IT HIT me, and hit me hard one day in the middle of lunch. Where the hell am I?
When you begin to have thoughts like that, then you know it’s time to move location and change perspective–even if only temporarily.
Thank God, then, for friends like painter Hermes Alegre, who–like his name suggests–is a true messenger of joy. Sensing the loneliness and exhaustion in my voice, he invited me over to his new base in Daet. “You will be able to think here,” he assured.
Which is how I ended up for five days in Bagasbas, Camarines Norte. I’m not ashamed to say that yes, I escaped from my work, my kids and my increasingly surreal work milieu. A working mom needs that sometimes, or else work productivity falls, time with the kids turns into a chore, and other relationships fail to flourish.
There’s not much to do in Daet, nor in Bagasbas, except laze on the beach, gorge on Bicol Express and pinangat, boogie board, and surf (which I tried in vain to do–and journalist that I am, ok, I admit I threw in a little bit of work, interviewing the surfing community and dragging along Harvey Tapan to take photos). But because it was a self-imposed assignment, I was in control of the tempo of things. That it rained more than half of the time slowed down the pace as well, and let us saunter, rather than speed, through the story, as we’re used to with our other travel assignments. “So, what did you do in Bagasbas?” I imagined people asking me when I got home. My answer would be the two things that should define each holiday: “I laughed a lot and ate a lot.”
I was also blessed with time to be alone in my thoughts, a few minutes of which I tried to catch in my notebook, on May 30:
Now this is a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s 1:03 p.m. and I’m in Bagasbas beach. It’s an overcast day but all the better, because we–Harvey and I–can sit outdoors on the boardwalk, outside Mama Dory’s mom and pop store-cum-eatery, and have some coffee without being bothered by the blazing sun.
The sound of the waves, as described by Harvey, is perfect: It’s like a rustle more than a rushing; a rolling of wind and water together rather than a crashing of the elements. You can still hear each other talk with this type of sound of waves. But we choose not to.
A dog trots lazily by. The footsteps of passersby rasp on the boardwalk, intermittently. A surfer sleeps on a bench beside us. There are no tricycles–wait, one passes by. Two. No cars, no large families clamoring for a barbeque. Even the sun takes its time, peeking out from behind the clouds, then, leaning back in, stretching out the kinks in its rays, and yawning. Yawning, before it furls its light back behind the clouds. His time to shine–like all of ours–will come. But not now. Not just now.
Now is for sipping coffee and being silent. Thoughtful. Maybe even idle. A time to stare. Harvey whistles a tune. We continue with our coffee, unencumbered. Unbothered. And still.
When you accept that you’re on vacation–that you’re away–then you begin and learn to relish it.
Before you become a mom, you were someone else. You were beach bum, artist, the girl with the 22-inch waistline. A good vacation, spent in solitude, will remind you of all these things–and you will be struck not by melancholia, but with a sense of achievement, of pride. I was all that then, I am all this now; and what’s best about being all this now is that I have the power–and am empowered!–to go back when I choose, and return without a hitch.
I had lunch in the same place again the other day. The same people sat around me, chatting in the same voices, saying the same things.
Good Lord, I thought. Thank you for bringing me back.
A good vacation, most of all, will bring back your passion for your current reality. It will make you want to step in those high heels again, chase deadlines again, and mentor writers again, all with the rough-and-tumble grace of the whitewater on the shore; and might of Bagasbas waves in a storm.
(Gina Abuyuan is former editor in chief of Working Mom magazine. The original version of this article originally ran in June 2004 of the column Working Mom in Philippine Daily Inquirer.)