In the final days leading to 2015, we found ourselves in what seems like the edge of two worlds in Alaminos: one, a busy and industrialized city, and the other, an undiscovered territory at the back of rice paddies and silent, forested alleys. Framed in black and white at lobby of a hotel in the city, Bued’s Salt Flats beckoned, and even in monochrome the townsfolk and the plains they tended to stood out from the space.
The tricycle driver we hailed at the town proper didn’t know where it was, neither did he know how much to charge us. It took a lot of querying strangers here and there, many of whom were just as clueless as we were.
We stood on a long strip of piss-smelling, barren soil, flanked by murky ponds on both sides. A husband, his wife, and their dog stared us at silly as if questioning our judgment for going there. (Maybe they were right to quiz. I am often not the most rational traveler in the world.)
They finally pointed us to the other side of the land, where mangroves fronted larger salt flats, neatly lined like chocolate bars.
Here, the mangroves floated in the sea – a much distant part of Hundred Islands, they said – in hordes. The sea mirrored the sky’s peaches and violets. Wooden walkways stood on water, perused by men who bait and gather shrimps by sunset.
It is perhaps the most tranquil mangrove forest I’ve seen – without turbulence of sea or of men – and I am grateful we took that crowdless route.
In a talk with students from Nueva Vizcaya weeks ago, I told them to “always leave space for arbitratriness when traveling”. Our brief rendezvous with Bued’s lesser known attraction is a perfect example why.
Schedules and itineraries often take lives of their own. Taking the road of random discovery offers us the opportunity to find something that’s unmapped; something we can look back future and say, “I’ve been there where many men didn’t go, and it was wonderful.”
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
– Khalil Gibran