THE WINGED LIFE: “On Wanderlust”

Back then, I could only dream about going out, exploring the world, and getting into travel writing as my life merely spun around the usual classroom and university work that went on for about five years. A so-called “quiet life” as a teacher came more as a matter of choice so I would have more time to care for my little child at that time. I had just then left a job as a lawyer in a government office that required lots of travel time. The choice came one day when I was caught in a storm somewhere in a resort in Dipolog where I was attending a week-long conference, just when I needed to rush home to tend to my toddler who had a sudden bout of fever, and it took me all of two days to get to Davao. I took the first bus out, but later on in my rush, as I embarked on the pier, I almost jumped into a ferry boat that was already slowly moving outwards to the sea. I would have made it, yet it would also have turned disastrous, were it not for a kindly stranger who stopped me in time by gently holding both my shoulders from behind.

On my way home, as I trooped from the ferry boat to a tricycle then to another bus, I realized just how risky that leap would have been. All of a sudden it came to me that the job, pay and all-expense traveling were not worth it wherever there is a little child waiting for one’s return home. Being away from home and going out on travel for long was not an easy option then. But often I would be filled with “unconquerable longing” every time I would see glimpses of sunsets here and there, photographs of places that evoke a sense of being at the edge of the world, or at the beach whenever I would wade through the deep waters swimming up to where I could see that point in the horizon where the sun and the sky would meet and all that could be heard is the silent symphony of one's own breathing and the echo of the waves.

In time I got settled in to a life of routine in the academe. Most Saturdays I would spend rummaging book sales at the mall and, with coffee from Dunkin Donuts, hie off for the rest of the day soaking on wonderful prose from my latest finds. My training had always been as a journalist, ever the “facts digger” (borrowing from Tom Wolfe in “New Journalism”), yet often I would find myself on those long Saturday afternoons lusting for the kind of lyrical, magical writings from such as those of Pico Iyer, V.S. Naipaul (and those written by his brother Shiva in “Unfinished Journey”), Resil Mojares in “House of Memory,” Joan Didion and the other masters of creative nonfiction, and all those excellent pieces in Granta.

But as things would happen, life's twists and turns would lead me to unexpected paths of living and thriving on day by day wanderlust, and I am just so grateful now for the many graces and scenes of beauty that keep turning up for me to see. From my hotel window in Cotabato, I saw a blue kite flying bravely in the afternoon rainstorm one day, and on another day, I watched entranced at Neruda's “fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops” coming into life. On a Saturday, we passed by the Barras bird sanctuary in Sultan Kudarat after doing some research for a land conflict study, where on a riverbank, I stood amazed to see such a multitude of egrets and herons coming home in the late afternoon while the nocturnal birds were getting ready to leave for hunting, filling me with a sense of wonder how so touching that the birds of the West would find such a refuge in a landscape scarred by a memory of discord.

Then on a Sunday, just before twilight, I hurried up to my room to catch the sun setting in the horizon over Cotabato amidst a glorious feast of colors — from golden to crimson — that soon settled into a blue night, whereupon a solitary star began to twinkle above a mountain whose peak would glisten with green moss in the morning sun. From a nearby mosque, I could hear the magrib call to prayer at six in the evening while a candle was being lighted before an image of the “Our Lady of Lourdes” seen from the other side of the hotel. At times, I would prop myself up on the pillows, fling open the curtains and bask at the panorama of mountain and sky and rain and sunset, moving me to fall upon my knees in gratitude for all these blessings of wonder.

Sometime ago, I tried to write an essay that I never got to finish because it faltered for lack of voice and courage or so it was how I felt then. It was something about “hitting the right notes” or being able to play music the way the heart would want it. "In writing, your whole instrument is yourself," a mentor of mine recently said, and it takes a lot of self- and soul-work along the way to be able to let the words sing. Musing on all of these, I have a sense that perhaps, this time, I am finally getting the notes right in harmony, driven so by an eternal wanderlust that stirs a yearning to craft song, for which I could only have the Radiant One to thank for. "In God's own time, everything falls into its own perfect rhythm…" (Charina Sanz Zarate/MindaNews)