OCT. 31. I’m writing this in Boljoon. In a few hours, I’ll be heading back to the city to join the reception for visiting dignitaries from our sister city, Xiamen.
Just this morning, I got a message from our next door neighbor, Nang Nati, who apparently misses us. I have been asking your driver where you were, she wrote, and was told each time that you were either in Japan or Thailand or China or Malaysia. “And now you’re fishing in Boljoon.”
Actually, the trips were few and far between. We have been in the city most of the time, living in a house separated from Nang Nati’s only by a common wall. And yet, it’s true that we hardly see each other. It seems that when we leave the house she’s still sleeping and when we get home, she’s asleep again. You see just like most working city residents, we leave the house early and go home late.
That is not the life I used to know as a young man in the province, but it is the life I have been living for years that I no longer care to count. Sometimes, I wonder if I should have taken my mother’s advice and stayed home and taught in public school instead of venturing into the city to pursue my dream of becoming a hotshot lawyer. It’s a failed dream, by the way.
Thank God for Boljoon, I get to savor the things of my childhood that I have been missing. I do not mean to be melodramatic, but here is where I think I am my own man, a happy one.
Today, I woke up at 5 a.m. and went to the shore to watch the day break. About 20 meters away, a dozen men were preparing to cast their net. I joined them when they were pulling the net back to shore and the familiar feel of the rope in my hands brought joy that I have long forgotten existed.
The catch was little, but if the fishermen were disappointed, they did not show it. They did not grumble as we city folks are wont to grumble when we do not get what we want or expected.
From the sea, I slipped into a pair of old jeans and a long-sleeved shirt without having to take a shower. The water was abundant unlike in the city but in Boljoon, I am confident that no one will bother to verbally note that I look like I have not taken a bath and my hair was unkempt. So unlike in the city.
My wife and I wanted to hear mass, but found the church doors still shut. We decided to walk our way back to my brother-in-law’s resthouse. It was a most pleasant walk.
Everyone and I mean everyone we passed by either greeted us or we greeted them. Twice, we stopped for small talk including one with an elderly man I met for the first time but told me the story of his life as if we were good old friends. I talk to many people every day in the city, but here they make you feel you belong. There are no walls that divide us.
When I got home and saw Nang Nati’s message, I knew I had to write this.
Tomorrow, we remember the dead. Life is short. Find what makes you happy wherever it may take you.