Need and no need


As I unlock the steering with the turn of the key and press the start button igniting the scooter engine, I look up to the morning sky. The sun seems to be losing its battle in breaking through the thin white cover of cloud as darker companions blow back in from the rainy night to reinforce the sky's blanket, like it was refusing to surface from its comfy bed in the thick of winter.

But I wasn't disheartened even as I pulled out of the guesthouse on to the impressively sounding coastal 'national highway' - just 75km of two lanes encircling the island of Siquijor - and I felt drops of rain on my bare shoulders and a breeze drop in to accompany them. Looking up once again, I didn't even contemplate stopping to pull out my rainjacket from my small rucksack, instead continue to roll in a vest, boardshorts and a pair of Havaianas. Just like most days, it was touching 30 degrees and rising, of  course I'm just gonna flow with it.

Leaving the built up roadside area of San Juan 'town' I ease in to the road stretching out before me. It is all mine today and it takes me back to Boa Vista in the Cape Verde islands and a cobble-paved road through the dirt and into the desert on a quad bike a few years previous (Dirt roads of my mind: rizlas, condoms and coca-cola). I am on another island waiting to be discovered. A green tree subterfuge of banana and coconut leaves lines either side of the asphalt, stealthily covering barely visible shacks peaking out to watch me scoot by. To my left, a small paddy field sucking in the early morning rain I had woken to, a water buffalo wallowing in the puddles as they so love to do when not ploughing the fields. To my right, another guesthouse sits back and in to small private coves and the beach behind it.

All this tropical backdrop I have seen before, still I never bore of it. This is what I came here for - back for another South East Asian dose of unspoiltness. In an age when climate change is on everyone's lips in Europe, I feel sometimes these campaigners are preaching to the wrong people when often in this part of the world countries are so guilty of so much plastic waste and diesel fumes, yet the Philippines so far have left me pleasantly surprised of the conscious efforts they make.

I check the fuel guage and see I'm running low, I pull over at the next kiosk where, like in Bali with Absolut Vodka bottles, here one-litre Coca Cola bottles in a rack by the door hold the monopoly on fuel refills. I disturb the lazy Philippino island-living day of the shop owner in these parts and pop the seat of the scooter to let the tank underneath guzzle a couple of litres, enough to cruise and cruise some more of this island. While I pick up a couple snacks and refill my water bottle, he asks where I am from - a standard question here, as if they are all doing surveys on us travellers. I pay, he smiles back and goes back to his chilling. I mount once more and hit back on the road Jack.

Driving in a car here would seem so unjust, to be closed within and not feeling the surroundings on your skin; the common scooter fits right in, it becomes as glorious as a chariot. I am not looking to speed past, my pace is steady on the throttle, I don't want to miss a thing. Across the road is another similar kiosk, they are aplenty here. A water dispenser truck on its daily rounds sits parked on the roadside. The sharp, deep blue twenty-litre dispensers offers a kind of fresh paint job to the tired and ageing truck from years and years of chugging these roads. Their transparent blue also offers a contrast to the leafy green like a welcoming swimming pool in the tropical garden.

My gaze is almost that of a tennis umpire in slow-motion, switching from left to right, now and then looking up at the high lobbed ball in the sky checking on the darker grey that is lifting. The cooling breeze is now perfect in the midday temperature, cracks in the clouds are appearing, they are becoming more fluffy, the sun is trying to elbow its way in to us.

Around another corner and then the road descends before me in to the view of a bay, like a prestigious entrance to a theatre of life. I pull over and stare. I take out my phone and make some notes so I could capture all this and come here and write about it. I slip back in my lane and give enough gas as to be able to freewheel down the rest of the way. As I get down there I see traditional Bangka boats with stabilising arches either side of their bodies, bobbing and waiting. I have been on a couple of boat tours on one of these Bangkas in my time here, cutting and cruising through the crystal clear water of these islands, where you can stop to snorkel at any given point like getting maximum points on the wheel of fortune every time you were to spin it. But right now I want to stay on my scooter, on this newly laid asphalt passing the white shores behind the treeline to my right, knowing I can stop any time and weave on foot through the stooping coconut trunks and sink my toes in the soft sand.

A blue and white Tsunami warning signs stands on a road sign, a stark reminder of how all of this could be swept away in minutes by such powerful force. It reminds you of just how delicate these places can be and how people still live here, living for the day.

And that is what this day trip is all about for me. I am honouring and allowing this present moment to wash over me, to lap over me like the sea's gentle and soothing waves, to stroke me softly like palm leaves in the breeze. There is no need for a past identity, no need for a future promise of fulfilment, there are no illusions. Absorbed in all around me, I even miss the turn off for the waterfalls I wanted to see - but it's fine, I can come back and find them again on my way back. There is nothing here I am supposed to do. I am exactly where I need to be.

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