My name is Sam Fields. I am a self employed photographer and a novelist from the big apple. Though I may have been in this profession for quite some time, it has been a struggle for me to make ends meet. With the current flow of this generation heading to a cyber-kind of lifestyle, it seems that I am having a hard time coping up with it. And along with the emergence of various social media platforms spread all over the internet, I couldn’t find the best avenue to further promote my works. This is not surprising since being in my middle age, I feel like time has began speeding up and I was slowly being left behind. In order for me to address my situation, I pushed myself to join a group of novelists that I met online. At first I was awfully reluctant to be part of something I thought wouldn’t help me in learning and discovering new things related in my career. But it didn’t take long for me to get the hang of it.
The group called themselves “The Authors Live Tours”. They have this nice concept of going out of the country once in awhile and go for a vacation to find inspiration for their writing materials. In my 5 months of joining these travelling fellows, I already had 4 trips with them. I had fun, I enjoyed but most of the time I was disinterested and out casted. These youngsters from New York were a bunch of backstabbing hipsters who thought that they were aces but they all looked like a bunch of amateurs to me. They are fond of using profane words and they have a knack of making obscene jokes. They were good people nevertheless, but there behavior is simply not my cup of tea – or maybe it was more of an age gap. I continued travelling with the group since I don’t have the courage to travel alone. Besides, who knows I might end up being friends with someone eventually. For now, I just ride along and I am good with it.
On my fifth trip with the group, I had the same expectations but little did I know that something big was in store for all of us. I packed a big varsity bag with my rash guards and beach shorts and we were heading out for a 3 day camp in Sonnet Island, Philippines. It is said that the island got its name from a man who went to seek the beauty of the island so that he can make the best sonnet poetry for her woman as a present. Indeed, he made the most beautiful poem for the girl but the cruel tides never made him back alive. Thus, the island is infamous for having the nickname of “the island worth dying for”. Surely, the stories were indeed promising so I knew that I would experience something special.
Our trip going to the Philippines was pretty much uneventful. I was with a few members of the group going to Manila, while most of them where already there three days prior. Same old things happened when all of us got together, they were endlessly gossiping, they were furiously ranting about their silly jobs, they looked stressed and tired, and they were practically being funny most of the time, but their humor is not my kind of comedy.
From Manila, we rode a three hour boat ride going to Sonnet Island. Our boat was called a “bunka” and it was actually small to accommodate twenty five people all at once. We were at sea about 7 in the morning and everyone was sleepy that we just didn’t care. The boat ride seem like it was forever and there were many times that I fell asleep then wake up, then fall asleep again then wake up, then I just stare at the endless sea as the sun glistens the azure waters.
We arrived in the island exhausted from the long boat ride. However, the white powdery sand, the lush vegetation and the aqua-green waters were too scenic, that my adrenaline told me to pick up my camera and immediately take photos. Island rangers approached us and brief us about the island, but this place was so surreal that I fell under its spell and wandered off by my own.
My feet sank into the warm glittering sand as I took shot after shot of this earthly paradise. I forgot about the others and continued on my picture taking spree. My legs were somewhat in frenzy as I carried myself automatically inside the island taking me deeper and deeper into its beauty.
The amber reflection of the sun slowly faded away as I entered the enchanted century old mangrove forest. One would imagine the woodlands of Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow upon entering this area. It wasn’t gloomy and sullen, likewise, it cradled life as I encountered colorful sea birds on its branches. The moistened ground was teeming with geckos and who knows what. I had to be careful on where I should step because it seemed that this area was overflowing with various life forms.
While walking in this dreamy environment, I remembered a short documentary that I saw online. It was about physiologists studying the effects of bare foot walking. Apparently, they found out that walking with our bare foot to the ground can greatly affect our body’s inflammation response. The experts were baffled as their studies conclude that grounding can alleviate illnesses like arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer. So I took off my boots and started to walk with my soles touching the earth.
I walked and walked towards the end of the trail and to my surprise it had another wonder in the end. There was a lagoon that shone like bronze from afar. Though it wasn’t like the lagoon from Alex Garland’s The Beach, I was equally in awe by its serene and placid ambiance. The clouds went to grey as I started reliving the myth that surround the island. I couldn’t help but think that this island was too good to be true that it probably behold something to those who visit here. The story of Himiko of Yamatai island in Japan suddenly popped into my mind. The stories were closely related of love went lost. The only difference – Himiko got bitter when her fiancé died that she cursed Yamatai into an island of no return. I suddenly felt a strong jerk when I realized I was daydreaming. So I went back thinking that the group would be worried that I wandered off alone.
