Batangas City, the Philippines
July 16 – 18, 2022
I learned the Italian phrase dolce far niente from Ki who, in turn, heard it in an Instagram reel. The voiceover narrator translated it as “the sweetness of doing nothing.” That exactly what went down at our weekend getaway in my sister’s mountain cabin named Balkon ni Julita after our late mother whose wooden house had a similar porch. My sister set us up on the first day and left us to our own devices the next three days and two nights.
The eponymous balcony was overlooking the foothill forest of Mount Banoy. A separate yoga hut uphill offered a more panoramic view unobstructed by tall trees. Ki and I checked it out only on our first afternoon. We holed up in the cabin the rest of the time, looking out the balkon.
Being cabin-bound wasn’t so much a plan than a necessity on my part. I busted my left knee from wild dancing that Friday night. Sadly, I had already hit the age when hard partying could be hazardous to my health. Hiking, or even just plain walking, was out of the question. Rather, I was out of commission and could only hang out on a hammock with my feet up, relieving my joint pain with the first and final letters of RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate).
We broke the monotony of doing nothing by making Instagram reels. The fact that we had no Wi-Fi access and only relied on dodgy data did not put a damper on content creation. “At the moment” soc med posting was life, after all. Total indolence was beyond our reach. We had to give dolce far niente supremacy to laid-back Italians.
The cherry on top of dolce far niente, definitely my favorite part, was immersing in nature sounds on a moonless night. Darkness in the mountain was truly pitch black barely illuminated only by the fairy lights of fireflies. Aurally, though, the forest was alive and awake. It sounded busier at night than during the day. The cacophony of calls, chirps, croaks, clicks, and cheeps were constant and compelling. Ki described it succinctly in his vlog:
We spent some time in total darkness. Listening to the sound of the forest. Trying to guess which animals are making the different sounds. I could hear frogs. Lots of frogs. Cicadas, crickets… We also enjoyed watching… A few fireflies. Some sound like the chirping of the birds. Are those birds? They couldn’t be birds. Hmmm… Whatever they are, they are very busy… Going about their lives. It’s 1:45am.Richmond Butalid
In these times when people would travel to do something rather than simply be somewhere, dolce far niente had become a revolutionary online fad. Many of my travels were actually just loafing around. I took this cabin staycation a notch further by just staying put and chilling all day. It was the most fun I had in any of my trips. Ki and I could never say it was the most relaxing though. We came back to the city feeling wasted and stayed in bed for another full day to recover. For all our zapped energy, dolce far niente turned out to be much ado about doing nothing.
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