Come with me to Paraiso*

Some time ago, my friends and I were playing the icebreaker game, and the question I got was “If you could be anywhere else right now, where do you want to be?” I considered the possibilities. Shall I wish for a visit to the cherry groves of Japan in springtime? Or maybe I could go to New Zealand and see where they filmed The Lord of the Rings. How about Greece and its beautiful ruins? My heart, however, had only one answer: I want to go home.

I’ve been to a lot of different places, and I’ve lived in Dumaguete for almost three years now, but paradise to me has always meant the same thing: Palawan. Most tourism sites will give you these buzz words if you google that name: eco-adventure, last ecological frontier, world heritage sites. They will tell you about resorts and vacation packages and show you such amazing pictures of gorgeous beaches that you can almost feel the warm sand beneath your feet. They will offer facts and images of the Puerto Princesa Underground River, a contender for the New Seven Wonders of Nature (vote HERE) and give you a list of other must-see attractions. You can look at all of these and conclude that Palawan would be pretty cool vacation spot. And you would be perfectly right. But you can also listen to me, a child of the Last Frontier, and allow me to tell you that it is something more.

I can tell you that it doesn’t just offer physical relaxation but also inner renewal. No photograph can capture the feeling of awe when you first enter the cavern of the Underground River, and a sense of wonder washes over you as you gaze on the ancient rock formations that have lasted for millennia. Or the fascination of exploring the historic Tabon Cave Complex in Quezon Municipality, an archeological treasure. Surrounded by such timeless majesty, your mind can let go of the stress of living in a fast-changing, unstable world for a while, and be assured that some things do endure. There is a continuity to life after all.

There’s also the sense of freedom, of release. A few years ago, I was living in Manila and I came home for a quick vacation. After the plane landed I went straight to the bus terminal for the long trip to my hometown on the southern end of the province. As I gazed out of the bus window, I could feel my spirit starting to drop the weight of the pressures and burdens of city life. I could imagine myself taking flight over the wide, verdant rice fields we were passing by and soaring high up to the mountains that the coming dusk had painted with the softest shades of blue and purple. Even the air seemed to glow with the colors of twilight and the sunset. It didn’t even take a full day after my return before I started feeling like myself again.

But more than anything else, what I love most about Palawan is its vibrant affirmation of life. From the lush forests and the fertile soil to the clear seas teeming with fish and other marine creatures, Palawan is extraordinarily vital. To me, there is no other place more alive. This exuberance colors every experience—from thrilling adventures to serene, restful moments—and adds more richness and intensity. A montage of memories rush through my mind. I remember climbing the cliffs of El Nido in the north and spelunking in the Tao’t Bato caves in the south. I remember waking up one morning on an uninhabited island in Port Barton and opening the tent flap to a glorious sunrise over a calm, mirror-like sea . I remember snorkeling in the coral reefs of Honda Bay and feeding schools of fish from the palm of my hand. In each of those experiences, I recall savoring every breath and luxuriating in the exhilaration of simply being alive. Every second was a gift.

Through the years, I have explored and fallen in love with other places, and I know that there is more to discover in this wonderful country and beyond. However, my heart will always be called home to Palawan. I am counting the days until I can return to paraiso. Come with me?

(via Come with me to Paraiso (click that link to read the entire post on the Definitely Filipino site, where I’m one of the contributors. There are other articles on that site which Filipinos both at home and abroad, or those who would like to know more about the Philippines, might enjoy. :))

* Paraiso means “paradise”


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