THE NEXT AFTERNOON, Cheryl and I are in the Binucot Sunset Cove Resort in Ferrol, a town in the southern part of Tablas, the province’s largest island. We left Romblon Town by bangka in the morning and reached the port of San Agustin in northeastern Tablas after an hour at sea. From San Agustin, we sat on the roof of a packed jeepney as it coursed through the winding coastal roads, passing by picturesque views of the mountains and the ocean, under a slight but steady drizzle to Odiongan, the island’s main town.

From the town plaza, we were whisked off by motorbike to Ferrol. It’s a pretty town in itself, with lush rice fields backdropped by imposing mountains, but the main attractions are the strips of beaches that lie a few kilometers from the main highway, accessed through dirt roads pocked with puddles.

Our resort is located at where the line of houses end and the forest starts. It’s a serene place with Balinese-style cottages overlooking a white-sand beach. The chirping of birds and the gentle lapping of waves provide the soundtrack, while the staff arranges our bed – a fairly large one with pink covers and partially hidden inside a large mosquito net. The resort’s resident dog, Geroni, a hulking canine of mixed Labrador and aspin breed, casually walks around our cottage, as though showing us around. There’s not a single soul in the place other than the two of us, about three resort employees, and two young girls who are probably daughters of one of the staff members.

The serenity inspires Cheryl to work on her writing projects, while I go to the beach to take pictures and enjoy this seclusion.

Shortly before sunset, Cheryl and Geroni join me at the beach, where the tide has once again pulled back far from the shore and revealed a sprawling bed of rocks sheltering a myriad of sea creatures. As we wait for the sun to completely dip into the horizon, the sky turning into a palette of warm and dark colors as afternoon bleeds into evening, the scent of the saltwater building, the clouds and the rocks turning the surroundings in a surreal kind of beauty, I can’t stop taking pictures. I need to freeze as many moments as I can.

This is what I’ll miss most when this is over – the complete freedom to appreciate the now, enjoy the company of a friend, knowing you have all the evening to converse and discuss things over a couple bottles of beer and a meal that would last longer than it normally takes.

During dinner in the dining area of the resort, Cheryl and I order a half fried chicken, which we divide between us. We realize that our vacation is coming to an end. The air is still and humid, and the rains that the skies have spit consistently since we arrived in Romblon are now gone. Cheryl and I talk about being coworkers in two separate occasions in the past, and the possibility of sharing freelance projects in the future. I also ask her how she’s doing, how she’s coping.

Her smile widens. “Ang hiraaaaaaaap. But I’m great. I love Romblon. It made things a little bit clearer to me. It’s just unfortunate that the weather is improving just as we are about to leave.”

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