his ups and downs, but try having every single high school Literature class read your work to ultimately form an opinion – and see if you can stand against them without blame.

Besides, Shakespeare has his moments. I think the line “what’s past is prologue” is definitely one of those.

Here’s why.

“Someday, someone will come along and make sense of the past,” said a good friend, back when I was in my “Dark Ages.” Maybe one of these days, I’ll muster up enough courage, and not to mention, star power, to blog about this plaintive period, so to speak.

But back to my anecdote, turns out my friend was right.

Someone did come along, and not only did he make sense of the past, he gave me something to look forward to.

Which leads me to this blog, Such is Wife, a.k.a., Cha’s (that’s me, by the way) attempt, albeit a rather poor one, at making sense of life. Also my way of talking about things I wish people would have talked to me about. Forget vengeance, getting back at people is overrated anyway. Let’s face it: relief is the new retribution. [Tweet this]

Most, but not all, of the posts will be stories of my mini-adventures, reviews of things that I am deeply interested in, poetry, short stories and music.

So there you have it: thespian Shakespeare quote (exposition)  + context analysis-ish (rising action) + not-so-profound correlation (climax) + love life in a nutshell (falling action) + blog synopsis (dénouement) = the drama that is my first post.

Not the most solid Freytag’s pyramid, I am well aware.

But then again, such is wife.

Have a love/hate relationship with Shakespeare, and blogging, perhaps? Let’s bond over it on Twitter and Instagram.



Charity Johnson
is a freelance writer and singer-songwriter.
“Such is Wife” is the telling (and retelling) of her geographical and ideological whereabouts.