Tito William, a stubborn diabetic in his 50s, drove us from our home in
Manila in the early morn. Four hours in, he took a left turn on a dirt road. We
rolled down our windows, squealing like maniacs at the sound of familiar waves.
surfing mecca and before San Fernando fashioned Christmas Villages, there was
Bauang. On it gray shores lied a flurry of resorts, mostly packed during
weekends. Long Beach Resort Hotel was Tito William’s favorite. He was a
traveler whose favorites were anchored on the familiar feeling of home rather
on escaping from it. On his list were go-to resorts in Luzon: Trigon
Resort in Iba, Zambales; Crystal Springs in Calamba, Laguna; and this. He brought us to these resorts over and over again on vacations.
beachfront property, surrounded by grass and greenery. We had sizable
connecting rooms, each with its own veranda and TV. In the middle is an al
fresco restaurant and bar that overlooked the sea. My mother exclaimed, wide-eyed, “They have a band playing at night! By the sea!”
drank at the bar, I’d sit by the veranda – cigarette, beer, and journal on hand
– watching the sun turn a fiery red. Many stories were borne of those sunsets.
and one for me. After breakfast, we would stick our heads out the restaurant’s wooden
ledge, eyes closed, letting the day’s salty promises sink in.
the National Highway after checking out of our hotel at noon. “Saan tayo? (Where to?)” the
old driver asked.
still open, isn’t it?)” I inquired.
turned on the ignition. Within five minutes, we came up to the same dirt road. Moss has made the resort’s large cemented signage almost inconspicuous. Like many
of the resorts along the strip, moss here seems devoid of life, parched to a
bleak gray instead of green.
was abuzz with the chatter of families and expats. Today, it is whisper-quiet.
One can hear dry leaves crackling and waves that sound weary of waiting for
people to return. There were no cars, and by the absence of tire and shoe tracks,
it seems no one else has arrived in a long time.
but can I go around to take photos?)
woman and a small boy unboarded and went straight to the empty restaurant. The
lady excused herself and followed. Maybe they do have guests. Who wouldn’t want
an air conditioned beachfront room for P750 a night?
walls slowly being taken over by mold; roofs brittle and pale. Attached on a few
are manual-type air conditioners – albeit rusty – but in most, they are missing. Other edifices have windows whose wooden panels are dangling out or nowhere
to be found, or rust-covered roofs that are barely holding on. Plastics and a
broken umbrella are scattered on shrub-covered shores. Time, people, the world has forgotten that this place exists. Even it itself no longer knows the
meaning of existence.
magche-check in po kayo. (That was our boss. She wants to know if you’re checking
picture, ma’am? (What do you need the picture for, ma’am?)”
(grandfather). He died when she was only a year old. She saw him just once,
and she doesn’t even remember it.
piece of it even if he is no longer here. Show her a map of all our pitstops, because
we wouldn’t know where we are going if we don’t know where we’ve been.
beneath our feet. “Madalas kami rito dati, Lia. (We used to frequent this place.) Angkong loved it here,” I related.
sea. We are here, Tito. Do you see us? I hope you know this place matters to me, even if I didn’t know it then. A piece of me
is anchored to it, even if it is no longer what it was. And now it’s
part of Lia, too.
playing with dead leaves and a stick.
tread a first time and come back to. To get our bearings realigned. To repair the wounds. To
refuel the courage, so we can walk the longer road ahead. To be able to move
return. But sometimes, we will find they no longer exist.
whole. Because one remnant, one memory, is always enough. It’s enough
ammunition to confront the grief of losing the place it is anchored to. Enough
fuel to drive you for the remainder of the road. Enough wealth to last a
lifetime of impermanence.