As I approached my fellows from the distance everyone was huddled up. Everything seem normal from a distance up until I was already seeing their troubled faces clearly. There’s something wrong. But then I was so engrossed with what I saw that I never really minded what was going on. When I was nearing them, someone held me by the arm and said, “We need to get back to Manila right away”. I thought it was a joke. “Are you serious?” I said amusingly. “There’s a storm brewing and the predicted landfall would be tomorrow evening. We could be trapped here for weeks if the storm catches us.” my fellow said. “Oh fucking great!” I whispered to myself. Just when I was about to enjoy myself this happens. I heard the group leader speaking in a commanding voice, “we’re heading back home as soon as we have lunch and some short tour in the island.”
I lighted a cigar after eating native Filipino dishes like “adobo” and “pansit”. My mood plummeted as I watched over those frolicking and savoring the island’s beauty with the remaining time. I thought to myself, I might as well come back here rather than rush myself and spoil what this island has to offer. I killed time lighting one cigar after another until it was time for us to head back home.
I sat at the tail end of the boat while everyone dozed off. It was a fairly smooth ride that my eyes went heavy and I began to feel snoozy. But just when I was about to be sent to dreamland, the sails suddenly went haywire due to the strong gust of wind. I thought it would pass by, but then it was just the beginning. My heart slowly beating fast as I try to keep my composure. The wind clattering to our boat had bad intentions that I suddenly began to question if we are in trouble. Everyone started to wake up. I could sense our alarming situation could snap in a moment as the waters are foreboding. The boatmen hurriedly folded the sails as our boat jolted back and forth from the relentless waves. I could see no land in sight – Only the gigantic triangular shapes of water surging towards us. My anxiety started to rise after realizing that we have travelled only 30 minutes from a 3 hour boat ride. I said to myself, “Here we go”.
I began controlling my fear while remembering the quotes from my favorite books. I kept repeating in my mind a line from See the Sea by Anne Lugo which says, “A smooth sea never made a great sailor”. It managed my emotions and stopped me from panicking. During which everyone was hysterically putting their baggage inside a resealable plastic bag. I tried acting normal, but the water was getting inside the boat so I decided to put my luggage in plastic bags too.
I tried consoling myself by continuously diverting my attention to my thoughts. I remembered the line from Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto which said:
“Fear. Deep rotting fear. They were infected by it. Did you see it? Fear is a sickness. It will crawl into the soul of anyone who engages it. It has tinted your peace already. I did not raise you to see you live with fear. Strike it from your heart. Do not bring it into our village.”
I knew that if I acknowledge the fear that I was feeling, it would mean more danger than it already were. When everyone was feeling the fear enveloping us, our initial reaction is to save our belongings. At this point, we all hurried to protect our laptops, our phones, our thousand dollar watches and we cared less about our own lives. When the fear has finally settled, something else was on the background. As our boat rocked intensely in all directions, there I could sense the presence of a much greater force. A force so terrifying and so powerful that it could be the end of us all – death! All of us got drenched in the wild splashing of sea waters. Passengers started praying. Soon after, I uttered my own prayers: “My Lord, if this will be my final moments then let this be my noble end”. I have come to recognize the reality of my mortality. I thought, “Holy shit! Why did I spend many days procrastinating?! What have I done in my life?! Do I deserve to die with only a few things I’ve made in this world? Will I perish now not even knowing the sense of my purpose?!” After these few questions, I knew what the saying “life is short” really meant. I remembered the teaching of a Hindu guru I saw one time, he said: “When you look into a clock, it is not the time that passes by, but your life”. Slowly, I accepted the possibilities of our situation just as death hovers into the vastness of the angry sea. I smiled remembering my friends and family. I tried talking to them in my thoughts as the tail of the boat was slowly sinking and leveling into the sea. Everyone was nauseous due to the almost tumbling boat.
I felt a creepy kind of comfort anticipating our seemingly inevitable situation. It was like a surrender but I told myself to continue hanging on. Wild thoughts lingered in my mind. Thoughts like, I should’ve let it all out have I known this would happen, I should’ve done this and that. But instead of sulking with what I could’ve done, I reminded myself of all the heydays that I had. I was grinning as I went back to my past. I could see myself as the unique and talented person that I am. It was indeed a nice ride. One heck of a journey. I no longer cared as the waters splashed inside our boat. Then it dawned into me, that life is worth fighting for. Life is a battle that we all have to win. I recalled the quote from Rocky 4 in which Stallone said:
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place… and I don´t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it. You, me or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But ain’t about how hard you hit… It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward… how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That´s how winning is done.”
It was so ironic that somehow I understood what life is as death was stalking us intently. I realized the value of what I’ve been taking for granted for so long. I had to make the most of my life for I have been ludicrously living like an immortal. Like I have forever. I don’t. We all don’t. Our time is running out and our lives lead to numerous paths. Every decision, every action could resonate to infinity. I recollected the teachings of Don Juan in Carlos Castaneda’s book – “Choose the path with heart.”
Amidst the predicament that we are in, I stood up and told myself “I will fight for my life. I will not surrender. They will have a hard time taking me”. As our boat sluggishly presses on, I knew that life was death itself, looming where ever we go.