Will you remember me?
I will remember you. How do you do?
These are the opening lines to my song Places.
Before Indonesia, I had little chances to meet new people outside of work or school. Where I’m from in Metro Manila, I don’t get to interact with my neighbors too much because we are all preoccupied with our own social circles and lives. But living on a small island, you have more opportunities to meet with your neighbors. Everyone lives closer to each other, the community is small, and the pace of life is pleasant.
And so, it was (literally and metaphorically) a breath of fresh air to live on a small island and be part of a community – it felt so tangible, so intimate. I remember when my friend Di got wounded, I pedaled on my bike (which I borrowed from my surf instructor) to our neighbor to get some first aid ointment. Another instance was when a friend came over to help us do food prep in the kitchen. The best are the dinners and the parties we planned. It was so fun because everyone knew each other and no one had COVID! It feels like a dream thinking about the nights we danced under the stars, the bonfires we had by the beach, the fish we caught and cooked for dinner, and so on and so forth. I felt especially lucky because I was so new, but so welcomed.
And then it was time to go home.
Each day that goes by will bring the day that I fly
But till then, my friend, nothing to fear, I’m still right here
Because I never planned to be in Indonesia longer than a month, I didn’t think that staying long was really an option for me. Being on the island felt temporary, and after 4 months, I felt that I was delaying the inevitable. What business did I really have being in Indonesia? I was there to learn about bamboo, and I can do that remotely from the Philippines. Plus, I’m not saving much living abroad – this expenditure wasn’t in my plans!
Okay, so I was a bit uptight with money. But I realized, I won’t have this opportunity again to surf and live by the sea at this price! Because of the lack of tourism, there were discounts everywhere. And so I thought, perhaps I should stay…
But by the time I embraced the idea, I had already rebooked my flights to an approaching date. Too late, I thought. This must be an end to the dream I am living. And so I finished writing my song:
I’ll see you soon, under the same moon
We’ll watch the tides from different sides of the world
We’ll live our lives, catch different rides
But even then, my friend, this is not the end
To conclude my stay, I planned a gig at the popular bar Shipwreck and formed a band. It consisted of new and old members from an already existing but inactive band that usually plays on the island. They learned my songs (Places, Ever, Sail Away), and I played the keyboard for the songs they usually cover. It was my first gig playing my own music and the first gig of the year on the island! It was also a party to celebrate my birthday as it was the next day.
Almost everyone from the community showed up, and it was a really fun night. Screw the fact that I almost lost my phone and I was going to leave just 3 days after this! I didn’t want to think about saying goodbye. I just wanted to enjoy the present moment.
And so, to cap off the night, we went to the village captain who recovered the phone I lost just two days ago. It was the best birthday present yet, and I got to spend the night with amazing company.
Before I pack my bags and go, I gotta say, you all must know
I’m grateful to you everyday, I’m glad I stuck around, I stayed
And when I’m finally at home, or quarantined and all alone
I’ll never let myself forget, my time here and the days we’ve met
The next day, my actual birthday, I got an even better present – because I recovered my phone, I was able to read a message saying that my flight has been canceled! It was the best news ever. It seemed too good to be true, and in hindsight, perhaps it was a sign.
Since getting stuck on the island, I have been more sensitive to what is going on around me. I think my experience has really opened up my spirituality, because I never would have expected any of those events to happen to me, and as a result, my life has changed. Now, I try not just to live in the present, but to be a witness to what is going on around me. When things happen to me, I question what it means in the grand scheme of things. I now easily embrace the idea that what I go through in life is truly where I’m meant to be.
I’m really glad that things turned out the way they did, because I am happy with where I am now. I may not be a popular musician, but at least I got to write an entire album! And that is why I am here now, sharing my music, my stories. I still have more to share… and even after my experience, more reflections and questions. For example, why did I, of all people, get stuck on a foreign remote island? It’s not even globally recognized like Bali! And why was the opportunity to learn how to surf presented to me? Why did I meet the people I did, and write the songs that came out of what I went through?
I’m still trying to figure things out, and when I do, I’ll share it too. I believe sharing could open the door to new things, to something more, and I am on a quest to discover what that is.