I Spend My Birthday in the Mountain and Other Stories
I Squander Half of My Pocket Money | Part 2 of I Spend My Birthday in the Mountain and Other StoriesMonday, June 08, 2015
Next: Part 3 | I Am Serenaded by Children
I Squander Half of My Pocket Money
It amazes me how I came to remain unfazed despite all my colossal defeats. I wasn’t like this before. Every blunder, every step I took that had the slightest resemblance to a mistake, I used to lament like death itself. Now, I can suffer a loss with just a quick-but-intense self-castigation or a shrug of the shoulders, depending on the scale of said loss.
I’d wondered what brought about this wonderful – and, sometimes, frightening (I’ll get to this later) –change. I narrowed it down to being an optimist.
I’d decided, for all intents and purposes, to be an optimist simply because I thought it was a more fun way of living. And it was. Optimism, I find, opens you up to adventures. And I’m not anything if not adventurous.
The tendency to look at the brighter side of things and the intense belief that good will always trump evil is what allows me to jump off cliffs, travel solo, and talk to strangers – strangers, after all, are just friends you just haven’t met yet. I was proud to call myself an optimist. I still am. But then being an optimist is what got me here in the first place.
It was the day of my flight to General Santos and I didn’t pack my things yet. This was completely out of character as I tend to ready my things beforehand. This behavior was due to my insistence on pretending I was not excited for this trip. I took on an irresponsible, procrastinating persona just to spare myself the embarrassment of being overly excited. Weird, I know – and counterproductive.
At any rate, I had my backpack slung over my shoulders when I bid my father farewell.
He asked, “What time’s your flight?”
I told him and, as if he knew what was about to unfold, he literally shook his head.
In fairness to him, I did left home at a precarious hour. Three hours before my departure, I think. (Yes, I know. Stop groaning.)
“I will not miss my flight. The Universe will let me have this one since it’s for my birthday,” I declared, like the naïve, slightly self-entitled optimist that I was.
Unfortunately, the Universe does not work that way.
“Aww,” I sighed when the airport security guard informed me that the plane took off minutes ago.
I missed my flight. But I was optimistic. So, I marched to the ticketing office and weighed my options. When my options proved to be impractical and too expensive, I got out of there.
I called my sister and told her what had happened. All throughout our conversation, I had myself in a mental chokehold. This is what you get for being mindless and stubborn!
“Go home. We’ll go to Baguio,” said my sister over the phone.
I rolled my eyes. Baguio? Please.
“I’ll go to Tuguegarao or somewhere far away that doesn’t require riding an airplane.”
I can imagine my sister doing the eye-rolling too. “Where exactly?”
“Um,” I said. “I’ll Google it. But I’m not coming home – not until May 11.”
My sister sighed. “Fine. Call me again when you make up your mind.”
I had imagined myself sprinting to a photo-finish, being able to board the plane at the last minute. I had permitted myself the stupid luxuries of dawdling and pretense because I was unabashedly optimistic. Optimism, like all things, is a double-edged sword. This wasn’t the first time optimism had gotten me into trouble and I had this terrible suspicion that this would not be the last.
In any event, I released myself from the mental chokehold. I stood there, outside NAIA Terminal 4, trying to focus on what to do next.
“Why don’t you try Davao?”
That question started me from my thoughts. I blinked.
“Why don’t you try Davao?” It was a middle-aged man leaning on the railings that had asked – and repeated – the question.
He had asked me earlier, after leaving the ticketing office, if I wanted to hail a cab. I’d ignored him because I already had my sister on the phone. It turned out he had been standing there all this time, apparently listening to our conversation.
“Where were you supposed to go?” He asked when I kept staring at him in confusion.
“Gensan. But I missed my flight.” I was sure he knew this already. Eavesdropper.
He took a step toward me. I did not flinch. I rarely see strangers, especially those who initiate conversations, as a threat. Besides, I can throw a mean punch and am a really loud screamer.
“You can take a plane to Davao and ride a bus to Gensan.”
I had not known this. “Really?”
He nodded. “That’s what others usually do.”
“How long is the bus ride?”
“Two hours at the most,” he said, almost too quickly for my comfort.
I looked at my watch. It was a little past 3PM.
Screw it, I mumbled to myself. I’m going to Davao.
Probably seeing that I had made up my mind, the man said, “You can buy your ticket there – it’s cheaper and has a shorter line.” He pointed to an indistinct place in the distance.
Now, this is the part where I will reiterate that my optimism allows me to do things that normal people would consider stupid and dangerous. I'm telling you that what I did was consistent with my whole personality.
So, determined to stick to my plan of spending my birthday in Mindanao, I followed this man to an isolated travel agency where I bought my ticket to Davao. It was not as expensive as the ticket to Gensan and unlike the latter the flight is on that very day – later at 5:30 PM.
I paid the fee and, just like that, almost half of my pocket money was gone.
Deciding not to dwell on this unfortunate fact, I thanked the people at the travel agency and the man who’d been the unlikely source of my Plan B. He even hailed me a taxi to Terminal 3, where my new flight is, and wished me a safe trip and a happy birthday (he found out after the guy who booked my flight told him). I was so giggly and in such a good mood after that encounter. I was poised to run out of money in the middle of my adventure but I was thrilled and happy. I worry about me sometimes.
Anyway, there I was, in Davao with a severely depleted supply of money. I made a call to a friend, asking for suggestions for backpacker-friendly lodges where I can stay the night – I’d decided I’d leave for Gensan the next day.
I was already sprawled in a room in Sampaguita Inn when I remembered I had relatives in Davao. After a well-meaning Facebook private message to my Davaoeño cousin, I inadvertently threw several members of my family into panic. I received three calls from different relatives, asking where I am and what I was doing there. My aunt ended up fetching me from Sampaguita Inn in the middle of the night. I spent the entire night having tea and biscuits and exchanging stories with her. It was better than spending the night alone, if you ask me.
It was almost 5AM when we turned in. I was awake by 6AM. I was a little groggy but I managed to take a quick bath. Aunt Doeh and I had a breakfast of eggs, toasts, pineapple jams and preserved mangoes. I must not forget about the deck. The view from their deck was glorious – the whole of Davao with Mount Apo in the distance.
By 8AM, we were driving to the Davao Overland Bus Terminal, and by 8:30, I was seated on a Two-Stop YBL bus to General Santos, munching on some Oreos from my Aunt Doeh’s travel food pack she made just for me.
|with My Aunt Doeh at the Davao Bus Terminal|
I was seated on the aisle and was struggling with the recliner when my seatmate by the window offered to switch places with me. I was grateful and within minutes, I was napping. The bus ride did not, at all, take “two hours at the most”. But I didn’t notice since I was sound asleep for most of the trip.
Optimism is incredible.
Next: Part 3 | I Am Serenaded by Children