Jack managed the motorcycle with the two of us in tow in what I think was the roughest terrain we’ve been in since moving to SE Asia in 2010. It was during our jaunt to the Nacpan Beach in El Nido, Palawan Island in the Philippines.
I enjoy relaxing on the beach by the beach, just being there observing and people watching. All those passive activities give me a sense of calmness. I prefer to be away from large crowds. I don’t usually feel the need to be in the water at every beach. We’re not always longing for a beach, I prefer small towns and mountains. Guanshan, Taiwan for example, a place we called our home for two years! But a jaunt to the beach brings lots of smiles to my girl. Nacpan was surprisingly a not-so easy destination in El Nido. But once we were there, it was definitely worth the ride.
Being in the Philippines reminded me of my childhood in Burma. Lots of visual reminders also of the years we spent traveling through out SE Asia.
We rented a motorbike for the day. We took off rather early, 9:30am but we missed a turn and had to backtrack to it. Looking at the road to wich we need to turn, we wondered, is this really it? We turned, kept going on a clay road that was a little muddy. We stopped to ask other locals on their bike if we were heading the right way, how much further, will there be gasoline to buy along the way? Fair enough, all our questions were answered. And they did tell us it’s a “little” muddy!
So off we went, Jack kept driving, skillfully, towards our destination. We found gasoline too. The roadside gasoline ‘shops’ brought me back memories from days when we visited Burma as far back as 1999. Men and women syphon gasoline with their mouth to suck out gasoline from their big tanks to the car’s gas tank. It is a practice still being used today, I imagined, in many rural areas of Burma like it is in the Philippines. Oh the health risks associated with these rituals. The memories.
So we found a couple of homes selling gasoline/petrol in old pepsi/sprite glass bottles. Jack gets nervous about not having enough petrol as usual so we got more gasoline for the bike.
As we keep going and the pot holes on the road are bigger, deeper and muddier. Hmmmm….. No wonder those other bikes looked like they been in a mud wrestling match and the guy at the rental shop never breathed a word about the road, though he knew we were heading there. Hmmmmm…..
So at some point it got super scary muddy and slippery with all three of us on the bike, that I decided to get off the bike and walked. Emma decided to do the same. Along the way we saw local children playing in the mud, others riding through the mud, some have a home right next to the street with only a tarp separating us on the muddy road and their “home”.
At one point, my shoes and my feet sank slowly into the warm orange wet earth up to my ankles. There was no way to fight this. It was best to surrender to the experience, that there’s something I need to learn from it, graciously, although, on some level, with a bit of shock. I had a nagging gut feeling that the weight of the three of us will eventually, negatively impact something at the bottom of the rental bike. I was also very concerned that we’d have an accident with all of us on the bike in the middle of no where. I was afraid Jack will get hurt struggling through the mud while we walked. The entrance fee to the beach was waved because they thought we paid enough by braving through the muddy road to get there.
We held ourselves together, we made our way to the beach with only the bottom cover of the motorbike that popped out, which could possibly be pushed back in.? No problem. We made it. Again. In one piece. All of us.
Once we’re there there was a charge for everything. The beach chairs were 200 pesos ($4), per chair. The huts w table and benches were 300 ($6). Charge for using the changing room and toilet.
So I taught my two lovely family members to change into their suits behind a cover or a sarong. It’s a trick all Burmese are familiar with. But do you have the guts to do it? That’s the question. And of course, it’s always better to just come prepared so no changing is necessary. Just take off a layer! 😊
Thebeach was quite nice. Waves were a bit rough but it was along the white sand, clear blue and turquoise water. We were there fairly early so it wasn’t as crowded as it got later. We met another family, young Filipino family from California. I found our conversation pleasant and just simply and ordinary joy to get to know them.
We rode back together to town on our motorbike. At one point during the ride the bottom cover that I mentioned earlier, got ripped off completely. And sure enough, a local couple stopped us to help. The man immediately got a tool out of his motorbike, started removing the plastic cover and found a giant heavy duty plastic bag for it. The bag just happened to be right there on the road!
He told us shouldn’t be any problems. But again, in the back of my mind, there’s probably a price tag. Just have to find out how much when we got back to town. Jack compensated the bike rental people by paying 500 additional pesos ($10) for it. We felt bad about it, but truly, better bike than us! And they were happy. Jack is an experienced motorbike rider. He’s driven motorbike in various SE Asian countries. So I trust his judgement when it comes to these things.
I don’t regret going to Nacpan beach. We had a chance to explore a new place, met and made new friends that I’m still keeping in touch with, Emma tried out the surf board, swam in the ocean, and most importantly a chance for us to experience just a few hours and a glimpse of what it is like to be living and driving in those condions.
A few days later, back in town, there was torrential rain, non-stop throughout the night. My mind immediately wondered about the people living along that muddy road, the mud seaping into their homes, how these families are affected by the monsoon each season, each day and the energy and strength that it must take to survive through another rainy night like that was exhausting to think about let alone being in it.
As a Home School parent, it was a piece of experience, educational one, if you will, for a first world child, that could only be experienced, observed and elicit the ability to have compassion and gratitude. Gratitude because we can walk away from it all but be thankful for the life we already have. Compassion because only through exposure to experiences like these we can gain a sense of appreciation for our own lives and, perhaps the will to do something to help those less fortunate than us. Valuable education, survival skills, because it’s not something can be taught in a class room, within four walls.
We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude.
We Say NO to the Status Quo.
Live Small. Live Green.
Give Large. Take Little.
Take Notice. Take Action.