I’ve mentioned in passing that since I was born, my entire life has been a nomadic one. My father was first enlisted four years in the Marines and then enlisted 20 years in the Air Force. And he loved to see new places, try new foods. Every year, without fail, we moved to a new city and a new home. Every year we would take a road trip to see my father’s side of the family in Texas during the summer. And every year we would return a different home.
The military would pack up the entire house for us. When we’d return to the new home, new city, all our stuff was boxed and inside the house waiting for us. Each year, a new school. New kids that I didn’t bother to become friends with. Partly because nobody wanted to talk to the “new kid” with thick glasses. And partly because I knew I’d never see them again once summer came. We’d take that trip to Texas and… you know the rest.
A lot of cool shows came out when I was young. But the one I never missed and watched intently above all was, “Kung Fu“, with David Carradine. (I didn’t know back then that Bruce Lee was originally supposed to have that role.)
Finally, a show I could relate to down to my bones. The main role was that of Kwai Chang. Known in the west simply as ‘Caine’. Little did I realize then the parallels that his character and my own life had. Caines childhood was one that prepared him for his journey later into life. He had a mentor who not only trained his body but trained his mind. The blind master who infused into him as a child to see beyond the first appearance of all things. I watched the show and felt that the blind master was my own teacher. I listened intently during Caine’s flashbacks to the words of guidance he passed on. Riddles and questions designed to make young Caine think-out the solution for himself.
Growing up without a father (after my parents divorced)… I felt so much like Caine. I was an observer of what was around me. Even as a kid, I did not relate to kids. I didn’t understand what the purpose of “playing” was during recess. Often I would opt to stay in class and read or talk with the teacher. But more often I would be urged to go outside with the rest of the kids. So I would find a spot and simply watch them. Wondering, “why?”. Why do they do what they do? Little did I know then that it would become a lifelong question that I still ask today when I am in large crowds while I travel about.
Another aspect of Caine’s character that I fell in love with was the concept of owning only the things I needed. Nothing more. He walked the old West with nothing more than a flute, a leather bag, his clothes and some healing ointments. Not much more than that. He was not in a rush. He took his time going from place to place. Once in a new town, he would settle in for a short period. Often doing what he could to right the wrongs he observed around him. Again, his training as a child in kung fu was the predecessor to his later calling in life. Everything in his childhood would later have a purpose to help others. I liked that about his life. He was tranquil, content and focused on what good he could do.
And then he would move on.
I remember a time, during my first few months in the Philippines that I got off a bus in Mandaue, Cebu. About a half-mile or so from the bridge that leads to the neighboring island of Mactan, where my studio apartment was. I had already spent the entire day in Bogo, at the northern tip of the island and ridden the bus about 2 hours back to Mandaue. It had been a long day and the sun was about 3 hours from setting. So I still had plenty of daylight to work with.
So I told myself that I would walk just to the block before the bridge and then catch a taxi there. And so, I began walking. And it was that day that I remembered the show, Kung Fu. I thought about the episodes I could remember as I walked toward the bridge to Mactan island. I was in no hurry. I took my time and yet, soon I was at the beginning of the bridge.
I got on the bridge and stopped to take a few photos. I noticed homes down in the water that I’d never noticed before when crossing the bridge in a taxi. I noticed the construction of the bridge. The water down below and the vantage point to the setting sun. The ships moving between the two islands and the light glistening off the water.
I passed other people, also crossing the bridge. I imagine many of them crossed that bridge walking every day. Some were students. Many were not. I imagine many could not afford a jeepney ride across and thus they walked the bridge.
I got to the other side of the bridge, now standing on Mactan. I decided to walk a bit further. I had water in my backpack. Similar to Caine, I was traveling light and in no hurry at all. So I kept walking on to Tamiya, the area before Basak. And that is when it began to rain. At first, the rain was light but within a minute it was coming down hard. Very hard. And there was nowhere to get under for shelter. I put my phone and wallet into the deepest part of my backpack and resigned myself to the fact that I was about to get soaking wet. Within five minutes, as I calmly walked on, I could not have been anymore wet than if I’d come out of the ocean itself.
