Legazpi City, the Philippines and Yokohama, Japan
November 22, 2015 / February 3, 2017
My inner introvert would cringe at the antics of my camwhoring, social media persona. But there was no passing up an “instagrammable” pose on the letter block sign of Legazpi by the sea.
Frances, my Bicolana BFF, on the other hand, was not as outwardly outré. She rarely indulged her public. Instead, she drove me and my travel squad to her hidden refuge later that day. It was a place she would seek solace in when she needed to come up for air.
She made a turn from the highway into a narrow road that led to an abandoned area. The perimeter was not cordoned off, but the overgrown weeds were not welcoming either. It turned out to be a real estate development aborted after road tracing. She surmised a Mayon eruption put the area within the danger zone. We reached the dead end and continued on an unpaved footpath, shaded only by a lone tree. The path led to a beach of gray volcanic sand. By then I got it. The quiet sea breeze could drown out the noise of the world. Sand and grass lent a non-judgmental ear to her inner voice. No other soul was in sight until a farmer, cattle in tow, appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
As Frances revealed her secluded spot, so did Mayon with her veiled outline. She lay bare and graceful without her usual cloak of clouds. This lush yet empty strip of land straddled the volcano and the sea connected by the occasional lava flows.
In another latitude, another friend shared her personal hideaway. Yuka, my former student, and I boarded the crowded train at Shibuya Station. It was packed so tight we felt like onigiri filling. Half an hour later the crowd thinned out leaving a handful of us still in transit. Where was she taking me? Was this an abduction?
Before this kidnapping turned to just napping, we finally hurried off at a stop in Yokohama and started on foot in the dead of winter. The evening stroll through a Westernized and gentrified neighborhood could’ve been pleasant if it were not hypothermia-inducing. But the girl was determined to bare her soul that night.
We abruptly stopped by a rather unremarkable curb. Yuka declared we had arrived. She turned and looked over the concrete fence to the twinkling cityscape beyond, punctuated by the expanse of the Yokohama Bay Bridge. Here her soul had space to soar beyond the confines of her condo, her office cubicle, the claustrophobic subway.
It was such an unexpected and touching gesture by my girls to invite me over to their personal spaces. They shared their world away from the real world, not in social media, but soul to soul. They showed me that sightseeing was not always a function of the eyes. I was privy to the places of their heart.