To the Philippines and Beyond: Part 3

January has proven to be a busy month at work. I also made a significant career decision and enrolled in the Trinity DipTESOL course that I plan to write about in the future. However, taking some time off from writing blogs encouraged me to blog more about my Philippines journey. 

We arrive in Cebu Island just before Christmas to spend a week there. At first, it seems like another bustling Asian city, but I soon discover its idiosyncrasies. The first thing you should know about Cebu is that the famous explorer, Magellan, brought Christianity to this island in 1521. I don’t know how religious most Cebuanos are, but there are many historical churches in Cebu.

Tourist guides or travel blogs on Cebu fail to mention the historical importance of this island, so I know little about it. I visit Fort San Pedro alone, the oldest and smallest fort in the Philippines, to learn more about the history of Cebu there. Two friendly women approach me to ask if I would like them to take my photos. In return, they ask me to take their pictures from different angles. Though I don’t have photography skills up my sleeve, I can’t deny how useful such little trades can be! 

Restoring My Faith in Cebu

Magellan’s Cross is within walking distance, so I also go there on the same day. However, I am disappointed to learn that the original wooden cross was encased in another cross in the 19th century and might have been destroyed. Because it is Christmas, the Cross and its neighbor, Santo Niño Basilica, have countless visitors who light candles and pray. 

I am having a rough day because of some personal issues. While enjoying one’s trip on a joyless day is hard, a festive atmosphere outside invites me. That’s one of the things I love about this country. No matter where you come from or your background, you are welcome everywhere. I walk among praying people and visit the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country: Santo Niño Basilica. There I find a meaningful prayer that resonates with me throughout the day: “In hours of loneliness, weariness, and trials, Santo Niño help us.” 

Isn’t traveling one of the best things that can happen to humans? One indiscernible prayer I bump into at a basilica miles away from home makes my day. It reminds me of how lonely and connected we are at the same time. Emboldened by this little help from an invisible friend, I set out to discover the oldest national road in the Philippines and walk on Colon Street. 

No Moment Like Now

It is full of colors, smells, and people. I pause for a few minutes to stand and take in what I see. The waves of people walking toward me make me dizzy, but I don’t complain, nor do I take photos yet. Instead, I let the unknown envelope me and try to be mindful of my feelings. It is a rewarding and powerful experience: taking part in a tiny slice of time and witnessing it. 

I buy some postcards after that to send to my friends. After writing them, I hop on a jeepney and go to a nearby post office. I also write a postcard to myself, which finds me in good health and spirits four weeks later. I like doing something for myself during my trips because traveling is one of those things that are about me.

Yap-San Diego Ancestral House

I enjoy snapping a few mirror selfies. Mirrors are curious objects; they show us the world the way they want. I wonder what this house’s residents felt when looking at the mirror in which I see my reflection. Did they also say, “I am having a bad hair day” or “I look good today” while smartening themselves up? It is eerie but beautiful to imagine that the people whose reflections adorned these mirrors once are long gone. 

Sirao Garden

“I love not Man the less, but Nature more,” says Lord Byron in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. So do I. I look for a way out of Cebu City to discover its nature. The closest place I can taste it is Sirao Garden. It takes about an hour to reach this garden from Cebu City, and you need to negotiate with taxi drivers because they don’t turn on their taximeter if they are traveling out of the city. 

We reach the main garden and enjoy the scenery, rather than taking Instagram-able photos. I can’t be bothered with it any longer: I set out to enjoy every minute of my adventure and be mindful of it. My husband takes numerous unphotogenic photos of me while I take pictures of the breathtaking scenery and lovely flowers. The garden is well kept and worth the small entry fee.

Goats are bleating in the distance, which hints at a farm nearby. I realize how much I have missed nature. My wish will come true soon because we are heading to Bohol and Panglao the following day to quench our nature thirst and celebrate New Year. 

Do you consider yourself a mindful traveler? If so, how?

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