As I passed through Tamiya, the locals were huddled under the storefronts that had shelter from the rain. I was already soaking wet so I walked by along the street. Once or twice a car’s tire hit a puddle and splashed water all over me. It really didn’t matter at this point. I didn’t even bother to lower my head to keep the rain out of my eyes. I just walked as if there was no rain. I could hear the locals having a bit of a laugh as I passed by. Some foreigner who doesn’t know enough to get out of the rain. Must have been a strange sight I guess.
So, I kept on walking. Thinking about Caine. Thinking about the many things in my childhood and earlier life that led to this moment where I am walking 5 miles to get home in the rain… in the Philippines. I never saw that coming earlier in my life.
I kept on walking and finally, I could see the Grand Mall in my sight, blocks away. I was almost home. I could have taken a tricycle at any time. But once I had passed the midway point, I figured I would just go all the way. Finally, I made the turn in the driveway leading to my studio apartment. I got to my patio and took off my sandals and shirt. I unlocked the door and made my way to the shower where I could wash up and dry off with a towel.
Getting into some dry clothes, I opened the front door so I could listen to the rain pattering on the ground just outside the porch. I sat down with a bowl of hot noodles and just looked out the door and front window. As I did, I thought to myself, “There is still SO much more to see.”
Flying in a plane you get a grand overview of a location below you. But no details. In a car, you see much more as you look out the window. On a motorcycle, riding around from Cebu to Dumaguete, I saw much more around me and easily stopped along the way to check out anything of interest.
But walking, I see the most. I see people’s eyes. Their expressions. I see beautiful women. I see old people. I see kids. I see stray dogs, beggars, and wealthy people. I see faces filled with joy and a song in their heart. I see faces filled with weariness and sorrow. I see expats and visiting South Koreans. I’ve seen and know every bit of broken cement for blocks around Basak, Lapu Lapu having walked it so many times. I’ve smelled the barbeque waft through the air as I made my way through the crowds at the marketplace near the pier. I’ve sat and eaten lugaw, with some freshly made lumpia and buko juice… sitting on an old plastic chair using a small shelf as my table.
I love being lost in large crowds. It’s like swimming in an ocean of people. Sometimes it is hot, sweaty and gritty. Other times it is a cool evening and romantic in its own way. But I see so much when walking and absorbing, observing everything around me while being in no hurry myself. No particular place to be. My bliss is inside me, in my head. Perhaps in my heart. A calm that moves in a world of chaos, worry, anxiety, pain, sorrow, joy, hope, and aspiration in the lives of everyone around me.
This is what I enjoy most about walking in a foreign land. Being like Caine. A stranger in a strange land. Watching. Observing. And interacting on whatever situation arises for the moment. I immensely enjoy my social life with my friends. But I also greatly enjoy my alone time lost in a crowd or a new place.
Since moving to the Philippines in 2012, I have lived on Mactan, then Bohol, then in the heart of Panglao. From there I lived briefly in Moalboal, a year in Dumaguete and 18 months in Bacong. Since leaving Bacong 5 weeks ago, I’ve spent a week in Cagayan De Oro and spent the last four weeks walking the streets around Lahug after my dinner. It’s not glamorous. Not everything I see is beautiful. But for me, moving around is the closest thing I know to ‘normal’. ‘Life’ used my childhood to not only accept a nomadic life in the Philippines.. it molded me to fully embrace and need it.
Will I ever “settle down” in the sense most people do? I suppose when my body can’t be as mobile as I am now, I will be forced to. Some say that for the right woman I would stay in one place. And even I hoped that would be the case. And yet, even with the most wonderful women who came into my path, for some reason moving onward is what I need more than staying in one place.
I have an uncle who grew up and lived in the same house until he got married. Now that he was married, he bought a house… at the corner of the same block he grew up. Just five houses down the street. He lived there for about 15 years and then he moved again. This time he bought the house directly across the street. And he lived there until he passed away in his old age.
That completely boggles my mind. I can’t wrap my mind around the idea of doing that any more than the idea of “settling down” to one city. One city, until the day I die. That’s just something I cannot fathom.
Why? The answer is still the same. “There is still so much more to see.”
Author: Reekay V.
Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat and spent 1999 living in Vietnam.
Share with me my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Hopefully you find my observations helpful in your own adventures.