Travel By Heart: Samal Island, Davao – Part 03

I went back to gather my gear to leave the place as I’m losing light fast, it would be hard for me to navigate at night. A man from a nearby house came up to the store and started asking questions about me. He said he overheard me speak in Tagalog and that is a rare occurrence on places like this. He concluded that I’m not from nearby. As always I told him my story and my journey. He smiled and said it was really brave of me to venture out this far. Then he casually invited me to join them for a beer.

I was very reluctant at first. It has become my sort of policy even before I started the Philippine tour to not drink alcohol with strangers, it was kind of a security protocol for me. But for some strange reason, this man made me comfortable enough to let my guard down and join them for a drink. I gathered my things and he guided me to his rest house, it was just adjacent to the store, but before leaving I said my thank you’s to the lady who looked after my belongings.

I thought I will spend the drinking session with just a few people. Apparently, it was a whole group of people friends and families, some are busy cooking while others are swimming. I was introduced to them one by one, when he started telling them where I’m from and what I was actually doing, some of them were just speechless. Then he got a chair and placed it on a small table facing the ocean, three men were already seated and it looks like they have finished a couple of bottles already, but they were not drunk.

Everyone was really friendly, they wanted to hear my story and how I got there and of course where I still plan to go. The tiring part is, whenever a new person joins the table. I have to retell the whole story over and over again, this is one of the downsides of what I do. The first few times that I tell it there’s still a hint of enthusiasm from me, but once you have to repeat yourself the third time, it gets quite annoying.

Aside from retelling my story over and over again, the drinking session was really calm and comfortable. It was not a pissing contest, no one was trying to outdo the other on stories. We were just a bunch of dudes hanging around watching the sunset. I offered to buy 2 more beers, as a sign of my appreciation to their hospitality. The session went on, but I declined some of the offers to drink more. I told them I need to be sober tomorrow as there is still a lot of riding that I have to do. I stood up and went under a tree to rest then next thing I know… I was asleep with still my gear on.

I suddenly woke up because something is biting me, not sure what it was. Some of the family members said that I should sleep inside, I was reluctant at first because I might take up space that was supposedly for them. But they insisted, they told me I can sleep on the floor. The house was simple, I saw some rubber floor puzzles and I took so I can sleep on something that would separate me from the cold concrete floor, then I doze off.

I woke up the next morning with the sound of kids playing and the smell of someone grilling. I got out of the house to see the whole shore busy, the women are cooking while the men are looking after the kids swimming. I greeted them all a good morning, then my generous guest said: “I’m leaving at around nine am, do you want to come with me?” I quickly said “yes”. There would be less chance of me getting lost if I joined him.

Thirty minutes before nine, I started packing up. I informed him that I will meet him at the parking, so I would have enough time to prepare myself and motorcycle. He showed up on an XR 200 and said he used to love riding off-road when he was young and asked if I can catch up to him. I quickly said “No, I’m not that good at off-road riding. My skills are adequate but far from advanced.” then we both laughed. We went on the ride out of Samal, he was really fast and he never used the brake even if going downhill, the man clearly has skills.

When we were waiting to board to the boat, he took off his helmet and said. “I once had a kid who loved riding motorcycles, we used to go off-road riding together when he was young, and he was pretty good. The kid has a lot of potential.” I asked what happened to him. “He fell ill, something to do with his brain. We did all that we could to save him. We even brought him to Manila to hopefully find a cure.” I fell silent. He was wearing very dark sunglasses but I can feel from the tone of his voice that he really felt sad, I think anyone who tried to recalled the memories of a son lost would be. When I finally found to courage to say something, “I’m sorry for your loss”. He perked up and smiled “It’s ok”. Then I asked if I can take a photo of him.

He guided me until I reached my destination in Davao City. When we departed ways I told him “Thanks for everything.” He nodded waved his hand and rode off. It was not the beer or the hospitality that really got me, it was that moment where he shared about his son. I never expected a stranger to share such an intimate detail.

Maybe just maybe… for a brief moment, I made him remember about him.

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