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.
Growing 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.)
Fast 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.
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.
I 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.