Travel is a sensitive vice. However planned, one can only control traveling so much. It takes a great deal of flexibility and tolerance in order to enjoy, let alone survive one.
Choosing people to travel with, like other factors of travel (ie., weather, terrain etc.), is just as treacherous. I, in particular, is never Miss Friendship. I am not very good at making the small talk necessary in building initial rapport. But over the years, I have been fortunate to have bumped into people to whom I needed not explain myself.
Having been raised in a home dominated by boys, I grew up more comfortable in the no-nonsense way of men. My preference in travel, for instance, is more suited to the rough and rowdy nature of boys and to (maybe, someday) girls who, like Summer Finn, warrant exclamations of “you’re a dude!” from impressed, often drunk male species.
Let me start this series with one of my biggest influences in backpacking:
My vagabond ways started with Arlan Huilar’s influence. In 2003, I was Associate Editor of the School Paper while he was the Sports Editor. We cut class and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to attend a CEGP council meet in Mactan, Cebu.
Because we were running out of time, we had no option but to take an old Sulpicio Lines boat to Cebu. We were literally shaking in our economy bunks the whole the night. The next morning, the crew made amends by serving us free coffee, which in turn, wasn’t really a good idea. Arlan nursed a bad case of diarrhea the whole day.
Our 3-day school-related activity turned into a week-long adventure in the Queen City, ranging from sleeping on a hut in Lapulapu, ditching off plenaries and ride a ferry to SM for the sole purpose of “moving our bowels”, writing poetry while acing videoke in a bar in Banilad, surfing at a stranger’s place for 3 nights and walking around the infamous Carbon market to interview fishmongers.
That trip didn’t only foster our friendship. It also awakened our sense of nationalism and renewed our advocacies in terms of our writing. We became almost inseparable since, working for the school paper until the wee hours of the weekends.
On the next semester, I stepped up as the EIC and Arlan became the Managing Editor. We capped our term with a 12-hour roadtrip to Digos City, taking the Bukidnon-Davao road. We went with four other journalists but it was obvious we built an exclusive world around us. We had an inside language, a secret sign. We knew the ins and outs of each other’s lives and boy, there was no telling how dark were the secrets and sins of writers.
In the rooftop of the Cor Jesu Grade School Building on the hills of Digos, we fixed a tent up and a folding bed beside the tent. I had a holiday boy who was a fan of Kenshin from Samurai X. He had a holiday girl who spoke several languages. Like Cebu, we stayed for a few more days in Davao after the conference. We fell in love with Tabo-an in Matina Town Square. We envied how that place brimmed with art. Ah, I forgot. I went to MTS with other writer friends. Arlan begged off due to sore tummy, and was almost raped (his words, not mine) by his holiday girl.
We braved another 10-hour roadtrip the morning after the holiday girl fiasco without shower, without toothbrush. My travel buddy who was still shocked from the incident of the night before, sent an I Love You text message to the wrong person and in the middle of his panic, sent a cover up which was a lame, I Love Iligan!
I could not fully explain the magnitude of the wrong message and the ridiculous-ness of the cover-up but it was one of the many secrets we swore to keep between us until the end.
Arlan dropped off nursing school after that and taught Biology at a university. But our escapades didn’t stop there. We conquered CDO on a jeepney and Ozamis on a tricycle in the years that followed, before matters of consequences forced us to be geographically apart.
But guess what, doors are not meant to be closed for friends. Just months ago, we talked about him possibly paying me a visit here. We never know, I still have to find a wedding singer. He might be happy to volunteer.
Arlan Huilar | biologist/mountaineer/photographer